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topic 8533

Technical Advice - Thermoformed Plastic Plates?

An ongoing discussion from 2001 through 2015 . . .


Q. I'm looking for technical advice. I need to do some plastic plates for bars (for beer bottles and glasses), but my client wants them to be thermoformed. Does anyone know what kind of plastic sheets should I use? If yes, how do I thermoform these sheets? (vacuum? molding?)

Sorin Voica
- Craiova, Romania


A. Hi Sorin,

I'm not quite sure just what these 'formed' sheets are for, how big, what shape and if supported or not.

You can vacuum form all, well most, thermoplastics. You cannot heat form fibreglass materials.

The formable plastics are

l. PVC ...
2. ABS
3. Acrylics, ie. Perspex, Lucite, Plexiglass
4. Pololefins such as Polypropylene and Polyethylene.

Pros and Cons

l. Doesn't burn. Normally grey in colour. Can be also easily heat 'bent'. Resistant to alcohol, i.e., aliphatics.
2. High impact. Normally black. Not too resistant to alcohol. Burns.
3. Very strong. Good appearance. UV resistant. Available in colours. Burns slowly. Somewhat brittle.
4. Very resistant to many solvents. Pe is very impact resistant, PP is less so. Pe is normally only available in white. Not too easy to bend. Highly formable. Both will slowly burn.

All the above can be welded. All would show cigarette burns. 1, 2 and 3 can be cemented.

Hence, the choice is YOURS!

I hope that this helps. Once you 'find out' just what you are going to need these for, I'd go to a reputable thermoplastics fabricator for some advice. OK?

Cheers !

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).


A. Hi,

I suggest for your part using HIPS, (high impact polystyrene) . This is the most common resin, affordable and highly used for point of sale or marketing parts.

Jorge de Simone
Termotec srl - Argentina


Q. Greetings... I am a general contractor of 47 years, and a jack of all trades. Decades ago, I became interested in making things for my vehicles -- like overhead consoles and decorative parts for things on my cars, etc. I see a business in this as well, but I am motivated more for my own purposes. I used to work in a plant that made servingware, and I worked on the chrome plating line - so I have some exposure to it all (and more interest in it, ever since then). I need to know what types of materials I can use to form consoles at home in my shop (cheaply), that would hold up to the heat in a car in the summertime, without melting, deforming, or breaking down (the cheapest methods and tools are all I desire).

I planned on using a shopvac and a homemade vacuum table, and wooden type forms - to do the forming on, but I have no idea what the specifics and specs of such materials would be, that will suffice for my needs, in the least expensive methods.

Also, I want to be able to re-chrome (after I strip them first) old parts that have lost their nice looks - and other items as well, for my cars and engines and things in general - for a variety of applications (cheapest method possible), at home in my shop... I don't mean like bumpers for cars, I mean like smaller objects (the size of a toaster or car radio, and smaller - but mostly trim and brackets and housings and the like. I know it can be done, but I don't know what I need, or where I can get the best prices on these things.

I don't know what plastics are best suited for my application, nor what other tools I can use to keep costs down. This is more like a hobby venture, that may not pay for itself in the end -- so I have to keep the costs down until I find out how practical it is for me to go commercial with it later if I do, and I really want to, if I can get it off the ground. I'm located in Cleveland, Ohio (a western suburb thereof).

Bottom line: I want to plate things, and vacuum form plastics at home in my shop, cheaply, and with what I have on hand for equipment if possible (a poor man's approach, so to speak - modifying things at hand to make do, and to do what needs to be done, and not by buying up a bunch of equipment).And the plating is for smaller parts of metal and plastics, and must hold up to heat, and the vacuum forming is mainly for overhead type consoles in cars, and misc. other parts I may wish to make molds of -- and must hold up to the heat in a car, etc. Looking nice would be a plus, and colors are an option(otherwise I would just paint it all, I guess, when done).

I would appreciate any and all information, sources, and tips. Again, this is a very low budget enterprise for now, that I hope will lead to paying for itself later - but I do have a lot of other tools and equipment that I may be able to modify for things, already on hand, and I'm a master at turning junk into usable nice things and tools, and bastardizing things to do other that what they were supposed to do ... I love it! It's fun, too.

jeff friedlander
Jeff A. Friedlander
- Westlake, Ohio


A. Hi Jeff. Regarding the plating, maybe please start with a copy of the Metal Finishing Guidebook which you can probably get a used copy of for under $10 if you can't find it in the library. It contains not only technical articles but advertisements to give you a flavor of the plating industry. This site is about metal finishing, so unfortunately we don't know much about the thermoforming issues. Sorry. Good luck!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Plating of thermoformed parts

April 17, 2015

Q. Hello,
I am having a hard time finding the correct way to properly prep are vacuum formed parts for chrome plating. I know it is being done for company's that don't have the volume to justify injection molding. Anytime I talk to a company about are needs they seem to have a bad taste in there mouth when we bring up thermoforming. We are using a Bayer 752 natural ABS . Any feed back would be GREATLY appreciated.

Dan Miller
product designer - oregon,usa

April 18, 2015

Q. I am interested in paint manufacture and having some formulations.

mahmoud ahmed
- alexandria

April 2015

Hi Mahmoud. There are hundreds of different kinds of paints, but books about their formulations are available almost for a song. Have you tried looking in any of the 3 books we already recommended on this page before we suggest a fourth one? Thanks.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

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