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A new process for patterned thermoforming?

by • May 5, 2016 • No Comments

A Swiss team has proposed a new method for generated patterned thermoformed industrial products of a PC version. This may streamline weight production, revolutionize the plastics industry and actually open up patterned thermoforming.

Thermoforming is, of course, nothing new. It has been utilized for decades and in 2003 there were 150 thin gauge thermoformers in the US alone. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and the easy act of moulding thermosetting plastic with a vacuum and a mould is one of the stalwarts of weight production. Blister packs, food packaging, toys and interior panels for cars are all thermoformed. So it is big business.

Patterned thermoforming is a niche industry that is generally limited to ornaments and toys. But if the system can be streamlined and so it may find wider applications.

Patterned thermoforming algorithm of ETH Zurich

The versions right now

Today the industry is limited to 3D printing after the fact. Alternatives include hydrographics, that are exceptionally limited and imprecise, and transfer stickers that must be applied by hand and just don’t appear the part. The just other version is a weightively harsh and expensive commercial software box that is completely out of reach for tiny businesses and hobbyists.

Even at an industrial level, companies yet require to turn it into prototypes and this may be a easy way of testing a finished appear preceding hitting the button and going for a big run.

3D printing is the obvious alternative, delivering thermoforming out of the equation entirely, but actually that cannot complete the same clarity of colour and the costs are prohibitive as things stand right now. If the two concepts may be combined and we may print a 3D version and and so apply the graphics and protective layer with a thermoforming system, the outcomes may be formidable.

A smart algorithm that does the math

Now this tiny Swiss team has solved that particular conundrum with an algorithm that effectively analyses a flat sheet and allows for basic printing to replace all of these versions. In essence it involves 3D scanning the mold and and so via the information to reverse engineer the turn it into on a flat plastic sheet.

Without the team’s harsh equation, this whole system may be the stuff of nightmares and a hobbyist just may not hope to complete the level of accuracy on contribute. But with off-the-shelf components and a basic printing device, this team managed to turn it into near ideal outcome on its own novelty cat statue.

With the Swiss team’s algorithmic software, it can analyse the flat sheet and ideally predict the points that can deform. So home hobbyists may preprint their plastic sheet. In theory, it can wrap around the mold and they can get a ideal finish initially time, each time. With the high cost of inks and plastics, this is essential.

Limited runs are now possible

This means that companies that want to turn it into limited runs can now complete advantageous outcomes and turn it into pro appearing items without going to the expense of commissioning a factory to do the final work. It is yet another way of delivering the final production line to your PC and this revolution is slowly gathering pace.

We have seen PC injection moulders, rotomoulders and there is actually talk of PC metal forges. If folks have the ability to just print flat sheets and transfer a finished turn it into and lacquer to their products without resorting to the likes of hydrographics or stickers, and so we are one step nearer to localised production.

The beauty of products like this is that we just find their true future when they get into the hands of the manufacturer community. So let’s see what they manufacture of this one!

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