So here at Instructables Labs we have several truly impressive machines. We have several Epilog laser cutters which can cut through most plastic and wood material and etch almost any shape (Including cylindrical objects!). And we also have a couple of truly astounding, expensive, 3D Printers with an extremely high DPI resolution and can create a real copy of any digital computer model.
BUT, as strange as this may sound, for me these two just weren't enough. Sure the Laser Cutter is impressive at raster etching and vector cutting but its limited by the flatness of its material. And the 3D printer, while awesome, does tend to rack up in the price range as well as take up to several hours to finish. For my interest in rapid prototyping I wanted something fast, accurate and able to create near perfect molds within seconds.
That's why, after nearly a month of development, I successfully created Instructables Lab's first Vacuum Former, Office Edition.
Editor's Note: I'm reposting this as a STEP BY STEP after getting so many requests.
Step 1: About Vacuum Forming
For those of you who don't know what vacuum forming is, there's a really nice description on Howstuffworks.com The phsyics is really simple: take a piece of sheet plastic, stretch it across a rectangular frame, and heat it up to a boiling degree. Then, using either a perforated board or a single sheet with a hole connected to a high suction vacuum, a desired object is placed on top. When the plastic is heated to a malleable degree, the plastic is placed on top of the perf board/ board with vacuum. Vacuum turns on, plastic forms around the object, and instant mold!