Adventures in Vacuum Forming

I’ve been wanting to create some project enclosures that are not black boxes from Radio Shack (not that there’s anything wrong with Radio Shack), so I built a vacuum forming rig following an instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-good,-cheap,-upgradeable-sheet-plastic-vacu/

Here it is setup in the kitchen of 7hills Makerspace:

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I found some channeled flashing at the hardware store that I made into the frame. I use 2×4 cutoffs to elevate the plastic in the oven, so it had a little more room to sag. A little over a minute at 400 degrees did the trick. Press the frame against the weather stripping, flip the switch, one giant sucking sound later you have a part:

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I started out making a simple part. The mold was sawn, sanded, turned on the lathe, and then sanded some more. I was surprised to see the wood’s grain still showing through. I cut off the excess and added some self-adhesive vinyl. Here’s how it turned out:

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It’s not perfect, but it was a pleasing first attempt. I’m planning to make a bottom enclosure from bent acrylic. That’s one more thing I’m learning about as I go.

The next thing I wanted to try during my inaugural molding session was an experiment to see if you can create molds on the makerbot. Would the two plastics stick to each other making mold release difficult? The answer is … no. The makerbot-made molds did not stick to the sheet plastic. However, the surface imperfections typical with makerbots was visible through the sheet plastic. The results show that with numerous small parts, I should have paid more attention to airflow and bridging/webbing.
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So there you have it. I felt pretty successful for a first try, but I have lots more to learn about vacuum forming.

This entry was posted in Active Projects by groutjohn. Bookmark the permalink.

About groutjohn

I'm a long time woodworker, wood turner and wood carver. I've built fiberglass and redwood strip canoes. I own Makerbot Cupcake CNC #806. I'm learning about electronic and Arduino with help from my friends at 7Hills Makerspace.

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