Thermoforming is a plastic moulding technique where fluoropolymers are manipulated into complex profiles; any size, shape or form is possible. Many common types of plastics can be thermoformed, but the high performance plastics known as fluoroplastics offer the most advantages.
Thermoforming involves heating the polymer to soften it. The thermoplastic can then be manipulated and formed to the exact requirements using moulding tools. Any excess material is trimmed off. This manufacturing process can either be carried out by a machine for large production runs or by hand for small projects.
Thermoforming can be performed on PTFE, FEP and PFA tubing, heat shrink sleeving as well as sheet, and flanges, flares, coils, bends, tips and more can be formed. Thermoforming techniques include vacuum forming, welding, coating, sealing, heat setting, pressure forming and transfer moulding.
Vacuum forming is a type of thermoforming technique where a vacuum is used to form the plastic. To produce a certain shape, the thermoplastic is heated until soft and draped over an already-formed mould using a vacuum.
Thermoformed fluoropolymers are ideal in the medical, pharmaceutical, food and automotive industries. Thermoforming products include retractable coils, formed delivery tubes, tubing assemblies and temperature and level probe covers for use in medical devices, fluid delivery systems, fuel lines and laboratory applications.
Here at Adtech, we produced square profile FEP tubing by reforming circular tubing for a university research project. We also created drawn down FEP tubing for use in a fluid handling application; the tube walls were reduced in diameter then tapered back up to restrict the flow in a specific area. These products were easily manufactured using specialist thermoforming techniques.
There are many benefits to thermoforming fluoropolymers:
Complex three dimensional shapes and styles can be created; any size, shape or form is possible.
Fluoroplastic tubing, heat shrink sleeving and sheet can be thermoformed, offering even more design possibilities.
The thermoformed components are manufactured specifically to the customer’s precise design requirements.
PTFE, FEP and PFA offer unrivalled thermal, chemical, mechanical, electrical, environmental and medical properties, meeting severe environmental conditions.
The thermoformed products are produced at extremely high structural standard.
Thermoforming offers a quick turnaround thanks to the rapid fabrication process.
Small production batches are possible and viable, as there is no large minimum extrusion quantity required.
Thanks to low operational expenses, thermoforming is cost-effective, especially compared to conventional plastics processing techniques.