Viscoelastic Material Models of Polypropylene for Thermoforming Applications

Ciaran O'Connor, Peter Martin, Gary Menary

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Polypropylene (PP), a semi-crystalline material, is typically solid phase thermoformed at temperatures associated with crystalline melting, generally in the 150° to 160°Celsius range. In this very narrow thermoforming window the mechanical properties of the material rapidly decline with increasing temperature and these large changes in properties make Polypropylene one of the more difficult materials to process by thermoforming. Measurement of the deformation behaviour of a material under processing conditions is particularly important for accurate numerical modelling of thermoforming processes. This paper presents the findings of a study into the physical behaviour of industrial thermoforming grades of Polypropylene. Practical tests were performed using custom built materials testing machines and thermoforming equipment at Queen′s University Belfast. Numerical simulations of these processes were constructed to replicate thermoforming conditions using industry standard Finite Element Analysis software, namely ABAQUS and custom built user material model subroutines. Several variant constitutive models were used to represent the behaviour of the Polypropylene materials during processing. This included a range of phenomenological, rheological and blended constitutive models. The paper discusses approaches to modelling industrial plug-assisted thermoforming operations using Finite Element Analysis techniques and the range of material models constructed and investigated. It directly compares practical results to numerical predictions. The paper culminates discussing the learning points from using Finite Element Methods to simulate the plug-assisted thermoforming of Polypropylene, which presents complex contact, thermal, friction and material modelling challenges. The paper makes recommendations as to the relative importance of these inputs in general terms with regard to correlating to experimentally gathered data. The paper also presents recommendations as to the approaches to be taken to secure simulation predictions of improved accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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