Thermoform Packaging Pricing Structure

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 10, 2024 1:41:29 PM

As a custom thermoformer, all pricing is based on specific project requirements. However, there are shared pricing indicators in all thermoformed packaging quotes. These include package size, material type and thickness, order quantity, tooling, quality requirements, and production environment.


Package Size: Typically, the larger the package the more expensive, because more material is required for production when compared to smaller parts. Determining the appropriate size for thermoformed packaging is based on the product size and functional packaging requirements. Additionally, the package size needs to incorporate features of the thermoforming process, like draft, radii, draw ratio, etc. The package size informs the layout of the thermoform tooling, which impacts the tooling cost.

Thermoformed plastic clamshell

Material Type: A large indicator of packaging cost is the material. There are many materials available that fluctuate in performance, capabilities, pricing, minimums, and lead times. Below are the main materials used in thermoformed packaging for consumer, electronics, and medical products.

APET (Virgin Polyethylene Terepthalate) is a transparent, high quality plastic material used in many packaging applications. Because it is a virgin material, there is less occurrence of gels, dark spots, etc., in the plastic sheet when compared with recycled materials. RPET (Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate) is recycled APET, which is made from industrial scrap, post-consumer material, or a combination of both. Industrial RPET tends to be less expensive than post-consumer RPET material, because the supply chain is less structured than municipally managed recycling programs. This material is an affordable and quality material for many thermoformed packaging applications.

HIPS (Virgin High Impact Polystyrene) is a versatile material used in thermoformed packaging for its affordability, matte finish, and ability to meet the functional packaging requirements. Popular in black or white, HIPS is often used for plastic insert trays, medical trays, and thermoformed dunnage/assembly trays. RHIPS (Recycled High Impact Polystyrene) offers many of the same properties as Virgin HIPS, but without the same level of quality because of the various feedstocks used in its production.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a transparent, high-quality material used in manufacturing plastic clamshells, blisters, and trays. It is used in many markets for its affordability and performance. RPVC is as the above, though made of a recycled feedstock.

PP (Polypropylene) is a versatile material commonly used in packaging; it is valued for its combination of properties, including high stiffness, good chemical resistance, high melting point, and relatively low density.

Anti-static materials reduce the buildup of static electricity on the surface of the packaging. These materials are used for protecting electronic components and devices that are sensitive to static electricity but don't require stringent ESD protection.

ESD materials provide more protection against electrostatic discharge. ESD materials often have a lower surface resistivity than anti-static materials, allowing them to channel static charges away from the packaged items.

Conductive Plastic Materials: Conductive plastics are electrically conductive. They have a much lower surface resistivity achieved by incorporating additives like carbon particles into the plastic matrix. Conductive plastics are used when it's necessary to shield packaged items from external electrostatic fields or to provide a path for dissipating static charges.

Medical Grade PETG is the standard for medical packaging. Popular in clear or blue tint, Medical PETG is compatible with most sterilization methods. “Medical Grade” means that there is lot traceability to the resin level and QC inspection and documentation throughout the entire production process. The material is high quality, has great clarity, and is easy to thermoform and die cut. Non-Medical Grade PETG is like Medical Grade PETG but doesn’t offer the same assurance of supply chain transparency. This material is typically used for lower-risk medical devices. Non-medical PETG performs just like Medical PETG, the only difference being the level of quality procedures executed in the production and handling of the material.

FDA APET is like PETG, but without the glycol; it is a harder material, making it more challenging to die cut. “FDA” means the material has been approved for use in food, drug, and cosmetic applications. While FDA certification is not as stringent as Medical Grade PETG, it offers more confidence of quality when compared to non-certified materials. FDA APET is available in clear, blue tint, black, white, and custom color-matching.

Medial HIPS is a non-transparent material with a matte finish. Usually black or white, Medical HIPS also offers transparency to the resin level. Non-Medical HIPS is the same material as Medical HIPS, but without the certification. It is a virgin material, offering higher quality when compared to recycled materials.


Material Thickness: Usually, the thicker the thermoformed part, the more expensive. Determining the appropriate material thickness is complex—it’s always a compromise between cost and performance. The size and weight of the product, functional packaging expectations (disposable vs. reusable), and quality control requirements must be considered when determining the appropriate material thickness.

Order Quantity: Thermoformed packaging pricing is largely dictated by the order quantity. Dordan is a custom thermoformer that purchases all material per order. Minimum order quantities for materials range in poundaged from 1,000 to 5,000 lbs., based on fluctuating market demands. Typically, the more exotic the material i.e. color-matching, the higher the minimums. Once the material minimums are met, thermoform part pricing decreases with elevating quantities and the amortization of machine set up and maintenance over the production run.

Tooling: Thermoform tooling includes the form tool, syntactic foam plug assists, water plates, pressure boxes, headers, and die build ups. The cost of standard tooling is largely based on the size of the machine on which it will be used and the complexity of the design. Dordan has small and large thermoforming machines, tooling for the latter being more expensive. Cleanroom tooling is more expensive than standard-production tooling, because it uses higher-quality materials and requires more complex engineering and machining time, tools, and technologies. All tooling is designed, machined, and assembled in house.  

Quality Control: Dordan is ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485: 2016 certified with an ISO Class 8 cleanroom. In our standard production facility, we perform first article inspections, hourly quality checks, and generate quality drawings with production tolerances.  In our cleanroom, we perform first article validations, process capabilities studies, PPAPs, and other, per our customers’ requirements.

Production Environment: Dordan has an ISO Class 8 cleanroom and standard production facility. The cleanroom is intended for those who require a controlled production environment. Our standard facility houses 11 in line thin gauge plastic thermoforming machines and our cleanroom houses Kiefle thermoformers. Selecting the appropriate production environment depends on the quality and safety requirements of the customer.

About Dordan Manufacturing: We are a family-owned thermoformer of packaging for the consumer, automotive, electronics, industrial, & medical markets. In house package design, tooling, thermoforming, and cleanroom manufacturing and ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 certified. Based outside Chicago in Woodstock, IL, Dordan has been designing and manufacturing custom thermoformed packaging for over sixty-years.


Topics: custom thermoforming, custom thermoformed packaging, plastic thermoforming company