vacuum forming overview

Vacuum forming may be one of the oldest methods of processing plastic materials (it dates back to the 1930’s) but even today there is no alternative to match the low cost and speed of tooling compared to injection moulding. It still has its place, and when combined with new technologies such as 3D printing, brings a multitude of possibilities.

Whilst not every design or shape is suitable for vacuum forming it is used for the most diverse range of plastic processing applications. Companies and industries involved in film and theatre stage production, schools, automotive and aerospace are all high users of the vacuum forming process.

Which of the thermoplastic sheets we stock can be used to vacuum form;

vacuum forming machine
vacuum forming machine

Vacuum Forming Process

The most common and easiest to use thermoplastic is high impact polystyrene sheeting, due to its hygienic and heat retaining capabilities.

Vacuum forming is a simplified version of thermoforming, where a sheet of thermoplastic is heated, stretched over a single surface mold, and forced onto the mold using a vacuum. A recommended minimum of 3º draft angle is required to ease the vacuum formed plastic part away from the mold.


uses & limitations

Vacuum formed go-kart seat

Vacuum forming uses

Vacuum forming offers a range of benefits to manufacturers with high volume capability and ability to store sheets in bulk. When combined with line bending equipment, it’s possible to create three-dimensional products such as more complex Point of Sale (POS) displays, TV and speakers.

It is endlessly adaptable and perhaps most visibly used in display marketing, and promotional items.

vacuum formed logo

Vacuum forming limitations

On its own, vacuum forming can only produce shallow products. As a rule, the depth cannot exceed 75% of the width or length whichever is less.

It can be a slower process than others with the products prone to bubbling. Combine it with other processes though and the limitations are endless.

why use eagle

We literally sleep and breathe thermoplastic sheeting. All of the team do. We share a passion that has developed over our 25 year heritage to ensure we offer the best technical advice, the most professional support and fastest response times.

Need more info? Want a sample?

Call our team on 0116 276 6363 or email