When we decided to focus on understanding the challenges faced by heavy gauge thermoformers, we thought about a kaleidoscope: turn the lens and see the shapes change. Our industry colleague, Steve Murrill of Profile Plastics, neatly captured the array of variables in thermoforming at the recent European Thermoforming Conference in Spain. When discussing the evolution of thermoforming, one must acknowledge the dilemma posed by the fact that standard part acceptance is driven by statistical process control (SPC) in a closed-loop, injection molding world. Because thermoforming is an open-loop process, the variations in sheet, forming, trim fixture fit, etc., processors are constantly tweaking trim programs at great cost. This leads to the eternal question: how to tighten the process to improve consistency? Better sheet, better forming process control through IT and data analysis and better trim programs will all help, but costs need to be understood and managed so that thermoforming doesn’t lose its competitive edge.