Vacuum Forming Moulds or Plastic Fabrication?

Specialisation in making vacuum form moulds or tools has been the keystone of the growth of APH over many years. Often clients with requirements for plastic components have approached us with a preconceived idea that plastic fabrication is the solution to their problem.

Of course APH can offer fabrication in a range of plastics, but frequently Acrylic is the material of choice, due to its availability in many colours and thicknesses and its robustness when assembled. This can usually mean bonded joints, mechanical joints either bolting or even slotting one part into another. Point of sale items, are often made in this way, but at APH we have employed plastic fabrication to produce scale models, model display stands/cases etc.

But back to the original question that customers would ask, how much will it cost to fabricate a few prototype or production parts. The advice given would depend upon the shape of part or parts and the material flexibility, in fact vacuum forming would offer more choice in materials than those suitable for fabrication. But more often than not, the shape would lend itself to vacuum forming, maybe with slight changes to the corner radii, angle of sides or thickness or type of material. With few comprises their parts could have a very low cost vacuum forming mould hand made or machined in wood or MDF. From such a mould their quantity requirements would be met to a production quality finish without seams as in fabrication and the advantage of production intent surface textures, like haircell or pinseal. From the vacuum forming moulds, the part will need trimming of excess material, which again offers more complexity in shape than plastic fabrication could achieve.

Sometimes a combination of the two processes will be utilised. The customers shape may be best made, by bonding a plastic fabrication with a part from vacuum forming. This could be described in simple terms, say a rectangular tube 200x200x400lg (fabricated) with a domed closure bonded to one end or both(vac. formed). With ABS using very specific adhesives like MEK achieves a seamless parent material like join between fabrications and or vacuum form part.