Plug-assisted thermoforming produces a wide range of polymer products through a combination of deformation by air pressure and contact with tool surfaces. In this paper the role of tool/sheet contact in determining the process output is investigated. A combination of thermoforming, friction and heat transfer tests were carried out on common tool and sheet materials. The results show that the typical friction coefficients for the material combinations are within the range 0.1 to 0.3, but the values rise sharply on approaching thermoforming temperatures. Thermal imaging tests demonstrate that all of the plug materials significantly cool the heated sheet on contact, even over very short periods of time. The temperature of the plug is very important. At low plug temperatures heat transfer effects predominate, whereas at high plug temperatures friction effects predominate. A plug temperature of approximately 100°C balances these effects and creates the most effective material distribution.