Printing on a vacum form platic for rc car bodies

Hey all,

I’m a toy designer and we are creating a r/c car style toy that has a vacuum form printed body. I’m wondering if anybody has a link, experience, or source that explains how to set up this type of print or at least how to think about setting it up. I see this done on alot of beer poster that are vacuum formed. I imagine there is alot of trial and error to get all the art to go where you want when the flat plastic sheet is bending to the desired shape. I would just like to get a little more info on the process or try and learn a trick to make this go smoothly. This is the first time the company I work at has attempted this type of process and we are working with a overseas manufacturer and they aren’t the best at explaining things. Any thoughts?

see reference below of desired vacuum formed body

In general from what I’ve seen on my RC cars is the following:

The actual vacuum formed artwork is very simple (like the tribal pattern) and then the detailed areas (logos, headlights, windows) are actually decals that are applied afterwards so they don’t suffer from the same warpage.

What you could try is to do something similar to how 3D modelling apps work with UV unwrapping.

Imagine if you printed this graphic and then vacuum formed it to your body:

You would end up with a grid wrapping the body sort of like this:

You could then use that to understand where the distortion would occur and how to modify the graphics around that.

A lot of the detail is generally achieved using decals though.

That makes sense. thanks.

Currently working doing in-mold bicycle helmets. Process should be very similar start with a simple graphic that will not look bad when distorted and apply logos and other more specific graphics after the initial molding. You can make detail graphics as water slides or as a printed vinyl decal. You will most likely have to coat the water slide for durability. You will need your techpack to show all the graphic items separately and label them so they will know how to place. One drawing should show overview of graphic and how details should be placed. If you have more specific questions please feel free to contact me

that helps and thank you

I have used a company called Serigraph,

They do printed, vacuum-formed, in-mold appliques (amongst other things). That is what you are doing except you are eliminating the injection-molding step.

I have always been happy with their results. Give them a call, they are very helpful.