Thermoforming Is How Most of Your Stuff Is Made, and It Looks Awesome

Dec 2 2016 -- 7:00 PM

There's a decent chance that you've held something today that exists thanks to thermoforming... even if you don't know what thermoforming is. The video above gives a brief rundown of the process ("A plastic sheet is heated and formed to a specific shape in a mold."), and a good look at its pleasing aesthetics. But for a better nuts-and-bolts examination of thermoforming, let us turn to Adam Savage in a video he put out a few months ago for Tested. He calls the process "vacuum forming" (and his set-up might not be as clean-looking or smooth as the one in the above video), but it's the same thing, and in fact, knowing both names provides more insight into how the process works.

According to Savage, it involves "taking a sheet of plastic, [...] putting it in a frame, lifting that frame up to a heating element, [...] heating it up until the plastic gets droopy, and then pulling it down over a form," then creating a tight seal—and thus a detailed, true-to-form result—between the plastic and the form with a vacuum.

It's a process that's as intricate as it is fun to watch, so take a look at thermoforming in a more industrial setting above, or watch Savage create part of a NASA spacesuit in more of a hobbyist environment below.

Note: The top clip also claims that the most widely used implementation of thermoforming is for food packaging, but the video also shows that the process is used to create everything from signs to art to Darth Vader masks to model cars. What would you like to see created via thermoforming?

Featured image: INSIDER/YouTube

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