Poor Man's 200 Dollar Plastic Heat Strip for Pennies!





Introduction: Poor Man's 200 Dollar Plastic Heat Strip for Pennies!

Want to bend sheets, tubes, sticks of plastic?
Don't want to buy a 200 dollar heating base?
Build one for pennies! (free if you go dumpster diving)

Step 1: Materials and Tools

For a totally free unit, dumpster dive for these materials:
- Toaster oven (cylindrical, rod-like, non bent, heating elements)
- Sheet metal (I used old brass door kick protectors)
- Outlet plug (old extension cord or whatever)
- Light dimmer
- Wiring nuts (or soldering gun)
- Liquid electrical tape (optional)
- metal pipes (optional)

- Garden Shears (or anything that cuts sheet metal)
- Dremel or drill
- Pliers

Step 2: Dismantling the Toaster Oven

Rip apart the toaster oven. Bash it, unscrew the case, use the jaws of life, just dismantle the oven and retrieve the heating elements. Keep as many as possible, because you can make the heating strip as long as required.

Step 3: Building the Base/heat Strip and Wiring.

-Take the sheet metal (must be longer than the heating element, or series of heating elements if you wish to make the heat strip longer) and cut out tabs to be bent perpendicular to the rest of the sheet metal.
- Drill holes on the tabs to thread the heating element through.
- Wire one lead of the power cable to one lead of the dimmer switch, and the other lead of the dimmer switch to one lead of the heating element.
- Wire the other lead of the power cable to the other lead of the heating element.
- (Since the heating elements work on A/C current, you can disregard rectifying the current, and you can disregard which lead of the power cable goes to which lead of the dimmer or heating element.)

- Mount metal pipes (with nuts and bolts or cut tabs on the sheet metal and bend them in towards the pipe) parallel to the heating element, with an about 1 inch gap from the element.
- Apply liquid electrical tape to seal any exposed wires (don't want to be electrocuted. I used tape)

Step 4: Using the Heat Strip

Without the optional metal pipes:
- Turn on heating strip, adjust the dimmer for the right temperature (I usually turn it on all the way, then reduce the heat.)
- Hold the sheet of plastic hovering about half an inch over the heating strip. The edge of your intended bend should be parallel to the heat strip.
- Once the plastic starts drooping just the teeniest bit (you may also try and bend the plastic a bit to judge when it's good enough to start bending), move it away from the heating strip and bend. You may use a jig for definite angle bends. (I use square wooden dowels for right angles. I pin one against the bending edge and slide the other dowel under the soft plastic to fold and keep it at a right angle.)

With the metal pipes:
- Same as before, but you do not have to hold the plastic sheet while the plastic is softening, just leave it resting on the metal pipes.



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    Do you think this could be done using "long" halogen floodlight bulbs as the element? I'm just thinking they give out alot of heat, with the electric safely contained inside a nice glass case. and if done with only a strip exposed as mentioned below you would have a clear indication of where the heat was going as it would be going the same way as the light. I think I may have just thought of my first instructable.

    Lol when I read Halogen lamp my thought went towards the Easy Bake ovens.
    Actually if you could come up with an instructable for such a lamp along with easy to use jigs to curve plastics (as opposed to a 90 degree crease. ) that would me awsome

    While using an iso-transformer could be a nice safety measure it is not necessary. Even commercial grade thermoforming heat strips typically do not use ac isolation. Think about it electric range burners do not use iso-transformers, they get direct ac line current through a thermostatic rheostat (which is what a light dimmer is). The same applies to toaster ovens. I speak from experience working in the plastics industry for many years. I have built multiple heat strips using the exact technique described in this article with great success. Just my $.2.

    I'm sure you are very experienced in the plastic industry, but you mathematics is clearly lacking; "$ .2" is twenty cents, not two cents. Just my $ .02. XD

    I'm sure you're great at mathematics, but your editing and grammatical skills are clearly lacking. You used "you mathematics" instead of "your mathematics," and a semicolon instead of a colon in your statement above. ;-)

    the semi colon is grammatically correct in this case

    He was adjusting for inflation.

    Since he has years of experience in the industry he's valuing his opinion at 10x the going value for opinions.

    I don't think he did it intentionally, but I'm sure that it was subconscious.

    Back in the 50s & 60s, all the kids I knew that put together model airplanes & cars had figured out that the transformer from their old electric train set would cut thru plastics like butter.. They just bent some appropriate sized wire into the most useful shape, screwed the ends to the transformer poles, and did all the custom modifications in no time. It took a bit of fiddling to move the plastic at the right speed & not burn it, but adjusting the transformer knob helped also. I doubt they could even sell electrain train transformers without a ton of sissified safety devices now, so probably a modern train transformer won't work without some real modification.