Vacuum Forming: How it Works and its Main Advantages


Vacuum forming is one of those things that you’ve probably heard of, but you’re not really sure what it is or how it works. Yet look around in your daily life, and we guarantee, you will see vacuum formed products everywhere. From the traffic light housing you see on your way to work to the plastic bottle you drink from at lunch, these products are all made using a simple vacuum forming process. It is one of the most diverse and versatile plastic fabrication techniques on the market – transforming a single sheet of plastic into just about anything you could possibly want or need.

How Does Vacuum Forming Work?

It might sound complicated, but the process of vacuum forming is – in reality – quite simple. The first step involves heating up a plastic sheet. The sheet is heated uniformly over its entire surface area and throughout its thickness until it reaches its forming temperature; that is, the temperature at which the sheet becomes soft and pliable. It is then draped and stretched over a surface or a mould and a low-pressure vacuum is applied. Essentially, this vacuum sucks in the sheet of plastic, forcing it against the mould and consequently producing the desired shape.

The second step of the vacuum thermoforming process involves cooling and trimming. Once the plastic has set into the shape of its mould, it is taken out of the machine and any excess materials are removed. Numerous trimming methods can be employed and the type of equipment necessary depends on a variety of factors, including the type of cut, the thickness of the plastic and the production quantity. Holes, slots and cut-outs can also be drilled into the product at this stage and any other post-vacuum forming processes – such as decoration or assembly – can take place.

Vacuum forming is, effectively, just a method of transformation. It transforms a flat sheet of plastic into a multi-dimensional item of choice. Virtually all thermoplastics can be used in this process, but the more commonly used materials include acrylic, polyethylene, polycarbonate and polystyrene.

What are the Advantages of Vacuum Forming?

When it comes to vacuum thermoforming, the possibilities are endless, and this has to be its greatest advantage. The process of heating up a sheet of thermoplastic and vacuuming it over a 3D shape allows the production of countless items –  including a large variety of different shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to run a regular production line or if you’d like to create a custom one-off design, vacuum forming could be the answer.

Additional advantages of vacuum forming include both its cost-effectiveness and the speed of production. Thanks to the relatively low pressures that are used during the vacuum process, the mould itself can be made from relatively inexpensive materials and tooling costs are substantially less. The mould fabrication time is also reasonably short and therefore, overall, vacuum thermoforming is much more economical than other plastic fabrication techniques.

Vacuum Forming Services at Talbot Designs

Talbot Designs is one of the UK’s leading experts in plastic fabrication and our motto is “limited only by imagination” – a motto, and guiding principle, that is especially relevant to the vacuum forming services that we provide. We are proud of our innovative nature and we are always pushing the boundaries when it comes to this diverse and versatile plastic fabrication technique.

Take for example our recent project with designers, GP London. With very little time to spare, we created the necessary vacuum forming tooling and produced two oversized yet life-like plastic wine bottles – that were used as a promotional display at Heathrow Airport. In addition, we have also previously worked with Hothouse IWG to produce an eye-catching pop-up nail varnish shop display.

Our range of computer-controlled vacuum forming machines have a bed size of up to 70” x 46” and a draw depth of 14”+, which means we can manufacture a high quantity of products and successfully cope with different shaped and sized mouldings. We also employ a range of modern trimming band saws, ensuring that each item is finished to perfection. Here at Talbot Designs, we combine all the best available thermoplastic materials with the latest advances in vacuum thermoforming technology. Thanks to our in-house tooling and assembly department, we can monitor quality throughout the full vacuum forming process. Rest assured, items are produced to the best possible quality and they always meet our client’s exacting standards.

The team of experts at Talbot Designs demonstrate a wealth of knowledge with and they are happy to offer advice regarding the suitability of a shape for vacuum forming. With over 70 years’ experience in the industry, we are positive we can help you to produce something truly amazing! So why not contact us today on 020 8346 8515 and discuss your next vacuum forming project with one of our friendly members of staff.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about vacuum forming, and the vacuum forming services available at Talbot Designs, you can get in touch with us at any time via telephone. Just call 020 8346 8515. It’s fair to say, we are seasoned experts when it comes to this versatile plastic fabrication technique. We have decades of experience in producing high-quality bespoke vacuum formed products –  from one-off samples to full production lines – and our staff are always on hand to help. They are dedicated, passionate, and ready to offer any advice or guidance that you might need.

Perhaps you’d like to find out more about how vacuum forming works or the advantages it brings? Or perhaps you’re ready to request a quote or place an order? Either way, we’re happy to help and we’re eager to work with you on a new exciting vacuum forming project.

Contact us today on 020 8346 8515 or send us an enquiry using the online form provided.