The importance of packaging has only increased with the steady movement of the market (in all fields and sectors) towards mass distribution; such arrangement requires, indeed, that any product is singly packaged in a container or blister of some kind – and what’s more important, that the container itself is at the same time sturdy, pleasing to the eye, and reasonably economical to manufacture in large numbers. For several years now – and with no actual challenger to the title in sight – plastic thermoforming has consistently proven to be the best choice to obtain packaging that combines reliability, durability, and low production costs, as already seen in the other fields – such as the automotive sector, where it is used for car door panels, the kitchen supply industry, which sees millions of food containers manufactured this way, or even the production of disposable items, such as coffee cups. For  a few more details on what makes plastic thermoforming so ideal for the packaging industry, we’ve posed our questions to Alma Packaging, an Italian manufacturer of plastic thermoforming machines.

The packaging industry seems to confirm thermoforming’s popularity. Why?

There is a very definite technical reason for this preference. Thermoforming presents a very significant advantage in allowing for blisters and other containers to be manufactured at very low costs but exhibit excellent strength and sturdiness. In a mass-distribution setting, wear and tear isn’t the only concern; discouraging shoplifting attempts is a significant plus, and thermoformed plastic packaging proves extremely effective in that regard.

Is the plastic thermoforming process particularly complicated?

While it is actually true that specifications of the actual process of thermoforming may be complex, the idea behind it is actually quite simple. Plastic sheets are heated by passage through an oven; once malleable, they are moved into a mold, and pressurized air is injected to inflate the material until it shapes itself against the mold walls. Once cooled, the packaging is ready.

What is the current situation with plastic thermoforming regarding environmental respect?

Actually, plastic thermoforming is proving to be an industry favourite in this regard as well – it’s one of the most ecologically viable packaging manufacturing methods currently available. This is due to the fact that scraps and plastic waste are actually an excellent starting material to obtain the plastic sheets needed for thermoforming; they are first ground by machines called granulators into fine flakes, and these are then moulded into recycled plastic sheets, ready for the process. By making use of recycled materials, companies can easily shrink their carbon footprint – a consideration that is growing to be more and more important with every passing year.

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