Thermoform Tooling

Tooling Is An Important First Step In Plastic Forming Processes

At ATI we have a complete thermoform tooling department which includes design and fabrication for plastic forming processes. Oftentimes we choose to sub-contract the fabrication, in order to deal with capacity constraints when presented with multi-part projects. However, ATI is always responsible for the outcome because we design the tooling. Therefore, a customer will never be told, “the part does not meet your requirements because the tooling was not built correctly”.

Thermoform tooling encompasses at least two, sometimes three processes.  Those processes are molds, trim fixtures, and possibly assembly fixtures, which ensure consistent placement of additional parts.

Thermoform Tooling
thermoforming capabilities computer aided manufacturing
Thermoform Tooling
Thermoform Tooling

Three Potential, Important Phases Of Manufacturing Tooling:


Project Parameters To Determine Thermoform Tooling Approach And Type Of Tooling Required

  • We begin by defining critical aspects of part, e.g. dimensions, cosmetic features, etc.
  • Next, we estimate annual volumes to determine number of cavities, and tooling construction materials.
  • Then, we evaluate desired molded surface to determine male vs. female mold.
  • We also evaluate required tolerances to determine fabrication techniques and trim approach.
  • At this point we determine type of material that will best suit mold-shrink and temperature control requirements.
  • We then determine finish requirements.
  • And finally, we discuss secondary requirements, e.g. mounting blocks/standoffs, and other assembly needs.

OUTPUT OF DESIGN – 3D Solid model in Solid Works, thus defining all functional aspects of the tooling package.


Next Step:  Determination of Technique

Next, we make the determination of the appropriate thermoform tooling technique.  We base this decision on a variety of factors relevant to the specifics of each individual part.

  • Composite
  • Machined Aluminum
  • Cast Aluminum
  • Cast Aluminum and Machined to Tolerance
  • Analysis of Cost Considerations

OUTPUT OF FABRICATION – Molds, trim, and assembly fixtures that will produce parts to requirements, consistently over the years, regardless of operator.


Pilot Run/First Article Runs

  • Process development, which techniques to optimize material distribution
  • Tooling modifications for ensuring process robustness
  • Process documentation, set-up and run

OUTPUT OF IMPLEMENTATION – Processing defined to ensure repeatability, regardless of machine or operators used, including inspection plans.