Thermoforming vs Injection Molding
There is a lot of speculation on thermoforming vs injection molding. In this article, we will be going over the difference in process, cost, lead time and all other considerations.
A single 3D form is created out of aluminum, wood, polyurethane or 3D Print.
Flat sheets of thermoplastic, available in a wide variety of materials, finishes, colors, and thicknesses.
A flat sheet of plastic is heated to a pliable temperature, then molded to the tool’s shape using either suction from a vacuum or both suction and pressure.
The final pieces are trimmed robotically, then can be used uncoated, or painted, silk-screened or have specialty coatings applied.
A double-sided 3D mold is created out of steel, aluminum or a beryllium-copper alloy.
Thermoplastic Pellets, available in a wide variety of materials and colors.
Plastic pellets are heated to a liquid state, then injected into the mold.
The final pieces are removed from the mold, then often need to be painted for aesthetic reasons, and can also be silk-screened or have specialty coatings.
Per-piece Production Cost
Tooling VS. Production Costs
Single-sided thermoforming tooling is a considerably cheaper process than creating a double-sided mold used in injection molding. But, the cost of each individual part formed by Injection Molding is generally less expensive.
Cost Comparison - Sample 48” x 60” Part
The break-even point will vary with every project, typically between 2,000 and 5,000 parts. Smaller parts will have a lower break-even point and vice versa for larger parts.
8 WEEKS OF TOOLING | 6 WEEKS OF PRODUCTION
16 WEEKS OF TOOLING | 8 WEEKS OF PRODUCTION
Does it allow variable thickness within a single part?
How does it look unpainted?
How large of a part can it reasonably produce?
Creating large parts up to 10’ x 18’, and
consolidating multiple parts into a single large part.
Creating small to medium (100 - 3,000) runs of parts.
Aesthetically pleasing parts with minimal secondary operations.
Creating small parts with minimal consolidation
Creating large runs (3,000+) of small to medium sized parts.
Creating parts with variable thickness in a single part.