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I need help selecting a type of heat-forming plastic. Can any plastic experts offer advice?

 I'm nearing the end of the design phase of a project, and I need some help selecting the right material with which to make it. I'll essentially be building a solid, 3-dimensional form, and mass-producing plastic pieces by setting a plastic sheet over the form and hitting the plastic with heat (probably a heat gun), and then trimming. I would prefer a plastic that is food-safe.

Are there any plastics that would "droop" onto the form when heated, but stiffen up again properly when they re-cooled?  A pliable, but still fairly rigid plastic that resembles the stuff those cheap black plastic oil receivers are made out of would be ideal.

If this type of plastic exists, where would I get it? I wouldn't mind buying it in reasonable bulk, because I may be selling the end product.

Thank you guys in advance.


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Why not use vacuum forming ? Using a heat gun is unlikely to be a process method.
+1
Vacuum forming is going to get much quicker and more consistent results than a heat gun and gravity would. The plastic you're looking for is most likely ABS, which is more difficult to thermo-form than regular styrene, but gives excellent results.
Check out Vince Gingery's Manual on vac forming at www.lindsaybks.com
Jonny Katana (author) 7 years ago
 I took a look at vacuum forming, specfically at www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-good%2c-cheap%2c-upgradeable-sheet-plastic-vacu/, and I can't believe I hadn't considered this before. I guess I didn't know it could be done so cheaply. Is ABS still going to be the plastic of choice if I'm vacuum-forming? Thanks for the suggestions, guys!
You can vacuum form ABS. It's still more finicky than regular styrene, but it works just fine once you get used to working with it. You can also vac form with PVC, Lexan, PET, Plexiglas, etc. depending on what your application is. I'd recommend pulling a few pieces with different kinds of plastic and see which one works best for you.