Cut-Sheet Thermoforming Oven

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A UK based Tier 1 automotive supplier approached Ceramicx about upgrading their thermoforming heating system. They were having some productivity issues. Specifically, they were looking for uniformity of heat to ensure repeatability and consistency of product. Quality and yield are two of the pillars of any manufacturing facility, and if they can be improved a manufacturing site gains both in cost and morale.

Ceramicx developed and customised the infrared heating system to the material, temperature, power, and time requirements of the process.

Ceramicx designed and built a top and bottom infrared heating system using HTE long wave ceramic heaters. A total of 18 zones of control were outlined by the customer, and a series of HTE 300W ceramic long wave heaters were used around the perimeter of each heating system to minimise edge loss.

The key features of the oven heating system included:

Oven Frame: Stainless Steel Box Section
Reflectors: Special Aluminised Steel
Upper Element Type: Long Wave Ceramic model HTE
Lower Element Type: Long Wave Ceramic model HTE
Maximum Operating Temp: 250°C (Element Temperature)
Controller: Siemens S7 1500
Control type: 36 zone closed loop control with T/C k feedback
Control feedback: Type K thermocouples integrated into ceramic element
Sheet temperature monitoring: Pyrometer
Total Heating Power: 124kW
Oven Size: 2.08m x 1.80m

The process was a cut sheet process for the thermoforming of car interior liners – in this case the boot space. Black carpet onto black plastic sheet was robotically loaded onto a moving table and then moved across into the heated zone. The infrared heating system is applied to the top and bottom of the part for a specified time. The sheet then gets moved on to the surface where it is slowly pressed into the required shape. The component then cools down inside the mould, before it is removed and the trimming and finishing process takes place.

The result was that the customer was extremely impressed with how fast the ceramic heaters got to their required temperature, and the ease at which the IR heaters found and remained at the required temperature set-point. Ceramicx has since worked on another project with this supplier and supplied them with a second infrared heating system for a different manufacturing facility in the UK.

Components Used

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