How to manage new thermoformed packaging projects

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 29, 2023 11:38:45 AM

Dordan is a full service thermoform packaging supplier of clamshells, blisters and trays with in house design, tooling, thermoforming, and cleanroom manufacturing of medical packaging. ISO 9001 certified, we have a structured and documented approach to all services, including the sales process. Here transparency and consistency allow for the development of custom thermoformed packaging that meets our customers' expectations for performance, price, and lead time. What follows are the steps taken for managing new thermoformed packaging projects at Dordan. 

Step 1: Request for Quotation / Pricing

Most thermoform packaging projects require quotation prior to formal engineering.To generate pricing, one must determine the package size. To do so, the physical product, model file, or engineering drawing of the part to be packaged from the customer is needed. Once the dimensions of the part are confirmed and an understanding of the project ascertained, Dordan can determine the package size for quoting. 

Much of the cost of thermoformed packaging is based on the material type and thickness. Selecting this can be challenging for those not familiar with the thermoforming process. Dordan's expertise into the fluctuations of the plastics market and design for manufacturing approach helps determine the best material for new packaging projects. 

Anticipated order volumes must also be provided. Once the material minimums have been met, there will be the typical reduction in part price with escalating production volumes. Each material has its own minimums, for example, 1,000 lbs., which dictates Dordan's minimums. If the order volume does not meet material minimums, the cost of the 'scrap' will be applied towards the part price, which is cost prohibitive. 

If you’re working on a thermoformed packaging project with strict quality control requirements, then these should be established prior to quotation. Examples of QC requirements include validation runs, process capabilities studies, and PPAPs.

Thermoform packaging size, material type and thickness, order volumes, and QC requirements are needed to generate accurate pricing. Once determined, Dordan can turn a quote in 24-48 hours.

Thermoformed containerDordan's thermoformed shoe box for Nike SB

Step 2: Customer & Sales Collaboration

Once the business awarded, a Dordan sales rep works with the customer to gather all relevant information about the product, package, and packaging life cycle (How is it filled? How is it shipped? How is it used?). If secondary packaging or components exists i.e., lidding, bags, totes, etc., then they are requested to provide Dordan engineering with the big picture before the formal package design process begins. Likewise, tolerances and critical dimensions are reviewed and documented to ensure that any potential failure points are discussed prior to thermoform packaging development. 

Step 3: Sales & Engineering Collaboration

The sales rep then meet with Dordan’s engineering manager in a New Project Meeting to review the sales person's New Project Report; this Report is a formal and ISO-controlled document that itemizes each fact that engineering may find relevant for the development of the new thermoformed package. At this time, engineering may articulate questions and concers, which can be addressed with the customer. A summary of the New Project Meeting is presented to the customer for review and documentation. 

Step 4: Engineering, Production, and Quality Control Collaboration

Before starting the packaging engineering process, Dordan's engineering manager, production manager, and quality manager meet to review the project. Each department discusses the new project to ensure that the package design will utilize the thermoforming process to the best of its abilities to allow for the production of consistently-high quality thermoformed parts and packaging.

Step 5: Engineering Drawing

Engineering will advise on an anticipated date of engineering drawing submission when the project summary is given to the customer. The drawing will convey all relevant information, like material type and thickness, overall dimensions, standard tolerances, plus any non-standard quality requirements. The timeline from the New Project Meeting to the generation of a fully engineered drawing is about 1-2 weeks.

Engineer drawing of medical syringe tray

Engineering Drawing of medical tray

Step 6: Prototypes

Once the drawing has been approved, engineering will advise on anticipated date of prototype submission. Prototypes are formed on a “1-up” machined aluminum tool and are intended to represent the package's form, fit, and function. 6-8 hand cut prototypes are provided to the customer for review and discussion. The timeline from the approval of the drawing to the completion of prototypes is about 1-2 weeks.

thermoform prototype tooling

Step 7: Production Tooling

Once the prototypes are approved, Dordan begins developing the thermoform production tooling. The timeline for building production tooling is about 3-5 weeks (non cleanroom tooling). Production tooling consists of the form tool, water plate, pressure box, assist plugs, and cutting die. The customer owns the form tool and cutting die, which it is stored at Dordan and maintained to good working condition.

Step 8: Scheduling

At the same time that the material is ordered the job is scheduled for production. An Order Acknowledgment with an anticipated delivery date is then provided to the customer. Meeting the delivery date noted on the acknowledgment is one of Dordan’s ISO 9001 KPIs. Dordan has real-time scheduling that the rep can access remotely.

Step 9: Production

Routine QC inspections confirm parts are meeting the established specs, and Final Production Drawings with verified tolerances are provided to customers after the first article inspection. All engineering, tooling, quality control and manufacturing is located under one roof at Dordan, which allows sales reps to interact with all departments to ensure a smooth progression of the new packaging project from design through manufacturing. 

Plastic thermoformingDordan's thermoforming lines in Woodstock, IL

Dordan's cleanroom for manufacturing medical packagingDordan's ISO Class 8 cleanroom

Step 10: Shipping

Dordan can manage shipping product on behalf of its customers. Scheduling pickups, getting competitive bids, and being responsible for customers' inventory (VMI) shifts the responsibility of managing shipping from the customer to Dordan.   

The same sales rep at Dordan generates pricing, collaborates with engineering, manages the tooling and production pipeline and assists with shipping. All reps at Dordan have over 15 years of experience in thermoforming, quickly assisting customers with expertise and sharing sincere care for the thermoformed packaging project.


Dordan ManufacturingMy brother and Dordan GM and I in front of Dordan. Together, we have almost 40-years in thermoforming experience.


Topics: thermoform packaging, Thermoforming, medical packaging