The basic theory of vacuum forming is simple. You simply heat a piece of material to the point that it becomes pliable then immediately place it over a mold and suck the air out. After the material cools, which isn't long, you can remove the material from the mold.
Despite their simplicity, vacuum form machines can cost several thousand dollars. Big machines will cost $60,000 or more and large custom machines will cost more than Uncle Fred's house at the lake.
A few years ago the creator of our plan sets made a wonderful little machine that employed a simple "2 Stage" vacuum system. Most other machines, including many small industrial machines use vacuum cleaner motors as the only source of vacuum. Some very expensive machines use large tanks to hold vacuum until it's needed. The little Hobby Vac used TWO sources of vacuum. The primary source of vacuum is your home or shop vacuum. This stage removes most of the air in the mold chamber. This is what most machines will do anyway with their vacuum cleaner motor, but the Hobby Vac went one full step better. The Hobby Vac also used a secondary vacuum pump. A vacuum pump creates high vacuum which is needed to pull fine details out of your mold.
This approach really makes sense. If you were to use a vacuum
cleaner motor alone you would never be able to reach the
high vacuum needed to produce excellent detail. If you were to
use a vacuum pump alone, you would need a very large tank
or very expensive vacuum equipment to evacuate air out of the
mold area. With the two-stage system you use the best of both
systems and save money by doing it.
Save thousands by making your own vacuum former!
Construction plans and parts are now available to build your own high performance vacuum forming machine. One set of plans shows you how to build a machine with your choice of size:
2 x 2 foot (.6 x .6 meters)
2 x 3 foot (.6 x .9 meters)
2 x 4 foot (.6 x 1.2 meters)
If you have researched vacuum form machines then you will know that machines of this size cost more than $7,000 -- if you can find one.
This very clever design features a unique and effective two-stage system.
Easily constructed in-shop with even limited fabrication experience.
Excellent investment, as a used machine can be sold for several
times its construction costs.
Now you can get into medium format vacuum-forming for a fraction of the cost. Perfect for model- makers, inventors, design studios, theaters, special effects companies, etc... The Proto-Form machine is excellent for prototype parts and packaging , display models, signs and even volume production of high quality parts.
The lowest cost for similar sized new machines is $5,000 to
$10,000 and none of them can out perform the machine shown above.
Now the alternative to those high priced machines is to build
your own. The concept is very simple and the parts and materials
don't cost much, so any business with fabrication capabilities
can save a bundle. See the back for specifications and details.
|Plastic sheet size||24 x 24 inches||24 x 36 inches||24 x 48 inches|
|Platen Size (usable area)||21 x 21 inches||21 x 33 inches||21 x 45 inches|
|Depth of draw||12 inches||12 inches||12 inches|
|Max. plastic thickness||1/4 inch||1/4 inch||1/4 inch|
|Max. Vacuum (inches of mercury with recommend pump)||25-28||25-28||25-28|
|Estimated material costs||$900-1200||$1300-1700||$1500-2,000|
|Equivalent new machine cost||$5000 +||$7000 +||$10,000 +|
Oven: Infrared design uses tubular type elements, these are the industry standard because of their low cost and reliability (1500-2000 hrs.) Plans also give sources for radiant panels and quartz elements that can be adapted to fit the oven box. We sell oven packages that include the heating elements and contactors.
Temperature Control: Two separate zones (center and outer), can be adjusted with simple controls available from any appliance repair store.
Vacuum System: Plans show several choices to achieve up to 28 inches of vacuum. Standard pump and tank system (medium performance). Two stage system with no tank (better, cheaper), and a two stage hybrid system with tank a (best performance). Plans show how to use a small air compressor as vacuum pump.
Clamp Frame: Simple, rugged manual lift system is hard
to beat, it's smooth, fast and provides plenty of leverage. Design
allows for easy retrofit to air or electric actuators later,
Plans show cost effective way to hold plastic sheet with spring-clips
as well as other quick change options.
Platen: Unique design uses all metal air tight sandwich construction over a wood base which is removable from the machine. Make as many different sized as you need.
Construction Plans -- Here is what you get! Complete dimensioned drawings of each part, plus assembly drawings where needed. Drawings are separate from construction manual so you can send them to outside vendors if you choose not to make it all yourself. Includes sources for a all parts, a Bill of Materials, photos, and diagrams throughout.
Whenever purchased parts are used, sources are given along with complete specifications and advice on how to make substitutions. Not only will you learn how, but you will also learn why it works, The sections on vacuum system and oven installations are filled with practical information on installing using and customizing these elements. Finally the section on operation will have you up and running fast, useful tips on troubleshooting, common problems, and advice on choosing the right plastics.