Thermoforming vs. Injection Molding: Which Is Best for Your Product?

thermoforming vs injection molding

Plastic manufacturing is a $372 billion industry, and almost every company requires a plastic part run at some point.

Understanding thermoforming vs injection molding ensures that your product development goes smoothly as you invest in sustainable manufacturing. Read on to learn about these two methods of product development and why injection molding is better for mass production.

Thermoforming vs Injection Molding: What’s the Difference?

Both thermoforming and injection molding use a mold to create a plastic product.

In thermoforming, the mold is single-sided. Heated sheets of thermoplastic are pressed into this mold.

Once the plastic dries in the shape of the mold, the professional manufacturing the product takes the sheet out. They cut around the part and trim it based on the individual needs of the customer they’re making it for.

Injection molding uses a two-sided, three-dimensional mold. A machine pumps plastic pellets into this mold and fills all areas between the injection screw threads.

Heater bands work with the rotating screw to melt the pellets, and the molten plastic cools in the precise shape of the mold. The mold is eventually opened up and the finished part comes out of it.

The part is then tested for quality to make sure it’s constructed perfectly.

The Advantages of Thermoforming

Thermoforming vs injection molding cost discrepancies are important to consider.

Many companies prefer thermoforming because it’s a less expensive process than injection molding. Thermoforming has lower equipment costs as well as lower tooling prices. When you hire a third-party manufacturing company, you’ll pay a very low fee for thermoforming.

Thermoforming is also beneficial because tooling is simple. Making products is quick, and modifications are easy.

However, only a single part can be made at a time when you use thermoforming processes. While low-volume production is fast and efficient, high-volume production can take an extremely long time. It’s best for speedy prototyping and single-part production for developing products and one-off runs.

Injection Molding: A Smarter Alternative

Beyond having higher tooling costs and lead times, there are very few disadvantages to injection molding processes.

Thermoforming works when constructing large parts like car bumpers. If the design is simple and doesn’t have many intricate features, thermoforming may work well.

Injection molding is the only answer for smaller, more intricate parts. The mold is more detailed and allows for complex geometric shapes like small gears with tiny teeth. Injection molding also lets you create products with sharp corners and clear angles, making it ideal for geometric objects that need to fit precisely in a car or other machine.

It’s also better for things like bottle caps and knobs because of its ability to form precise structures. Things that screw into place, rotate, or lock need to be perfectly constructed.

Injection molding also works better for higher-volume runs since you can create several parts within a single mold. The mold has several different cavities that fill with plastic resin pellets at the same time. Thermoforming molds only have one cavity, so it isn’t capable of mass production.

Start the Plastic Manufacturing Process

Now that you know the differences between thermoforming vs injection molding, it’s time to begin the product development process. Nova Stevensville is committed to manufacturing precise plastic parts with injection molding. Request a quote to learn more about the costs of your project.

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