HOW TO – Make a DIY Vacuformer

Resulttop“This procedure will help you construct a simple vacuforming device. With it, you’ll be able to fabricate plastic parts or make copies of of objects in plastic. Vacuum forming is a popular industrial process for manufacturing hollow, thin walled, plastic parts. In industrial units, a sheet of plastic is heated, usually by infrared lamps. This homemade vacuformer is made by using a piece of perforated circuit board as the platform, and a project box as the vacuum chamber. A heat gun is enough to melt most thing plastics, and a shop vac provides plenty of ‘suck’.” Thanks Jason! Link.

14 thoughts on “HOW TO – Make a DIY Vacuformer

  1. I agree, this is pretty lame for all but the most primitive vacuum forming needs. I’d seen the second link, much better design that should still cost you less than $100.

  2. The Ralis Kahn design on the Halloweenfear site doesn’t seem to be all it’s cracked up to be, without some tweaking. The little grill doesn’t heat evenly, and in my experience you’d be better off heating the plastic in a kitchen oven, like on the studiocreations vacuum forming site. (http://www.studiocreations.com/howto/vacuumforming/index.html)

    I evened out the heat from my little grill by putting a diamond-shaped reflector made out of perforated aluminum under the middle of it. This blocks some of the IR from the heating element, and redirects some of it toward the corners.

    Unfortunately, that’s pretty much moot for most people, because nobody seems to be selling the cheap little Sunbeam-type rectangular electric grills anymore. (Kmart lists them, but they’re always out of stock.)

    These things are discussed in the discussion board at tk560.com, which is the most useful hobbyist vacuum forming site I’ve found. If you want to know how to build a better vacuum former yourself, that’s the place to go. A bunch of people have built their own vacuum formers based on the Thurston James design and information from that site.

    There is also a vacuum forming forum on hobbymolding.com.

  3. By the way, if you make plastic clamping frames out of aluminum windowscreen framing, as Ralis Kahn does, be sure to get aluminum corner braces; don’t use the plastic ones.

    Home Depot and Lowe’s don’t seem to sell the aluminum corner braces anymore, but True Value and Ace still do.

  4. update:

    After considerable experience with my version, I like it a lot. Two hacks to even out the heat do the trick, and it’s a great little system.

    (See http://www.tk560.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=390 for the hacks. One is a perforated aluminum reflector in the middle, made of a disposable grill topper, which reflects and redirects some of the IR. The other is a skirt made of aluminum flashing, which lets you move the plastic further from the heating element, without most of the IR escaping around the sides.)

    Also, Wal-Mart is selling rectangular portable electric grills again, so this is very doable for anybody who wants to make a little standalone vacuum former.

  5. Here is another design for an even cheaper (but pretty good) standalone vacuum former oven, using a two-burner hot plate and some disposable aluminum pans:

    http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=621858

    This article tells how to make the platen (vacuum forming table), frames, etc.:

    http://www.tk560.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=466

    It’s a flexible system with removable gaskets on tape-down sheets, so that you can use different-sized and different-shaped plastic for different projects.

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