Thermoforming From Start to Finish, Part 1: Prototyping & Tooling

Posted by John Appel on Mon, Feb 27, 2017


If you’re looking for a plastic packaging solution for your product, your search will likely eventually lead to thermoforming. Thermoforming is one of the most popular and most commonly used solutions for plastic packaging, primarily because of its flexibility, cost efficiency, and quick turnaround time. Thermoforming can be used to produce everything from blister packaging and clamshell packaging to vehicle components to plastic pallets.

At Deufol, we produce millions of thermoform products every year, and we have the capacity to produce up to 200 million pieces annually. We have our own in-house tooling department to produce custom molds and other thermoform components. Because of our extensive experience, we’re able to complete thermoform work with a level of skill and efficiency not often found in the packaging production world.

We often meet with manufacturers who know they need a plastic packaging solution and who are familiar with thermoforming, but still don’t quite know what is involved in the thermoform process. Even the most experienced manufacturers ask us, “What is included in a thermoform strategy?”

The Deufol thermoforming solution involves much more than simply the production of packaging. It involves design, testing, tooling production, and all of the components necessary to build an efficient, effective packaging system.

In the video below, we walk you through the thermoform process. Curious about how thermoforming could work for your packaging challenge? Read on for answers to all your thermoform questions. 

Thermoforming Tooling (1)

Step 1: Prototype

The Deufol thermoform solution starts with your product. Some of our customers already have products in place. Others simply have a drawing or concept. No matter where you are in the product development process, our thermoform packaging solution begins with the same step: creating a prototype for your approval.

Our experienced thermoform engineers use advanced, state-of-the-art design software to create a precise, detailed blueprint of your package. We then use that blueprint and our in-house production capabilities to create an actual prototype for your approval.


The prototype process can often be completed in a matter of days. You can have a prototype in your hands within a week of having your initial consultation with a thermoform engineer. We can turn prototypes around so fast because we control the entire process in our facility. We don’t outsource design, production, or any other aspect to another packaging company.

If you have any revisions or concerns about the prototype, we go back to the drawing board and look to improve on the initial version. If you approve the prototype, we move on to step two.


Step 2: Tooling

One of the advantages of thermoforming is that the packaging is produced custom for your needs. You don’t get a standard packaging design that may or may not be right for your product. You get packaging that is built to your unique specifications.

We are able to build custom packaging in an efficient way because we produce all the necessary components in-house in our tooling production shop. After you approve your prototype, we get started one the tooling process, which can be broken down into three distinct phases:


During the design phase, we use 3D Solidworks software to create three-dimensional images of your thermoform tooling. Internally, we use these images to guide the tooling production process and minimize the risk of production errors or inefficiencies. That saves you time and money.


At Deufol, we’re big believers in prototypes and testing our concepts. That’s why we don’t just create prototypes of your packaging, but also prototypes of the tooling that will be used to create the packaging.

Our tooling prototypes are made from RenShape material, which is a high-temperature working board. It can be machined easily and quickly for greater efficiency. We use these prototypes to test our design and concept and ensure that we meet our high quality standards.

Production tooling.

After designing the tooling and prototyping the components, we’re ready to begin actual production. The scope and complexity of this phase depends on your specific job, as there are a number of different types of tooling that may be needed.

Some of the most common types of tooling include molds, plug assists, cutting dies, and upstackers. We produce our molds with 6061 aluminum, which has a long production life and can be used repeatedly. You’ll get a substantial amount of production out of one mold.

Our plug assists are made from heat-resistant high bead material called high tack. It helps the plastic form in the mold cavities. Cutting dies trim your packaging product to your specifications and separate the product from the scrap plastic. Finally, the upstacker is used to sort and stack products from the tooling in a way that space-efficient and easily transportable.

After we complete the tooling process, we’re ready to begin production on your packaging. The entire process from concept to completion takes about four to six weeks, depending on complexity and scope.

Ready to learn more about Deufol’s thermoforming solution and how it can work for your packaging needs? Let’s talk about it. Our thermoforming engineers welcome the opportunity to consult with you. Deufol_Logo_opt.png

Coming soon — Thermoforming from Start to Finish Part 2: Producing, Packaging, and Shipping Your New Forms 

Learn More About Thermoforming Packaging 

Topics: Thermoforming

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