New Project: Vacuform machine11 Jul 2007 My quest for a decent plastic-producing technique has not been successful so far, and damnit, I've tried! (Just search for "plastic" on this blog)
During my research, I came across the vacuforming process. A sheet of plastic is heated untill it becomes elastic, and then it's stretched over a mold. The air between the mold and the plastic is sucked away and the plastic fits on the mold like a glove. This is the exact procedure that is used to package all kinds of products (especially toys). A couple video's about this process can be found here: http://www.imperial-armor.com/videos.html
Since the process of vacuforming is so simple (it doesn't even involve weird chemical formulas or strangely-named, unhealthy-vapor-releasing solvents), it should be no problem to build a vacuform machine at home.
Jim Egner from http://www.imperial-armor.com linked above, is a StarWars fan who hosts an older site http://www.tk560.com (After his StarWars designation) and who has built a vacuform machine.
My goal is to create one of those machines aswell. It will be one of the projects for the summer of 2007.
I went down to the hardwarestore to write down some prices for things like PS, MDF, several types of wood and aluminum sheets. Here's the list (all prices in euro):
|PS transparent 100cmx200cmx2mm||29.04|
|PS transparent 100cmx200cmx5mm||67.67|
|PS white 100cmx200cmx2.5mm||35.42|
|PS transparent 100cmx100cmx2mm||11.34|
|PS white 100cmx100cmx2.5mm||15.33|
|OSB wood 122cmx61cmx11mm||8.21|
|OSB wood 122cmx61cmx18mm||13.95|
|AGGLO wood 250cmx125cmx18mm||15.67|
|AGGLO wood 125cmx62cmx12mm||4.91|
|AGGLO wood 125cmx62cmx18mm||6.89|
|aluminum sheet 50cmx50cmx0.5mm||12.59|
|metal perforated L profile 200cmx27mmx27mm||11.59|
I've been reading a lot about making a vacuform machine on the tk560 forum. While I wait for the registration process to finish so I can ask some questions on the forum, let me lay them out here first.
The first part of the vacuform machine is the forming surface. So far, I've seen only 1 approach: 2 MDF panels with a small "sandwich" in between (a couple mm), then a metal sheet on the top and perforated through the metal and the first panel. Also, a hole in the bottom panel for the vacuum cleaner.
This thread hints about a better way to create this forming table. Instead of a sandwich and a bunch of small holes, only a single hole is used. This should allow for a better seal (not sure why at this point). BUt more importantly, I believe this design can make it possible to use different sized plastic sheets to vacuform. That would be really interesting, since I don't want to use a huge sheet every time I vacuform something small.
So what would a vacuform look like that allowed different sized sheets ?
Another question on my mind is: what is the metal sheet for on top of the forming surface ?
And: how is the vacuum tank supposed to work ? Pump all the air out of it with a vacuum pump, attach it to the vacuform and open the valve ? This could save me from having to buy a powerful vacuumcleaner...
some pictures of polystyrene sheets and their prices