The Thermoforming Ecosystem

Let’s do a little thought experiment: what do resin suppliers, sheet extruders, thermoformers and toolmakers all have in common? Perhaps a better question is, what don’t these market participants have in common?


At the recent Thin Gauge Thermoforming Seminar at Penn College, we interacted with all of these groups on the topic of thermoforming. This is self-evident, you might say. Well, yes – but here’s the point: when you get all of these folks in the same room at the same time, it becomes very clear that we have a distinct and interdependent thermoforming ecosystem. Instead of a 2-way conversation between a customer and supplier, you have a rich and multi-faceted discussion. Instead of buyers and sellers trying to negotiate price and terms, you have processors and vendors, experts and novices asking novel questions and providing in-depth answers. (For an interesting read on the genesis of business ecosystems, click here.)

Depending on where you are in the ecosystem, you will likely find yourself reaching out beyond your traditional role-based confines to acquire expertise in another, related field. The link between thermoforming and extrusion is probably the easiest to identify, but moving further upstream to learn about resin properties and their impact on the thermoformability of extruded sheet can provide insights into package design and even packaging logisitics. As Jim Throne pointed out in his lecture, knowing that PP continues to recrystallize long after it has been formed, trimmed, stacked, packed and shipped will help you appreciate the effects of weather on shipping.

In a good example of how our industry recognizes the importance of our ecosystem, the SPE Thermoforming Division will again offer a seminar on extrusion at the annual Thermoforming Conference in Schaumburg, IL. 

What insights have you gained as a result of exploring the ecosystem?