Our Story of How Thermoformed Kayaks Are Made

 In Plastic Thermoforming

Anyone who knows Vantage Plastics knows we love the outdoors. Located in mid Michigan as we are, we are surrounded by pristine forests, trails, rivers,  creeks, Saginaw Bay, and beautiful Lake Huron. 

Many Vantage employees are avid hikers, bikers, boaters, snowmobilers, and hunters. We are also canoeists and kayakers. It was this last love that inspired us for a time to manufacture a line of creative, versatile, and very popular kayaks. 

It was a Vantage connection who motivated us to undertake kayaks. He understood boat design and how a craft should move through water. Using his knowledge, we started making kayaks. 

We gotta’ proudly say, Vantage kayaks were a sight to behold. They were made of multicolored plastic. We blended different colored pellets to create a tie-dye effect in the extruded plastic. Each kayak was definitely a unique one-of-a-kind product.

If you were out paddling and saw a Vantage kayak, you knew it. Many of them are still in use today. They are seen every year on the Rifle River, the Au Sable River, and throughout Michigan.

While we no longer manufacture kayaks at Vantage, those little watercraft do hold a place in our hearts. In this article, we describe our experience making kayaks and we provide advice for outdoor sporting goods manufacturers or canoe rental shops who need a supply of sturdy, lightweight, reliable, durable, and affordable kayaks.


Vantage Plastics Thermoforming Outdoor Equipment


The Different Ways to Manufacture Kayaks

Kayaks have been around for centuries. Early Inuit models were made of wood and animal skins. Wood is still used today, but only by craftsmen or individual kayak makers, not by mass production manufacturers.

For mass production, kayaks are made in the following ways:

  • Rotomolding. Rotomolding is a common kayak manufacturing method used since the 1970s.  The technique refers to the rotational molding method used to make the kayaks.  Plastic pellets are poured into a mold, heated, and then rotated in a large oven until the plastic melts and coats the inside of the mold evenly. The result is a one-piece kayak that’s ready to launch. Rotomolded kayaks are impact-resistance and suitable for whitewater rafting, but they are also difficult to repair.
  • Composite. High-end composite kayaks are made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or Aramid fiber, or a blend of all three. Composite kayaks use a layered synthetic fabric construction. The deck and hull are made separately, then fused using fiberglass tape and epoxy resin. Composite kayaks are ultra-lightweight, fast, and responsive, which is why they are preferred by professionals.
  • Thermoforming. In thermoforming, sheets of plastic are heated to a pliable statewarmed and stretched over molds to create the top and bottom sections. After the plastic cools, the sections are fused. Thermoformed kayaks are more durable and scratch-resistant than rotomolded models, easy to repair, and the plastic they are made from is generally recyclable.

The Advantages of Thermoformed Kayaks

Thermoformed kayaks offer superior performance, use higher-quality plastic, and are generally more durable and long-lasting than rotomolded ones. 

Thermoformed kayaks can use a plastic laminate construction. The manufacturing process is less labor intensive than composite kayaks. Thus, price-wise, thermoformed kayaks fall between lower-priced rotomolded and higher-priced composite versions.

Thermoforming allows for finer lines and more complex shapes than rotomolding, while using less material. This results in a lighter weight. 

The advantages of thermoformed kayaks

  • More durable and scratch-resistant than polyethylene kayaks
  • Nearly as lightweight as composite kayaks, but at a fraction of the cost
  • Outer layers provide UV resistance and give thermoformed kayaks a glossy finish 
  • Easier to repair 

Kayaks, Pools and Other Outdoor Sporting Equipment from Vantage Plastics

Do you manufacture kayaks, canoes, or other plastic outdoor sporting equipment? Give us a call at 989- 846-1029 or contact us today. 

Vantage Plastics Thermoforming Outdoor Equipment


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