Chances are good that you’ve already lost some blood to thermoforming, the plastics manufacturing process that turns a flat sheet of material into an unopenable clamshell package, tray inside a box, plastic cup, or leftover food container. Besides being a source of unboxing danger, it’s actually a useful technique to have in your fabrication toolchest. In this issue of Tools of the Trade, we look at how thermoforming is used in products, and how you can hack it yourself.
The process is simple; take a sheet of plastic material, usually really thin stuff, but it can get as thick as 1/8″, heat it up so that it is soft and pliable, put it over a mold, convince it to take all the contours of the mold, let it cool, remove it from the mold, and then cut it out of the sheet. Needless to say, there will be details.
The team over at [2PrintBeta] found they needed some unique plastic profiles for their 3D printer the Printupy. Unable to find a supplier with what they needed, they decided to try building their own inexpensive bending station, using stuff they already had.
Not too concerned with the longevity of the system (or perhaps the flammability?) they’ve taken a wooden board and routed a straight groove through the center of it. Using a power supply and some Nichrome wire — it’s done.
They admit it’s really not the most durable and that it requires constant supervision in case of flames — but it cost next to nothing to make, and actually works quite well! What we like about the following video is they also show us the design process, the laser cutting, and bending to create the final product.