Fibreglass VS Thermoforming
Productive Plastics’s core competency is the design, engineering and manufacturing of custom heavy gauge plastic thermoformed parts.
Plastic thermoforming and fiberglass molding from acornglassfibre.co.uk can be used to make similar parts, but there are distinct advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into account when choosing the process that is right for a specific plastic component. The information on this page provides some general guidance on how to choose between fiberglass and thermoforming.
Plastic thermoforming is a plastic production process that heats a two dimensional rigid thermoplastic sheet and uses vacuum and/or pressure to form that sheet into a three dimensional shape. Thermoforming is typically used for production quantities of 250 to 3000 annually, offering lower tooling costs, rapid product development cycles, and parts with color and texture.
Fiberglass molding (FRP/GRP) is a process in which fiberglass reinforced resin is formed into useful shapes. The resin is applied in multiple layers to increase strength and to attain desired thickness. This process and material is best suited to making large structures requiring high strengths, however it carries high tooling cost and slower production rates.
Productive Plastics works with customers to make sure the technology, production processes, and materials are right for each job. Here are some guidelines and considerations for deciding between thermoforming and fiberglass molding (FRP/GRP).
Fiberglass (FRP/GRP) parts are mainly utilized in smaller production volumes and prototyping projects. Thermoforming is more cost effective when compared to fiberglass when used for production quantities of 250 to 3000 annually. Neither thermoforming or fiberglass molding processes is cost effective at high production volumes.
Thermoplastic PolyOlefins (TPO) is the plastic material of choice for replacing fiberglass parts. This material is more durable, crack resistant, UV resistant, conductive, and lighter when compared to its fiberglass counterpart
The fiberglass molding process is labor intensive and often requires multiple tools for the production of a single part which results in slower production rates, higher costs, and longer lead times compared to thermoformed plastic production.
The thermoforming process, on the other hand, is highly automated, relatively simple, and typically requires less labour. Most applications utilize only a single tool per part. Consequently, lead times tend to be shorter, and the tooling and labor costs reduced when compared to the fiberglass molding process. From a purely process perspective, thermoforming is often both faster and cheaper than the fiberglass counterpart in smaller production volumes of 250-3000 parts annually. Productive Plastics completes tooling and first production runs, on average, in less than 10 weeks.
The fiberglass process produces a high quality finish but is limited in scope. Thermoformed plastics are available in a wide variety of colors and finished textures. Silk screening, distortion printing, and post-process painting can also be utilized to increase branding and graphic potential on thermoformed plastic parts. Capabilities to produce precise tolerances for mated parts, and complex geometry design are just a few of the possible applications that are otherwise difficult or costly to fabricate with fiberglass. These advantages give designers the freedom to create complex modern designs that are more aesthetically pleasing and functional.