Introduction: CHEAP Vacuum Forming With Plastic Bottles

This is a cool project you can do with a vacuum former and a few milk bottles,

I will make an Instructable on how to make a former but for now look at others there are some great ones,

you can checkout how to make this with free plans here

Step 1: Gather Your Quipment

Picture of Gather Your Quipment

I have here a ;

  • Home made vacuum former
  • heat gun
  • toy figure(I got mine from Mc Donalds)
  • And a vacuum

Step 2: Making Stuff..

Picture of Making Stuff..

Plastic from the bottle is then stapled onto a frame.

Step 3: Vacuum Forming..

Picture of Vacuum Forming..

The frame is then pressed when hot from the heat gun and the vacuum is turned on ,the plastic gets pulled around and sucked down creating an object from the mould.

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ed shtern (author)2014-10-27

I made it, and it worked. I didn't have a heat gun, but it worked with a candle.

Tom Howbridge (author)ed shtern2014-10-28

Wow really that's great ,also I'm just in the process of making a vf instructable !

wlellison (author)2014-10-07

What a wonderful instructable. I used what I had on hand: cut a whole in a plastic box, used a vent cover (screen over louvres) for the top/base. Worked like a charm! Since I don't have a heat gun, I popped the plastic (in the wood frame) into a toaster oven at 450 until the bottle plastic became clear and started drooping. I've also substituted cheap, thin plastic cutting boards from the dollar store. Works well.

Tom Howbridge (author)wlellison2014-10-09

Nice sounds great good improvisation have you got any pics ?

JörgenBörg (author)2017-01-01

thx, will try it as soon as i have milk at home :D

*buys milk


it out

no, the cow would hate i spilled his milk ;-)

milesnorth (author)2015-03-01

COOOOOOL, thanks for the referral. Looks interesting.

Tom Howbridge (author)milesnorth2015-03-01

No problem happy to help, if you need any other help with ides for projects shoot me a msg and I will see what I can do.Tom

milesnorth (author)2015-02-28

Cooly O Cool! I wanna build a kayak!!!! Whadiya think? Any thoughts? (besides the "you are crazy" thought? :-)

Tom Howbridge (author)milesnorth2015-03-01

well there is this

CreativeFix (author)2015-01-15

This is so cool! Great Job

Thanks, I will have a video and instructable on making it out next week !

rimar2000 (author)2014-12-04

Very clever solution.

warlekin (author)2014-09-21

If this plastic is food-grade to start with, would it still be food grade after heating it to reshape it or would it be a bad idea to use with food?
This would be a great way to make your own unique candy/chocolate molds but I wouldn't want to make anyone sick.

agulesin (author)warlekin2014-11-27

Have a look here:

I think the main problem with this (vacuum forming) is that there may be bacteria etc. on the plastic from the previous product, handling, contact with the former (toy from McDonalds?) etc. So you'll have to be careful but I guess you would wash whatever you made before anything edible. Just make sure you don't try to sell anything made using these moulds, you should be OK :)

Oh, by the way, don't try washing your formed shapes in the dishwasher, they'll end up as flat plastic again!!

Tom Howbridge (author)warlekin2014-09-21

ssssh don't tell any one your comment might giveaway my next project :)

lukecruzstagg (author)2014-10-03

could you use a hair dryer instead of a heat gun?

I have tried that and it does not get hot enough but a candle can be used if your carefull

jimmiek (author)2014-10-27

Good Work - just what I was looking for!

Tom Howbridge (author)jimmiek2014-10-27

Thanks, ps I will have a video + ible about building it sometime this week !

ed shtern (author)2014-10-04

how did you make the vacuum attachment

Tom Howbridge (author)ed shtern2014-10-05

I just drilled a hole in the box the size of the vacuum hose but I did not have the right size drill bit so I used a slightly bigger bit and made the hose a bit bigger using milk bottles wrapped around the hose with some electrical tape to keep it in place

Hope this helps !

foobear (author)2014-09-21

What other plastics work well for this? I'm guessing you tried soda bottles already? have been meaning to try this, thank you

Tom Howbridge (author)foobear2014-09-25

i cant remember i think i tried but i dont think the cleap bottles (PET) behave the same way as milk bottles (HDPE)

bigpig (author)2014-09-21

Have you tried using clear plastic bottles?

Tom Howbridge (author)bigpig2014-09-25

i cant remember i think i tried but i dont think the cleap bottles (PET) behave the same way as milk bottles (HDPE)

daxxvondrachen (author)2014-09-21

Any ideas on where to get pastic for say 8 1/2 x11. Or 11x14????

ebay ,online or some local suplier

perfo (author)2014-09-24

I'll join the queue and say nice and simple and does the job, good idea.

I made some concertina / bellows for another project some time ago the type you used to get on the old style cameras. These can be made out of card and work pretty well. I had a thought you could use one of these as the sides to you vacuum chamber so it would collapse when you applied a vacuum.

It would still be in keeping with the simple ness of the project...

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-09-23

Ahhh, this is great!!

For a long I wondered if the plastic sheets that are used in 'professional' vacuum forming were made of the same material as the milk bottles (High Density Polyethylene) and you answered my questions... YES!! A great way to recycle some of this stuff. Thank you so much for posting.

atheron121 (author)2014-09-23

What about adding 4 metal guides/rods at the corners of the vacuum box, have the top frame connected to those with eyelets or something of that nature, have the box with the plastic "hover" over the model while you're heating the plastic up, until it starts sagging down quite a bit, and then lower the box with plastic over the vacuum box to be cooled into its new shape?

Tom Howbridge (author)atheron1212014-09-23

At the time (4 months ago ) I wanted to keep it simple ,however that would be a great improvement but they could bind , another improvement would be to hinge one side so you could pull it down over at heat it without heat reaching the object.
If you know what I mean

Thanks for the support :)

mvillalpando (author)2014-09-21

Excellent Instructable! I took a Plastics Technology Course last semester in my local community college and found it quite intriguing. I was amazed at the possibilities of plastic technology, but was sort of disappointed to learn how it is limited to a few people/companies due to expensive materials, supplies, machinery, etc. What you've done here is absolutely amazing and made the process be affordable to everyone. Thank you so much for sharing your Instructable!

thankyou very much :D

WVvan (author)2014-09-22

This is a most excellent Instructable. I've wanted to give vacuum forming a go but never really had a need great enough to justify the set-up costs. You've just shown how to do it with the costs being next to nothing. Kudos!

Tom Howbridge (author)WVvan2014-09-22

Thanks its really nice to have a comment like this it helps me allot :)

Smitiz (author)2014-09-22

Am I the only one missing how the box is made? :)

daxxvondrachen (author)2014-09-21

Cool you saved me a few thousand on a commercial former!!'

Bowtie41 (author)2014-09-21

That's a really neat idea!Never thought of it before,but now I'm flooded with ideas.Kudos!

macrumpton (author)2014-09-21

I have often wondered if you could create a mold (larger than a milk or soda bottle) then heat up a plastic bottle with a heat gun, and then inflate it inside the mold. You could make pretty large things this way (limited only by your available bottle size), and they could be 360° shapes. Another alternative would be to cut the top off the bottle and put something inside to contract around it, but the seal around the new mouth might be tricky, and getting the object out (if you needed to) would mean cutting the plastic.

Tom Howbridge (author)macrumpton2014-09-21

Bottles are made using a preform ,
Also the plastic becomes very thin. But using a preform or a thick pop bottle what u state could be achieved.

ericCycles (author)2014-09-21

A local garden shop has two part molds you can use for making zucchini grow in the shape of garden gnomes. I could see this being applied to make those. Just need to be able to cut your original model in half so you can make both sides. This could be a fun winter project :-).

Tom Howbridge (author)ericCycles2014-09-21

Yea good to know ,I was thinking I should cut it in half but at the time I did not .

Exocetid (author)2014-09-21

This is genius, a truly excellent Instructable!

So clever:

1) Block of wood + vacuum cleaner + heat gun.

2) Milk bottle plastic source.

Kudos, kudos, kudos!

hodgepodgerama (author)2014-09-19

I was just thinking through the a project where I need to make a bunch of small vacu-formed parts and BAM! I find this incrediby simple but effective way to make it work! AWESOME!!! And thank you! I'm headed right out to the store to buy the parts to build this.

wobbler (author)2014-09-18

Cool! Or should I say hot?

electro18 (author)2014-09-18

Great idea ! Thanks for sharing.

pumpkinseed456 (author)2014-09-18

Would it work to cut the top off a bottle that is about the right size for the minion, then put it in the bottle and form around it?

RamblinLane (author)2014-09-18

That Minion looks really scared ?. I hope Minions were not hurt in this process ? otherwise a nice job

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