Technology

High Pressure Forming

Discover the “Niebling process”

Rely on the experts for high pressure thermoforming

With the development of the process, we brought high pressure molding technology to life. Our comprehensive knowledge of the technology and broad engineering expertise will ensure the success of your project.

  • Complex 3D decorative and functional plastic parts
  • Enormous accuracy in shape and positioning
  • Extensive flexibility in design and decoration

During the Niebling HPF process, a film or laminate is initially heated to the glass transition temperature on both sides without contact. The material is then deformed at a pressure of around 100 bar (1,300 psi) over a tool, namely without contact on first surface. With the help of this technology, complex 3D geometries can be produced from plastic films and substrates. When shaping, printed symbols, graphics or patterns remain precisely positioned. This accuracy is a decisive advantage of the HPF process compared to conventional vacuum or thermoforming processes. HPF also has great advantages when processing matt or structured foils, since with conventional thermoforming matt films appear shiny and the process heat can damage textures or coatings. In addition, constant distortion that results from shaping can easily be compensated for by distortion printing.

High Pressure Forming (HPF) benefits at a glance

Comparison of HPF with traditional Vacuum- / Thermoforming

High Pressure Forming (HPF)Vacuum- / Thermoforming
Material temperatureGlass transition Melting
Material distortionLowHigher
Precision (3D-shape)Very HighLess
Precision (positioning of symbols)HighLess
RepeatabilityHighLess

And this is how it works

High Pressure Forming – HPF by Niebling

With Niebling’s high pressure forming technology we were able to design and form complex 3D shapes for Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE).

Marko Suo-Anttila
SVP Engineering & Operations, TactoTek

Creating complex 3D components

High Pressure Forming is part of the Film Insert Molding (FIM) process, which enables fabrication of plastic parts with a decorated surface and integrated functionality. During this process, a plastic film, usually decorated with prints, is shaped and trimmed before being placed in an injection molding tool for one upt o three component injection molding.

Film Insert Molding – FIM

Molding of film inserts consists of several process steps. Key step for film insert molding is the precise forming of films with the help of high pressure air prior to injection molding. See explanation for each process step by mouse-over.

Individual Decoration​

First step: Films are printed with decoration, symbols and for In-Mold Electronics with conductive circuits. Electronic components like LEDs can already be placed on 2D sheet.

Precise Positioning​

Step 2: Positioning holes in reference to printing are needed for precise positioning of printing on 3D formed part.​ This can be done either by a 2D punch or a knife-plotter with camera detection of reference marks.

Heating

Step 3: Contactless heating of film from both sides just up to glass transition temperature, not melting temperature as in traditional vacuum forming is done inside the high pressure forming equipment prior to the forming process.

High Pressure Forming

Step 4: After moving film from heating station a toggle lever mechanism is closing the forming station and clamps the film in between. Heated high pressure air is forming the film precisely over a heated forming core.

Trimming

Step 5: After 3D formed film is dispatched from the forming euipment film is trimmed in shape by a trim press to fit precisely in size and shape of injection mold cavity.​ Niebling offers right solutions for this process step.

Injection Molding​

Step 6: Film insert is injection molded to end product with benefits having film on first surface or using film behind in an overmolding process.

Design + Function

Finalization: The finished product has precise positioned decoration and symbols and might already include functionality (In-Mold Electronics) like lighting, touch- and sliding functions.​

Film Insert Molding (FIM) has no registered trademark, so different abbreviations are used for the same process, e. g. In-Mold Labeling (IML), In-Mold Film (IMF), Insert Molding (INS) and many more. In-Mold Decoration (IMD) is widely used generic term for decoration processes. In case of having functionality integrated most used naming is In-Mold Electronics (IME) or TactoTek´s Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE™).


FIM benefits at a glance

  • Decoration of complex 3D-shaped part geometry
  • Free design by precise alignment, fine lines and gradation
  • Best scratch characteristics and chemical resistance for first surface
  • Piano-black with deepness effect for high-class appearance without sagging
  • Backlighting possibilities for symbols, graphics and pattern
  • Integration of functionalities like touch, sliding and narrowing sensors

Have look on our applications section to see examples of high pressure formed FIM and IME parts, being part of mayn well-known products.