At PI, we specialize in thermoforming plastics for standard and custom sizes, generally using PET plastic. In the industry, though, six plastics lead the way for thermoforming: ABS, HIPS, HDPE, PVC, PET and PETG. See the differences with each of these thermoformable plastics to decide which one could work best for your products’ packaging:
A common thermoformed plastic, ABS is comprised of acrylonitrile, styrene and butadiene. ABS is known for its tough resilience to the elements, including heat; it can handle temperatures anywhere from -4 to 176 °F. This allows the plastic to be molded at high temperatures. Most commonly used for mechanical purposes, like for pipe systems, it can also be used for protective headgear, golf club heads, musical instruments, like recorders, and even for toys, like Legos. The plastic can also be used in some tattoo inks.
HIPS plastic, or polystyrene, can be used for foamed or rigid plastic. This plastic’s clear and brittle composure makes it an ideal plastic for protective packaging, like packing peanuts, or food and drink items, like clamshell containers, bottles and disposable cutlery. This plastic can be easy to create—and at a low cost.
A variation of HIPS plastic, HDPE (high-density) polyethylene is a stronger thermoformed plastic comprised of petroleum. Because of its exceptional strength to density ratio, HDPE is used in a wide variety of applications, including everything from plastic bags and bottles to hula hoops to even fireworks. This plastic is also commonly used for water pipes and cable installation.
PVC—polyvinyl chloride—plastic is third most-used polymer. Created with suspension polymerization, this plastic has a strong, hard structure, making it an ideal rigid plastic that can withstand extreme temperatures and impacts. Its low cost also makes it attractive for companies. PVC is commonly used for sewage pipes, commercial signage, electric cables, flooring, faux leather clothing and more.
One of the most common thermoformed plastics, PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is commonly used for synthetic fibers and bottle production. Once molded into a shape during thermoforming, PET plastic must be dried to increase its resistance. Once finalized, products made from PET plastic have a great resistance and barriers from outside elements. This plastic is also one of the most recycled types of plastics.
PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified) plastic is a variation of PET plastic. PETG plastic can be molded during thermoforming for blister packaging and trays.