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Another DIY Vacuum Former

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I know I'm certainly not the first person to make their own vacuum forming table, and I know I won't be the last. But since I am making one I thought I would share it anyway.

This is a pretty standard design. I have a wooden frame to hold the material to be vacuum formed, and a wooden box with holes on the top to act as the vacuum forming bed. It was cheap to build and works really well.
 
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Step 1: Design and Supplies

My goal was to create a simple and cheap vacuum former. I knew the sheets of material I would be forming would be 12in x 12in and so I would design the vacuum former around that . I came up with this design that follows similarly to many other DIY vacuum formers out there.

Design
A base board would have a hole in it for a household vacuum hose. A small frame would be built in the center of that measuring 11in x 11in. It would be glued to the base and then later sealed with caulk. A square section of pegboard would be glued to the top of that frame and act as the bed for the vacuum former. Separately, two frames made of MDF would sandwich the material to be vacuum formed and those would be held together with bolts. Some sort of rubber tape would run around the perimeter of the frame to form a vacuum seal. This frame with the material in it would go into the oven to heat the plastic and then be placed over the bed to form the part.

Parts
 I bought the following parts from Home Depot for this project:
  • 1x2-8ft Strip: $0.98
  • White Peg Board Panel: $8.45
  • 3/8"-16 Wingnut (3 bags): $3.54
  • Hex Bolt, 3/8x2-1/2 (8x): $2.96
  • Foam Tape: $5.67
  • 1/2" 2'x4' MDF Project Panel: $9.73
The following are extra parts that I used to make the table a little more user friendly and had lying around:
  • 1x4-8ft Common Board: $4.12
  • 3/4 PVC Pipe: $1.23
  • 3/4 90º PVC Elbow: ~$1
The total cost before tax of this vacuum form system is about $38.

Tools
You'll need basic wood working tools for this one: a miter saw, circular saw, and a power drill. Wood glue is a must and caulking is optional but recommended. I found a Dremel was just fine to do the job of cutting the center out of the frames, but any method you prefer will work too. You may also want some type of square to make sure those corners are 90 degrees.
Cool! really good and clear.
Novali1 year ago
this is great!
I want to use this in a classroom situation to teach kids about vacuum forming, No oven in my classroom so I'll try scaling it down to toaster oven size. Do you think a small hand held dustbuster type thing would work?
Iv done this on a small scale with a hot air gun, works fine.
cmonaco3 (author)  Novali1 year ago
Thanks, I'm glad you like it. Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maH5Ech0wK8 The person in it made box to heat the plastic with a space heater; maybe something like that could help you out. I'm not sure about the vacuum, you may just have to try it out.
If the material doesn't completely wrap around the mold or doesn't follow all the contours, try drilling some holes in key or detailed locations that would aid the vaccum to suck the material to the mold. Using a sort of wax to coatr the mold also helps the material release the mold when completed. It also gives a bit of life to the mold as well. This would make it possible to make more detailed/complex forms. Just a few tips! Great project.
cmonaco3 (author)  RyErickson111 year ago
Thanks for the tips!
Great looking box. Easy to follow using your diagram. And oh so timely, as I was just starting to look to make one this weekend.

BTW OP, nice shirt. PKS 1997 Sigma Chapter.
aspen421 year ago
When you update will you please also show us what you are using for the heat source and anything we need to know about that? Thanks!
Ver well and clear Instructable! Just two questions: what kind of vacuum pump do you use and at which pressure do you operate it?
cmonaco3 (author)  bertus52x111 year ago
Thanks! I'll be updating the instructable this evening with a step detailing the how to actually use the former, but to answer your question in the mean time: a household upright vacuum cleaner and I have no idea. haha
I would love to know what you use to create the vacuum...
cmonaco3 (author)  SlickSqueegie1 year ago
I actually realized this morning that I left out the step about actually operating the thing. I'll be updating it today with instructions and pictures on the actual use of the vacuum former. But to answer your question any household vacuum should work. I'm just using an old upright vacuum cleaner I had at home.
great instructable! easy to fallow and great direction. no mumbo jumbo. good job
Lovely tidy instructable, looks like just the thing I'm looking for to finish a project I'm working on, thanks!
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