The objective of this research is to study the improvement in the formability of thermoplastics using heat assisted single point incremental forming. Single point incremental forming is a production process for forming sheet materials without the use of dedicated tooling (dies/molds). The process is an alternative to thermoforming for low volume forming of sheets. It involves forming the final shape through a series of localized incremental deformations. It has been observed that heat assisted techniques have shown an improvement in the formability limits for sheet metals. In this research, this concept has been tested for improving the formability of polymer sheets. Hot air us used to increase the temperature within a localized region in front of the tool. A single point incremental forming device is modified through the development of a specialized tool holder and nozzle which heats the polymer sheet to temperatures higher than the room temperature but below the glass transition temperature of the polymer and applies the forming loads.
The results from the experiments are summarized as: i) the formability angle increases of polystyrene from 27 degrees to 46 degrees when comparing room temperature forming to forming at an elevated temperature (170°F–180 °F), ii) a reduction in the forces needed for forming is observed qualitatively, and iii) the surface finish on the formed parts do not show visible change. This demonstrates promise of manufacturing complex shapes from thermoplastic polymer sheets using heat assisted incremental forming. Future research includes 1) simulating the localized deformation of the material to enable process planning, 2) quantifying the forming forces and heat control of the system, and 3) exploring the manufacturing technique to other materials.