Thermoforming systems gain upgrades, features

May 2, 2016

Thermoforming machinery manufacturers are adding new models and improving current systems by reducing cycle times, optimizing trim presses, reducing mold change times and adding new features. Here are a few of the new or upgraded models. 

Gabler Thermoform GmbH & Co. KG

A new model of the workhorse M92 automatic thermoforming system from Gabler Thermoform GmbH & Co. KG, Lübeck, Germany, significantly increases available closing and cutting force and positions the machine for processors who want to use a tilt-bed machine for PET applications.

In reference to its heavy-duty performance, the new model is known as the M92 HD. Clamping pressure has been increased from 42 tons to 73 tons.

"The M92s have typically been used for PP applications," said Gary Sowden, sales director for North America. "But we are seeing crossover lines where they might be running PP product one day and PET the next. We also see some customers who value the tilt-bed technology for machines that are only going to run PET applications.

"The cutting forces needed for PET are in the range of 40 percent higher than for PP. With the M92, we would have situations where we would run out of cutting force before we would run out of mold area," Sowden said. "That's what led to the development of the M92 HD —  the desire to get the tonnage up to where we could run full-size PET tools."

The greater cutting force of the M92 HD also allows processors to run more small-diameter container cavities on the machine.

Another significant change came in adapting the forming station from Gabler's larger M98 machine to the smaller M92 platform. The M98 has been in production since 2007. It is the largest tilt-bed machine in the industry, Sowden said. More than 70 units of the M98 have been sold.

The M92 HD was introduced last year, and the initial units were delivered to customers in Asia and the Middle East. Sowden said it is now available in North America, along with the standard M92, which is Gabler's best-selling machine.

Sowden said the M92 HD forming station has a sturdy design that will guarantee long service. The drive system has been improved by adding a new mechanical linkage for higher load capacity in the forming station, and a new interface has been added to the Siemens color touch-screen control system. The forming area has been enlarged from 26.8 inches by 13.6 inches on the M92 to 30.7 inches by 16.5 inches on the M92 HD. The maximum depth of draw is 7.9 inches. The machine is capable of 50 cycles per minute. Gabler spent about nine months developing the M92 HD model.

Gabler has also upgraded the M98 system, replacing it with the M98 HD. Changes include a new mechanical drive linkage for the lift and cut platen, new touch-screen for the control system, new Gabler Reverse Stacker, patented "Speed Flow" form air system and a fully monitored machine lubrication system.

The M98 HD, which was first demonstrated in February, has a forming area of 31.5 inches by 21.7 inches. Clamping pressure is 73 tons.

Illig Maschinenbau

German machinery and toolmaker Illig Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG, Heilbronn, has added another machine to its RV line of automatic thermoforming machines.

The modular RV 74d is the fifth machine in the series, which features machines with different forming areas, expansion levels and automation configurations. The RV 53 machine is suitable for forming, punching and stacking parts.

The RV 74 unit has an optional punch press to punch holes, such as venting and hanging holes, into formed parts. The RV 53c and RV 74c machines have added air pressure to assist forming. Compared to their predecessors, they also feature better automation and improved tool-change capabilities.

Thomas Stahl, an Illig sales manager based in Germany, listed these improvements and additions for the RV 74d:

• Air pressure has been increased to 42 pounds. Previous models have 28 pounds.

• Maximum cycles are 40 per minute (up stacking), compared with 35 cycles per minute for the RV 74c.

• The forming area has increased to 27.7 inches by 20.9 inches, compared with 27.7 by 20.2 inches.

• A new start-up feature allows for slower cycles when parts are first being made prior to approval. Using the feature, parts can be made at a rate of 10 cycles per minute; once they're approved, the machine automatically increases to the maximum production rate. This saves material.

• Servo motors have been added to the hole- punch press for smoother operation.

• The servo-driven chain transport has been repositioned to be even more precise in material positioning.

• Easy-to operate devices allow faster tool changes on all stations. Changes can be made in only 20-35 minutes, depending on the line configuration.

• The water-cooling system has been upgraded to keep machine and tool parts at room temperature to eliminate water condensation.

• New energy-efficient HTS black heater elements reduce operating cost.

• The machine can handle sheet from 0.008 inches to 0.100 inches thick, depending on the type of sheet.

The RV series machines use the Siemens S7 control with a touch-screen. It features digital settings and storage of production parameters. It has a simple menu structure designed to help operators avoid mistakes. Another feature is operator guidance for the tool change sequence. The S7 also has an easy-to-use help function.

Other options available include a so-called "empty frame" to accommodate the processor's printer or a feeder for labels. Stahl said the RV 74d can be configured to stack up or down.

The new model is aimed at food packaging as well as blisters and transport trays for industrial purposes. It is especially well-suited for small batches due to its automation and rapid change of tooling, according to Illig. It uses less energy than comparable models, Stahl said.

The machine is available in the U.S. through Illig LP, Indianapolis.  It will be shown for the first time at Pack Expo in Chicago in November.

Commodore Technology

Commodore Technology LLC, Bloomfield, N.Y., has completed a major upgrade that increased the speed of its TP-30HS foam trim press from 100 cycles per minute to 190 cycles per minute. "To make it run faster, we changed the way the trim press is fabricated," said President Bruce Hayward. Commodore Technology is a sister company of Commodore Plastics LLC, a major processor of foam trays used by food processors.

"Rather than using steel tubes for the frame that can flex under load, we switched to a flat boilerplate for the sides," he said. "That gives greater stiffness."

Despite the added stiffness, there is still a resonance caused by the trim press oscillating during trimming. To lessen the vibration, Commodore engineers put accelerometers on the trim press to determine where and how much it was vibrating.

"With that information, we were able to make adjustments to the stiffening and add counterbalances to offset the effect of the treadle moving back and forth," Hayward said. The upgrade process took about six months to complete, according to Hayward. It was tested extensively in Commodore's processing plant.

The end result was a trim press that maintains trim accuracy.

The TP-30HS can accommodate a maximum sheet width of 30 inches. The platen stroke is adjustable from 5.75 inches to 7.25 inches, platen window height is 20 inches and platen window width is 27.5 inches.

The trim press uses servo motors to actuate the crank arm connected to the treadle. The servo uses algorithms to maintain constant speed of  the crank despite the varying loads caused by the reciprocating motion of the treadle and platen. This also eliminates the vibration of the trim press, which allows it to run at higher speeds while maintaining trim accuracy. 

When paired with Commodore's model SX-28S thermoformer and its movable oven, the complete system costs about $325,000. Hayward said that is about 25 percent less than comparable systems. Four systems with the new trim press have been sold and are being used to make hinged lid containers, meat trays and a 100mm-deep bowl.

Thermoforming Systems LLC

Thermoforming Systems LLC, Union Gap, Wash., is finishing a yearlong project to reinvent its Low Flex 3.0 thermoforming system by reducing mold changeover time from four hours to one hour.

Thermoforming Systems' new Low Flex 3.0 system will feature the company's Linear Rail trim press.

The new system, which is expected to be available for demonstrations and customer trials in the third quarter of this year, features the new Linear Rail 3.0 trim press.

"This will be the first time we have used our Linear Rail 3.0 trim press," said Roger Moore, senior VP for sales at TSL.

The system is designed to be flexible and offer quick mold change features, so it should compete with smaller machines, Moore said.

The Low Flex 3.0 thermoformer has a maximum sheet width of 36.5 inches. The maximum mold size is 33.5 inches by 52 inches and the maximum draw depth is 8 inches.

The trademarked TSL Linear 3rd Motion servo-driven technology is attached to the bottom platen and mechanically links to the plugs, which are inside the tools. Plug speeds of up to 39 inches per second are possible, Moore said. Top platen travel is 8.5 inches and bottom platen travel is 6 inches.

The Low Flex 3.0 thermoforming system has a cycle speed of 40 cycles per minute and clamping force of 80 tons.

The new LR 3.0 trim press features a platen that is guided by 65mm linear roller rails for longer life and improved accuracy, Moore said. It has 35 tons of cutting force and can run up to 160 cycles per minute.

The side-load tool-change feature speeds up tool changes by eliminating the need to remove grinder boots or trim press lower guards. There is no need to remove or change guide lengths due to a pneumatically elevated treadle.

A dual-drive nip treadle eliminates the possibility of cross-directional misalignment.

The vertical trim on the LR 3.0 is adjustable from the 360-degree catwalk and width adjustment is via a motorized canopy wheel.

Ron Shinn, editor

[email protected]


Commodore Technology LLC,


Gabler Thermoform GmbH & Co. KG,


Illig LP,


Thermoforming Systems LLC,


About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.