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Desktop vacuum former

lyle sloan
posted this on October 5, 2011, 05:03

I created a desktop vacuum former that operates with a conventional vacuum (in my case shop vac) and heat gun (used in paint stripping).  For those who do not know, a vac former is a method of melting a sheet of plastic around a mold.  The design is pretty simple and I already built a prototype by hand.  So I thought I would post my design for free using Ponoko as the venue and try my hand at using Inkscape.  Unfortunately, my account will not upload files to my Personal Factory :-( Major bummer.  Anyways, I have pics from screen captures for the assembly instructions rendered in Google Sketchup.



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lyle sloan

The Inkscape files are the following

October 5, 2011, 05:07
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lyle sloan

Assembly instructions:

1. Insert the perforated middle board and the bottom board into one of the end pieces. See pic 1.

2. Attach the other end piece onto the othe side forming an modified 'H'.  See pic 2.

3. Place the boards onto the right side board.  Use the machine screw joints to secure in place.  Glue together.  Ensure that there are no air leaks along the seams especially at the bottom board and the perforated middle board.

4. Place the left side board onto the other side.  Secure in place with machine screws.  Glue together.  Again ensure that there are no air leaks at the seams.

5. Line inside and top with aluminum foil.

6. Place mold form onto perforated middle board.  Cover any excess holes with duct tape.

7. Place plastic onto insert frame and use machine screws to lock onto insert frame. 

8. Option 1: Use string to create handles on either side to hang plastic down over mold (pic needed)

9. Option 2: use long machine screws to create "table" (pic needed)

10. Place vacuum nozzle into bottom hole and heat gun into top hole.

11. Place lid on.

12. Turn on heat gun.

13. when ready turn on vacuum.

14. Plastic will form to mold.

15. remove plastic and trim.

October 5, 2011, 05:26
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lyle sloan

heatgun can also be used to fine tune any blemishs.

October 5, 2011, 05:37
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Josh Judkins

Awesome project Lyle - thanks for sharing it, and we'll work with you to get your files uploaded to Personal Factory and made.


October 5, 2011, 09:27
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lyle sloan

Thanks Josh!

Exploded view of assembled item with labels.

October 7, 2011, 01:56
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Jonathan Bowen

Cool project but I have a few questions. I don't have any vacuum form experience but  I'm not seeing how yours works. From what I gather your inserting the plastic frame into the chamber and then heating it with it all closed up. Then you'r trying to lower the hot plastic onto the mold from above or below. Wouldn't it be easier to chop the walls off at the middle section and then build a simple rack to hold the plastic above the table while you heat it with the heat gun? When it starts to sag you turn on the vac and then lift the plastic frame and put it over your mold quickly. I've seen others done this way and have actually thought about building one. 


Anyway cool project and sorry if I'm missing the point of your diagrams. I'd love to see video of it working once you get it assembled.

October 28, 2011, 16:50
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lyle sloan
Those other projects use a different heat source usually an oven or heat lamps or filaments and they use a heatgun as touchup. This is because a heatgun by itself is good for spot heating. With this design, the heatgun is the sole heat source in a convection type oven ensuring the heat doesnt dissapate. AlSo depending on if string is used the plastic can be lowered onto the mold while the vacuum is on or the lid quickly remove and pulled over.
October 29, 2011, 04:45