Thermoforming printers: do more than just create POP displays

When you think of thermoforming prints you’re probably thinking about bas-relief prints, such as custom signs, packaging, P-O-P displays and vending panels. But a few days ago it dawned on me that you can actually do a lot more with a thermoforming printer like the EFI VUTEk GS-3250 Pro-TF. If you are active in a market where the customer doesn’t mind paying a premium for some manual craftsmanship, you can expand your business considerably beyond these traditional bas-reliefs.

The first more or less non-traditional niche use that I thought of for a thermoforming printer is aimed at people with an eyesight problem. You can actually print braille with an VUTEk GS Pro-TF digital inkjet printer as it is capable of 1000dpi (12pL drops) and crisp 4-point text. You can use this for instruction signs and markings, for example.

You can also use thermoforming to print carnival or toy masks. With machines such as the EFI VUTEk GS-3250 Pro-TF it becomes commercially viable to print personalised batches of this type of objects. In fact, when I saw a picture on Twitter of a soccer ball extruded almost completely from its base polypropylene board, I realised a VUTEk GS-3250 or GS-2000 Pro-TF can be used to create 3D objects. I’m not referring to the extruded 3D objects a true 3D printer is capable of creating.

I’m referring to hollow objects where two thermoformed halves are bonded together using glue or another fixing system. For example, a candy brand that targets children could add a thermoformed wrapper halve with multiple printed designs around its products that its customers can make complete by collecting the halves that belong together, making their own toys in the process.

With a design that eliminates the need for glueing — e.g. making good use of the part of the board that remains unformed — small shops can offer packaging that is more durable than cardboard boxes, with a design that changes more often and without the need to keep large numbers of packaging in stock. In short, a thermoforming printer invites you to think out of the box and offers opportunities to expand your printing business considerably.