Vacuum forming :Finishing methods
Once a vacuum forming has been created out of a sheet of plastic, a finishing operation will be needed in most cases to turn it into a usable product. Common vacuum forming finishing methods include:
Guillotining: The product is cut out of the sheet by pressing a blade through the product into a die underneath. This is a clean way of removing vacuum formed parts from the material sheet. It doesn't require a special cutting tool to be made for an individual product and is therefore suitable for low volumes of parts where straight lines are no problem. Cutting only straight lines and being a fairly slow approach compared to other finishing methods, guillotining can be expensive for projects with larger, more complex quantities.
Drilling: If simple round holes are the required finish, manually drilling them is a good solution for small quantities. Drilling guides can be used to ensure holes can be drilled quickly in the right place. As this is a labour-intensive method, it is only suitable for small production quantities.
Roller cutting: Process whereby the vacuum formed product is placed on a custom made cutter and pushed through a roller cutter machine. An efficient way of cutting vacuum formed items from the original sheet of vacuum forming material. The cutter can also cut any necessary holes, such as cable or access holes, at the same time. Roller cutting is suitable for fairly large items, where precision alignment is not required. As the vacuum formings and the cutter are rolled sideways through the roller cutter machine, some misalignment can occur. Roller cutting can't be used for making holes or features in the sides of vacuum formings, as the cutter tool always cuts vertically from the bottom.
Press cutting: This is a very precise method of cutting which uses a press and a custom precision made cutting tool. This method is very suitable for items where the roller cutter process wouldn't achieve the precision required. It's often used for punching very small finished items out of a plastic sheet, rather than punching features into a product. Press cutting can't be used to make features in the sides of vacuum formings.
Cutting with a CNC machine: Machining is a very precise method of creating holes & features. The real advantage is that it can be used to create features in the sides of vacuum forming, e.g. guide rails for a tray that needs to slide onto shelving. It can also cut sidewalls of a different depth than the pockets - something which cannot be done with roller or press cutting.