Vacuum Forming

vacuum forming

Vacuum forming involves heating up a sheet of plastic and stretching it over a mold known as a “buck”. A vacuum is applied to pull the plastic up to the mold surface. The major parts are a table top grill and a shop vac. The author uses this set up to create studio props, but it can be used for a lot of other things. The acrylic bodies on RC cars are manufactured using this process. So, if you want to start generating your own custom bodies, this is where to start.

12 thoughts on “Vacuum Forming

  1. Sweet! that tabletop cooker is what I needed to know! I have used a vac former at an old job, and have been concocketing the plans for a homebuild. I would recommend using a Preforated metal sheet for the bottom platform. and support it with small pillars. It will create more uniform suction…

  2. I was in the process of making one of these for exactly what was stated, making rc car bodies. Good thing too the toaster oven i was gonna use got thrown away, and i wasnt sure how to heat the lexan correctly. kudos admins

  3. Man…this type of stuff is the reason I read hackaday. I would have never found that on my own. Time to start building. maybe that custom computer case isnt just a dream.

    Great find.

  4. The best source on Vacuforming is the Thurston james book

    has a whole section in the back on how to build your own 24″x24″ one out of common materials.

    A buddy of mine built one of these for making Stormtrooper costume parts, and he detailed it here on his site:

    — badger

  5. I’ve built these machines for a lot of years. Here are a few little tips. Place self-stick sandpaper on your film frame to help keep the film from slipping. If you have an upper frame, put felt on the side facing the sandpaper so when you clamp them together you get a smooth even tension. We have also had good luck with strip magnets on a steel frame (depending on the weight of your film and height of your mold). InfraRed electric heaters (with the nichrome ribbon wire suspended on ceramic posts) work best because they heat faster and retain less heat when turned off. (You’ll have to bypass the temp switch, knock-over switch and fan.) This will give more consistant results when making multiple copies, back-to-back. Common drawer slide systems make an inexpensive way to move your frame down while keeping it square to your vacuum box . The bottom of the vacuum box can be multiple layers of peg-board, with the bottom layer spaced above the bottom with 1x2s or moulding. For high volume applications, cover the peg-board with perforated aluminum sheet. It is important that you get a good seal between the edges of your vacuum box and the film. If you have problems with “blow outs” in particularly deep molds, try putting a speed control on your vacuum cleaner to reduce the vacuum level.

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