UPPI Frequently Asked Questions
If you havea question that we happen to not address below, do not hesitate to reach out. We’ll be more than happy to provide you a direct answer with a prompt response. We appreciate you choosing UPPI.
Closely related to vacuum-forming or vac-forming, THERMOFORMING involves heating plastic film and using vacuum and air pressure to form the film onto the surface of a mold. The plastic is then cooled so it holds the custom shape of the mold. Thermoformed packaging often takes the form of trays, hinged clamshells, or blisters.
Tooling is the name given to the customized portion of the hardware and equipment that creates a thermoformed part. A custom thermoformed package requires custom tooling. Basic tooling includes a mold to form the shape of the package, and a cutting die to trim the outer edges of the package. Depending on size and complexity, a thermoformed package may require several additional custom tooling components. These additional components include things like trim plates, anvils, plug assists, pressure boxes, cooling plates, clamp frames, and stackers. More complex, multi-cavity, and/or large tools generally require more ancillary components.
Cost of thermoformed tooling varies with the size and complexity of the tool. Larger thermoformed packages will require larger and more expensive tooling. Multi cavity tools can yield a better unit price but they can be very large and expensive. Most tooling for custom thermoformed packaging is between $5,000 and $15,000. There are some tools that are more expensive but only for extremely large packages or high-volume production applications.
Thermoform tooling effectively has an indefinite life. Most tooling components are made from CNC machined aluminum or other durable materials. Because the temperature and pressures used in the thermoforming process are much less than in other types of plastic processing, there is really no wear and tear. We have some tools that have run for over 10 million cycles and are still going strong. The only portion of the tooling that is subject to regular refurbishment is the trimming die. That is what cuts the final part in the desired shape after it is formed. We use a standard die cutting process to trim the parts – very similar to the way folding cartons and boxes are cut. The cutting die, just like a knife, can get dull after repeated cutting. But we typically maintain the cutting dies at no charge as long as a customer is ordering parts at least every 6 months.
The cost of a thermoformed package is controlled by four primary factors:
- the size of the package,
- the complexity of the design,
- the raw material used, and
- the quantity ordered.
Most thermoformed packages cost between $0.10 and $10.00. Some small packages in high volumes can be only a few cents. And some large packages in low volumes can be $20.00 or more. Since everything we make is custom, please contact us for a custom design and/or quotation for your application.
How can I get a custom design for my thermoformed package?
UPPI provides full design services. We can work the whole way from concept through prototype and production for your custom thermoformed packaging application. To get started, we would need a sample or CAD file of your product and some information about the desired performance and configuration of the package. In most cases we can provide a package design concept at no cost. Please contact us if you would like to get started.
We use an FDM 3D-printer to create prototype molds in less time and for less cost than CNC machined aluminum molds. There is a maximum size, so larger molds have to be made in sections. And we can only make a limited number of samples with a 3D printed mold. While these samples will be good for fit and limited functional testing, they are entirely unsuitable for performance testing. We cannot get the same part consistency and integrity as we can achieve with an aluminum mold.
We can thermoform nearly all, widely available thermoplastics available in extruded film roll stock. UPPI has an extensive supply network and we source all of our raw materials custom for every job. Materials we commonly use to thermoform packaging include PET, PETG, PLA, HIPS, PP, HDPE, and PVC. These materials and others are available in medical grade, food grade, utility grade, antistatic, ESD, and other specifications. Please contact us for more information about what material would work best for your application.
There are a couple of steps between a new project’s inception and production of a custom thermoformed package. These steps may include design, prototyping, tooling, raw material purchase, and manufacturing. Each step has a lead time.
Design will take 2 to 5 days depending on the complexity of the project. CAD files of the product(s) can make the design process faster. If we have to work from physical samples, it can often take longer.
Prototyping will take 5 to 10 days after you approve the design and place a prototyping purchase order. We use 3D printing to make a prototype mold and then thermoform samples on that mold.
Production Tooling will take 3 to 5 weeks after receipt of a tooling purchase order and approval of the prototypes. Building a production tool involves several steps including CNC machining, tool component assembly and surface finishing.
Raw material purchase will take 3 to 5 weeks after receipt of a purchase order for production parts. This can typically be done concurrently with the tooling phase. If you place the order for the tool and the production parts at the same time, we will order the raw material and it will typically be available around the same time the tool is completed.
Manufacturing will take anywhere from a few days to a week after you approve the production first article samples depending on the size of the production order.
The total lead time to production is typically about 5 to 7 weeks. But there are at least 3 points along this process where we need customer approval. If there is any delay getting approvals, if there are any revisions required at any point in the process, or if purchase orders are delayed, the lead time can be extended beyond these 5 to 7 weeks.
Expedites are always possible but sometimes comes with a cost. We have turned out custom packaging for new product introductions in two weeks or less, but it really requires heroic measures. Turn around in 3 to 4 weeks is possible as long as it is managed very carefully, and approvals are turned very quickly.
Every order has fixed costs including tooling setup and processing costs. Shorter production runs will have higher unit costs because these fixed costs need to be covered. And purchasing smaller amounts of raw material for shorter production runs comes at a higher cost too. Every custom thermoformed package has an economic run quantity. While we will accept purchase orders for any quantity, it is often the same total cost to order the economic order quantity.
UPPI is a worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of specialized, custom thermoformed plastic packaging. Our business is the design, creation, and production of effective, yet cost-efficient packaging for the retail, medical, electronics, industrial, and food industries. Take a minute to browse all of our packaging options.