As a company that designs and manufactures infrared heating systems and ovens for industrial applications, we’re seeing a growing trend in the use of thermoforming as a cost-effective alternative to injection moulding – particularly in the US market. Working closely with our North American distributor, Weco International, our ceramic-based infrared technology is leading the way in infrared engineering solutions.
Ceramicx heating technology
Based in Beavertown, Michigan, Modern Machinery is a state-of-the-art custom thermoforming machine company. On behalf of one of their customers, they’ve designed, engineered, and assembled an integral part of, possibly, one of the largest shuttle thermoforming machine systems in North America.
With a work area measuring 9’ x 23’ (2.7m x 7m), the custom-built Modern Model 9’23’SS (Single Station Shuttle) vacuum forming machine uses only Ceramicx ceramic heating components, sourced from Weco International.
Consisting of a top (visible in photo) and bottom platen, each measures 11’ x 24’ (3.4m x 7.3m) with 754 Ceramicx FTE ceramic infrared heating elements fitted in each. That makes 754 heating zones wired for 2 elements per zone of percentage control through the PLC operating system.
As a well-known designer and manufacturer of a wide variety of thermoforming machines and systems, Modern Machinery has worked with Weco and Ceramicx for some time, with many of its machines shipping with Ceramicx heating technology.
The thermoformer customer who’ll be using this big shuttle machine already has one of Modern’s custom-built systems which uses quartz heating technology. For this larger project, the customer wanted to work with ceramic-based infrared technology made by Ceramicx and supplied by Weco.
Thermoforming continues to grow
Although most people immediately think of packaging when they hear the word ‘thermoforming’, the other products that make up around 15% of the North American thermoforming market also are growing. And many of those are large, including bases for dental chairs, logistics containers, car hoods/bonnets, pick-up truck bed liners, and many more.
Generally speaking, if a part is large and production volume is low, the economics of thermoforming can beat injection moulding hands down. Competing against RIM, thermoforming can offer lower part weight, lower cost tooling, and better surface finish, including high gloss.
Through our and Weco’s experience of attending and exhibiting at trade shows and exhibitions over the years, large parts on display have been numerous. And more than a few of them have been converted to thermoforming from injection moulding and reaction injection moulding (RIM).
With this conversion rate from more ‘traditional’ injection moulding processes to thermoforming continually growing, it seems thermoforming best days are ahead with even bigger things in store.