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Heavy Gauge vs. Thin Gauge

heavy vs thin plastic
 Thermoforming is an efficient method of turning big sheets of plastic into the things that we rely on in everyday life. One of the most common questions we ask our potential thermoforming clients is whether their project requires thin-gauge or heavy-gauge thermoforming. While both types of thermoforming have their benefits, it is important to understand the differences. The dimensional difference between thin-gauge and heavy-gauge may only be a few tenths on an inch in part thickness, but there are many other differentiating factors for the two methods. They require different machinery, manufacturing techniques, and the scope of the applications are very distinct from one another.

As you may assume, thin-gauge thermoforming focuses on creating very thin, usually disposable plastic items. In most cases, thin-gauge refers to materials that are less than .060” of material thickness and is roll fed into the thermoforming machine. The most common materials used in thin gauge include PETG, PET, clear PVC, styrene, and polypropylene. Some examples of thin-gauge products would be clamshell packaging or food service packaging.

Heavy-gauge thermoforming is used in much more specific ways, creating much larger and thicker packaging for items that need more durable containers. The manufactured part thickness ranges from .125” to .500”. Cut sheets of thermoplastic material are put into a thermoforming machine and carried through one or more heating stations until the sheets reach the appropriate temperature for the forming station. Once the sheets are molded, the parts are off-loaded from the machine and taken to the next station for secondary steps if necessary. These secondary steps can include assembly, drilling, routing, fasteners, and other possible operations. Materials commonly used in heavy gauge include ABS, PC/ABS, HDPE, TPO, HIPS, or PVC/Acrylic. Some products that are manufactured using heavy gauge thermoforming include pallets, dunnage, heavy truck components, construction equipment, agricultural equipment, aircraft parts, and many more.

Vantage Plastics focuses on custom heavy gauge thermoforming, while offering and having the capabilities for thin gauge thermoforming as well. Contact us with any questions you might have and discover how we can serve you!