Vacuum Forming At Home

A little dumpster-diving let [Nick Skvarla] build his vacuum form machine for around $5. He pulled a vacuum cleaner out of the trash, which was tossed away because of a broken power plug. He put it into a box which had been sealed with spray foam and used a piece of pegboard for the top side of the enclosure. He takes a piece of 40 mil PETG plastic from the hobby shop and mounts it in a wooden frame. That goes into the oven on broil until the entire sheet is sagging, then onto the vacuum former. Above he’s making forms out of some figurines which he’ll walk you through in the video after the break.

There’s a whole world of manufacturing processes that use these forms as a starting point. What would you use this for?

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Make Your Own Solenoids, Then Play The Xylophone

Learn to manufacture your own solenoids and then use them to play the xylophone by watching the tutorial video after the break. [Humberto Evans] and the team at Nerd Kits do a great job of not only manufacturing the coils, but the xylophone itself. The bars are machined from some aluminum stock and they take you down the rabbit hole with they why’s and how’s of engineering the keys.

We’re unlikely to replicate this machining process but the solenoids are another story all together. Starting at about 3:30 you can learn about designing, building, and using these little marvels. They’re basically an electromagnetic cuff with a metal slug in the middle. The solenoid seen above uses a body milled from HDPE and wrapped with magnet wire. The slug in the center is steel, with a few rare-earth magnets at the top. When you run current through the coil it repulses the magnets on the slug, witch then strikes the xylophone key. Using a MOSFET and a protection diode, actuating them is as simple as sending a digital high from your microcontroller of choice.

We’ve seen solenoids used to play a vibrophone before, but those were commercial units. Making your own hardware is far more hardcore.

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Heater For Bending Acrylic

We like using acrylic in our projects but there are a couple of tricky techniques, particularly getting clean cuts for glued edges and bending the material into curves. [Giorgos Lazaridis] has a great solution to the latter, a dedicated acrylic heater. Instead of using an oven to warm the material for bending he’s using localized heat produced by a high-powered lamp pulled from an old laser printer. The next part of his solution is to keep the heated area of the acrylic as small as possible. This was achieved by creating heat sinks on either side of the bulb. The metal bars seen above have water running through them to help isolate the softening of the material to a narrow strip. See how well this system works in the video after the break.

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Steam-powered Rickrolling

This is a steam-powered record player; awesome. But wait, that’s not all. Watch the video after the break for about two and a half minutes and you’ll realize that it’s also a Rickroll. No, you’re not getting baited into clicking through to Rick Astley’s music video, the LP that’s playing on the turntable is a copy of “Never Gonna Give You Up”; all kinds of awesome.

This all started with a steam engine machined from a stainless steel bolt and a brass cylinder. It was tested using compressed air before building the boiler. But what’s a steam engine without a purpose? The problem with using a steam engine as a turntable motor is speed control. This is where we move to modern technology, using an Arduino to measure the RPM and adjust the steam engine using a servo motor.

The builder makes a comment that this sounds terrible, but considering it’s steam-powered we think it sounds just fine.

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