Prototype and Low Volume Production Thermoforming/Vacuum Forming

Thermoforming is a cost-effective option in a wide range of applications for both prototype and short run production parts. With multiple tool production options, Proto Technologies is well equipped to meet your project’s performance, budget, and lead time requirements.

Our Vacuum Thermoforming machine uses thermoplastic sheets up to 48″ x 72″ and up to 1/4″ thick. Tooling area is 43″ x 67″ with a 20″ draw.

What is Thermoforming?

Thermoforming is a manufacturing process widely used in industries such as packaging, aerospace, automotive, and consumer goods. It involves heating a plastic sheet to a pliable temperature, forming it into a specific shape using a mold, and then trimming it to create a final product.

Key Steps in Thermoforming:

  1. Heating: A thermoplastic sheet is heated to a temperature where it becomes pliable and can be easily manipulated.
  2. Forming: The heated sheet is then stretched or pressed into a mold, taking on its shape. This process can be done using vacuum pressure, mechanical force, or a combination of both.
  3. Cooling: Once formed, the thermoplastic is cooled to set its shape and ensure structural integrity.
  4. Trimming: Any excess material is trimmed away, leaving behind the finished product.

Advantages of Thermoforming:

  • Cost-Effective: Thermoforming often requires lower tooling costs compared to other manufacturing methods like injection molding.
  • Versatility: It can produce a wide range of shapes and sizes, from simple trays to complex automotive components.
  • Speed: Thermoforming is a relatively fast process, making it ideal for rapid prototyping and high-volume production.

Common Applications


  • Interior Components: Thermoforming is utilized in the aerospace industry to manufacture interior components such as overhead bins, seat components, and cockpit panels. Its ability to create lightweight yet durable parts make it well-suited for aircraft interiors.
  • Customized Solutions: Aerospace companies often require customized solutions for unique storage and organization needs within aircraft cabins. Thermoforming allows for the creation of bespoke trays and storage compartments that maximize space utilization while maintaining structural integrity.
  • Prototyping: During the development of new aircraft designs or cabin layouts, thermoforming is employed to produce prototype components for testing and evaluation. Its rapid prototyping capabilities enable engineers to quickly iterate and refine designs before full-scale production.
  • Insulation and Acoustic Panels: Thermoformed plastic panels are used in aerospace applications for insulation and acoustic purposes. These panels can be precisely engineered to meet specific thermal and sound attenuation requirements, enhancing passenger comfort and aircraft performance.
  • Lighting Components: Thermoforming is also utilized in the production of lighting components such as diffusers and lens covers for aircraft cabin lighting systems. These components play a crucial role in distributing light evenly throughout the cabin while maintaining a sleek and aerodynamic design.


  • Equipment Enclosures: Thermoforming is employed in the defense industry to manufacture equipment enclosures and protective cases for sensitive electronic devices, communication equipment, and weapons systems. These cases provide rugged protection against harsh environmental conditions and physical damage during transport and deployment.
  • Camouflage and Concealment: Thermoformed plastic components are used in military applications for camouflage and concealment purposes. These components can be molded into various shapes and patterns to blend seamlessly with natural surroundings, providing tactical advantages in combat situations.
  • Vehicle Components: Thermoforming is utilized in the production of vehicle components for military vehicles, including interior panels, exterior body parts, and protective covers. Its ability to create lightweight yet durable components makes it an ideal choice for military vehicle applications.

Consumer Goods:

  • Packaging: Thermoforming is widely used in the consumer goods industry to produce packaging solutions such as clamshells, trays, and blister packs for retail products. These packaging solutions offer enhanced visibility and protection for products while maximizing shelf appeal.
  • Electronic Device Enclosures: Thermoforming is employed to manufacture enclosures and housings for electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and wearable technology. These enclosures provide protection against impact, moisture, and other environmental factors while maintaining a sleek and ergonomic design.
  • Household Products: Thermoforming is utilized to produce a variety of household products such as storage containers, kitchenware, and organizers. Its versatility and cost-effectiveness make it a preferred manufacturing method for producing lightweight and durable household goods.

In summary, thermoforming plays a crucial role across industries, including aerospace, defense, and consumer goods, by enabling the production of lightweight, customized, and high-performance components for a wide range of applications.

Mold Options:

Molds can be 3D printed for fast part production or machined out of tooling board or aluminum for higher quantities. The best mold option for your application will depend on part design, quantities needed and required lead time.

  • 3D Printed ABS
  • 3D Printed PC (Polycarbonate)
  • Machined Tooling Board
  • Machined Aluminum

Click here for more information about 3D Printed Vacuum Thermoform Tooling

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(509) 891-4747