We want to make it easy for interested parties to determine if a custom thermoformed packaging solution from Dordan works within their budget. While preparing a quote for a thermoform part usually requires a lot of information gathering on the side of the supplier, and thus a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing doesn't really apply, there are common pricing indicators shared among all thermoform quotes: These are material, run quantity, part size, and tooling.
There are many types of materials that lend themselves to plastics thermoforming. While the resin market is always fluctuating, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) is an affordable material that is used often for thermoformed packaging. It is a recycled or reprocessed material, therefore having sustainability implications, while maintaining good clarity and performance. For non-visual packaging like thermoformed dunnage or work in process trays, high impact polystyrene (HIPS) can be a suitable selection. The more exotic the material requirement, like color matching or flocked, generally the more expensive the part from which it’s formed.
As custom thermoformers, we buy the majority of material custom for each order. This allows us to maintain our own rigid standards for material acceptability, while facilitating a lean warehouse. Each material has its own minimum buy requirements, which means if the thermoform part order quantity does not consume the minimum buy, then the cost of the scrap is applied towards the part price. Thus, too small of orders may not make economical sense. In most cases, standard materials--like RPET and HIPS--have lower minimum buy requirements than more exotic materials.
The part price is also based on the size of the thermoformed part. The more material consumed in its production, the more expensive the part. If the part has a deep draw, a thicker starting gauge material is necessary to allow adequate material distribution throughout the form. Selecting the appropriate material thickness for a thermoformed part needs to balance performance requirements with cost considerations as too thin of a starting gauge will often times render the part unfunctionable.
Dordan has two machining formats: small and large; small machine tooling is cheaper than large machine tooling. Our small machining formats have a press that can form parts up to 20 x 20; our large machining formats have a press that can form parts up to 36 x 30. The decision to use a small vs. large machine depends on the part form/performance requirements, run quantity, and material thickness. The cost of tooling includes complete thermoform part design and development, prototyping, and the machining and assembly of production tooling.
Above: Custom thermoformed clamshell