3d printed thermoform mold help

Hi all,

I’m looking to explore 3d printing a mold for thermoforming. Does anybody have experience with this that could give me advise for what material works best? I hear there are materials that are already fairly porous that withstand the heat and make it so you don’t have to drill the holes into the mold. Any help would be appreciated.

I’ve done vacuum forming with 3d printed molds done in ABS. As long as the plastic your molding has a lower melt temp than the mold, you should be fine.

However, I do not know of a material that is porous enough to pull the air through without holes designed into the mold.

If you’re 3D printing you shouldn’t need to drill holes, you can build whatever holes are needed into your CAD and have them printed.

Unless “drill” was an analogy for that.

As far as material - you should be able to find datasheets on this for whatever you are trying to use, but you need to figure out the material you are moldings melt temp as mentioned and work backwards (Also the temperature in your thermoformer)

Something like Alumide has a very high melting point depending on what you need. http://www.shapeways.com/materials/metallic-plastic

Thanks much. The melt point for the materials I’m using is 200 F and 300 F. I’ll just try and find a datasheet and compare. Does anybody have experience with using air power to blow the plastic onto the mold vs. the vacuum method. I heard from a vacuum former that people have been starting to use air blowers. Any thoughts?

Years ago (1980) we used air over our vacuum molds as an “assist” to get deep draws. It worked much better than mechanical assists in that it left no marks on the part. It also helped chill the part.

Equipment-wise, positive air is certainly cheaper to make than “vacuum”, but I would think that any “positive” air forming system would need to use heated air. It might be fine cold, depending upon your part size.

Why do you want to print a thermoform pattern? Faster to machine it in tooling board with much better quality. We used pressure assist vacuum forming in the mid 70’s to form superplastic zinc – fantastic detail. Using a material meant for the job will always produce better results. For long runs there is a porous aluminum pattern material from Protec.


I don’t know of any 3D printed material that is so naturally porous that you literally don’t need holes for thermoforming. That to me sounds like a sponge.

This is a material you can use for various types of casting etc.