Vacuum Forming

Package Smarter With Additive Manufacturing

The year 1964 marked the onset of new technological development in the packaging industry and is considered by far the most advanced innovation for packaging parts that are shallow in depth. Yes, you guessed it right. It’s Vacuum Forming. To begin with, let us take a virtual tour of how you can package smarter using vacuum forming with additive manufacturing.  But before that, why don’t we brush up the ideation behind vacuum forming and what role does additive manufacturing can play in saving you millions. Sounds logical? Let’s proceed now with Vacuum Forming first.

Vacuum forming is a reshaping manufacturing process wherein operators melt plastic sheets to a flexible forming temperature. Subsequently, they shape the sheets to the mold with a specified dimension to create the final usable product. As a result, the vacuum forming process generally finds its uses in packaging for almost all manufacturing industries. Furthermore, an integral aspect of the vacuum forming procedure is the tooling, which isn’t generic and is specific to each part that is to be produced. Most importantly, vacuum forming with additive manufacturing helps organizations with time and cost investments.

Have you ever thought of buying a product void of beauty and aesthetics? Hardly do we keep the boxes and packages for any product that we buy, all of us know that. Despite this, various surveys report that the packaging industry market might touch $ 7 Bn by 2025.

Being a leader in this market, you must be well aware of the fact that packaging is the first point of contact with consumer eyeballs. Most importantly, it’s the first appearance that strikes the emotion of any consumer and that brings us to the very subject of this discussion. How to aesthetically improve packaging materials by saving millions? Answer – Additive Manufacturing!

Vacuum Forming and Additive Manufacturing

Three Dimensional or simply 3D printing is a technology based on an additive manufacturing process that transforms digital information into a physical reality. The puzzling question here is ‘how?’. To begin with, the additive manufacturing industry works on a basic principle of creating physical objects by depositing successive layers of 3d printing materials following pre-designed 3D models. We can therefore consider the manufactured product as thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the final object.

Furthermore, traditional packaging industries pose serious design challenges and as such customization on low volume orders is insanely difficult when measured with profit scale. Even on high volumes, it takes up huge resources such as valuable time, manpower and huge cost. However, with additive manufacturing, it’s just a press-button-relax kind of scenario. Hardly any manpower is required; the cost incurred will be cut down by over 70% and most importantly saves you over 80-90% time.

Let’s discuss a case scenario now. You have launched a new product. Your designers have come up with 2-3 packaging designs that are equally good and attractive to look at. With the traditional packaging mechanism, you can’t afford to invest in prototypes for all three designs because of time and money being invested. Well, with 3D printing, you can do this in just a matter of days. Above all, you can run an A/B test on all different designs before selecting the one that catches the eyes of your customer. Sounds smart now? Let us now see how Divide By Zero Technologies masters the art of vacuum forming using additive manufacturing.

Pulp Packaging Using Vacuum Forming
Pulp Packaging Using Vacuum Forming

Now, one of our clients implemented thermoforming on CNC machined master pattern using wood molds. Divide By Zero Technologies has eased this whole process using vacuum forming with additive manufacturing. With limited scope for errors and production changes, additive manufacturing allows manufacturers to transfer ideas from drawing board to tangible parts quickly, leading to shorter turnaround time during prototyping stages.

Our Client:

Our client is a leading manufacturer of packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industries. Their products include high, medium and low-speed blister packaging equipment alongside automatic cartooning & tube-filling machines. The company was facing challenges with prototyping parts for development time and manufacturing costs. They relied on CNC machines which ultimately proved time-consuming.

Thermoforming Using 3D Printed Part
Thermoforming Using 3D Printed Part

Current Challenges:

The client initially produced wood molds for thermoforming on the CNC machine. Firstly, the process involves machining the wood to match the contours of the finished part. In the second place, holes are drilled so a vacuum could be drawn through the mold to pull the plastic sheet tightly against it. The client was facing challenges with production time and cost incurred.

  • The CNC machining process is quite expensive. Although it requires less training for supervision and fewer employees than conventional ones, investment in installation and maintenance of these machines is quite high.
  • For each design, it is mandatory to make three iterations. An iterative learning control method is widely used to adjust the error compensated tool path wherein the motion accuracy of the three-axis CNC machine is calibrated and thereby increased for better efficiency and accuracy.
  • Each mold would take around two to three days for machining. For parts with complicated and complex cuts, usually, programmers first simulate the whole process to understand the machining time and then executes. This affects the overall production time which again incurs high cost.

Solution by Divide by Zero:

Divide by Zero used the AEQON400V3, best 3D printer model that mechanizes Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)technology which involves production-grade thermoplastics to produce rigid, strong, durable and dimensionally precise parts with no compromise on accuracy and repeatability of 3D printing technology. Furthermore, it is India’s first single extruder best 3D printer with a unique gantry design. This additive manufacturing technology has a dynamic material range, low operation cost, no size restrictions and is highly affordable.

AEQON400’s low-noise operation, quick-load functionality, super-fast slicer, and industrial-grade build quality to ensure reliable print-cycles. With 2X deposition rate and 35% smaller footprints, the machine houses specially designed high precision ball screws gantry along with print speed up to 200mm/sec. This 3D printer delivers unmatched precision and repeatability – a prerequisite in rapid prototyping and low-volume batch manufacturing.Thermoforming image


Comparative Analysis

The company was able to reduce its prototyping time and cost, achieve higher dimensional accuracy and have provisions for fitment and functional testing.

  • Reducing production time: As compared to high production time wherein the mold alone took 2-3 days for machining, Divide by Zero with its fast and cost-effective 3D printing AEQON400V3 model took the challenge to print the component in just around 14 hours.
  • Quality and Standard: Porosity in FDM parts eases the vacuum forming process with heat distribution segregated evenly which thereby provides a more uniform vacuum that ultimately improves thermoformed part quality.
  • Overall Saving on Cost: One of the major benefits and value additions 3D printing offers is significant cost-saving. The cost of the printed part was somewhat around Rs 750. Therefore low batch manufacturing was possible using 3D printed part.
  • Faster time to Market: With FDM 3D printing, we managed to reduce the time to prototype significantly. Products take lesser time for market implementation. Implementing a 3D printing setup offers great long-term value and substantial ROI.


You must have heard about green India, sustainability and many more initiatives for a cleaner country, right? How about going green with additive manufacturing and save millions? 3D printing for packaging helps in easy recycling and zero waste of materials. Besides being a sustainable technology, additive manufacturing does not use extra materials than what was pre-programmed. Most importantly, it creates the entire packaging at one-go without involving separate processes.

Simple question now, do you want to adapt your business ideas to the new age technologies? Older technologies will soon be archived and looked at as a motivation to develop new methodologies, concepts, and ideas.

Let us be the additive manufacturing partner in pursuit of your growth and success.