DIY Vacuum Former On The Cheap

Vacuum Forming is a process used to mold plastic into a desired shape. A thin sheet of plastic is heated to a soft state and then air pressure is used to press the plastic down around or into a mold. Vacuum forming can be used to make a variety of items, anything from product packaging to bath tubs.

That being said, a vacuum former is probably one of those things that would be nice to have around but may not get a lot of use. Therefore, spending any significant amount of money on one would result in a low-value situation. For some folks, building one from scratch may be the way to go. [Amalgamized] built his own low-cost vacuum former and did a great job documenting the build.

VacuumDiagramFlattenedSmallThere is a two-pronged attack to keep the costs down on this project. First, the frame is made from readily available materials that you probably have kicking around in your wood scrap bin. The sides of the frame are 3/4″ plywood and the hole-filled top is made from 1/4″ MDF. A piece of PVC pipe connects the chamber below the top piece of MDF to a shopvac. The shopvac pulls the air down through the top’s holes; think reverse air hockey table.

Attack prong #2 is that there is no dedicated heater. Binder clips secure the plastic sheets to an aluminum window frame which are then put in the oven for a few minutes between 250 and 300ºF. When the plastic starts to droop, it is quickly removed from the oven and placed over a mold. The shopvac creates a low pressure zone under the plastic and atmospheric pressure pushes the plastic down around the mold.

DIY Vacuum Former

Making and selling Star Wars costumes ruled to be legal

 

[Andrew Ainsworth] has been making and selling costumes based on Star Wars character (some original, and some of his own creation) for several years. Lucasfilm sued him for $20 million back in 2004 claiming infringement of intellectual property rights. He stopped selling them in the US (as it was a US copyright) but now the UK Supreme Court has ruled in his favor, siding with his claim that the costumes are functional items and not works of art.

Good for him, but copyright issues aren’t what interests us here. The BBC clip showing him using a vacuum former to make the Stormtrooper helmet really caught our attention. A bit of further searching led us to find the thirteen minute video after the break showing the entire process, from sculpting the mold by hand, to forming the components, and the final assembly seen above. It’s a fascinating process that makes use want to build our own vacuum former (preferably on a larger scale than this one). It would come in handy whether it’s Star Wars, Daft Punk, or any number of other projects you’ve got in mind.

Continue reading “Making and selling Star Wars costumes ruled to be legal”

Vacuum former toy

vacuum

Vacuum formers are still fairly rare in our community, so it was a surprise to see that in the 1960s Mattel marketed one as a toy. It used a hot plate to mold plastic sheets into various shapes. The design was updated by Toymax in the early ’90s to use a light bulb heating element to make car bodies, like some sort of manly Easy-Bake Oven. The home-built machines we’ve seen are a much larger scale. In 2005, we posted [Ralis Kahn]‘s version that employed an electric grill as the heating element. [drcrash] has since built on those plans, hoping to develop an even cheaper device.

[via Gizmodo]