A wide variety of options are available when considering a thermoformed plastic tray.

Almost any material can be used for a tray, which is a big reason trays are the bulk of the non-retail work done at Plastic Ingenuity. A plastic tray is a package developed with no hinges, which then makes a blister package a subset of a tray.

Design Considerations for Plastic Trays


It is important to understand that the tooling for plastic trays is relatively complex.

The male/female processing is determined by cavity shape requirements, and trays are produced “face up” or “face down” based on those cavity requirements.

A tray is designed, as most packages are, to fit the need of the customer. There is no specific way a tray can be designed, because different products require different shapes, sizes, and material distributions. Where the strength is needed and how much consistency is required is the driving force behind how specific trays are designed.

Because plastic trays are designed based on strength and consistency needs, tray cavities vary along with the radii required. Bigger radii improve processing, especially material flow, and prove to be more cost effective for the customer.

Thermoforming Considerations for Plastic Trays

Material distribution is determined by plugs and process sequence.

Process sequence would be vacuum, form air, tool temperature, platen speeds, and the timing of all four of these parameters. Plug design based on the material being used, and the geometry of the part and tooling are also critical components to ensuring appropriate material distribution on thermoformed parts.

Undercuts are often used as stacking features; however, undercuts can make it difficult to remove the finished part from the tool.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Plastic Trays


  • Typically custom fit to your product
  • Don’t require heat sealing equipment
  • Can be used to hold product or to display blister-carded product
  • Can be used for shipping to protect product
  • Allows product to stand up or lie down
  • Can be used as work-in-process trays to aid in assembly work and shipping between departments or plants


  • More costly than blisters
  • May be more difficult to see the product, depending on design