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my two-stage vacuum former plumbing, with pictures

 
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drcrash
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Joined: 04 Sep 2006
Posts: 705
Location: Austin, Texas

PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:36 am    Post subject: my two-stage vacuum former plumbing, with pictures Reply with quote

I posted something over on hobbymolding.com about my two-stage vacuum former plumbing... I'll pasting it in here because that site's trashed with porn spam. [LATER EDIT: that's since been fixed. BTW, here's the original thread: http://www.hobbymolding.com/hm_forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=365 ]

I've updated it a bit, and I'll post this first to set the stage:

This one is based on Doug Walsh's scheme, using a sump pump check valve (which is big) modified with a rubber band so that it will close faster.

The basic idea is that you use a vacuum cleaner to suck most of the air out from under the plastic, then open a valve to a high vacuum system (tank and vacuum pump) to pull most of the remaining air out, and pull the plastic down really hard.

Since a vacuum cleaner can suck a lot of air in a hurry, this lets you get most of the air out without polluting your tank. The tank is only for the final hard pull, so you can use a smaller tank. That, in turn, lets you use a smaller and cheaper vacuum pump to evacuate the tank in a reasonable amount of time. (I initially used a 7-gallon tank and a FoodSaver II vacuum sealer I got for a few dollars at a thrift shop. I also intend to use a hand pump in the same setup, for no-electricity vacuum forming at festivals. You don't want a big tank if you're pumping it down by hand!)

You could do all this with just manual valves---open a biggish valve to your vacuum cleaner, give it a half second or so to suck most of the air out, then close it and open a small valve to the high vacuum system.
Even better, you could use a three-ported valve that switched from one vacuum source to another in one operation---but such valves are hard to find and kind of expensive, especially if they're biggish ones for a big vacuum former.

One nice benefit of this scheme is that you can easily use it with a very simple vacuum former where you use both hands to move the plastic from the oven to the platen. You can have the vacuum cleaner running before bringing the plastic down, then once it makes a seal, it will perform the first stage operation (the "initiall pull down") right away, and it will also hold the plastic down for you---you have a half second to move one hand to the valve that engages the high-vacuum system for the final hard pull. You don't need a free hand to open a valve at the same moment you're making a seal with both hands, so it's good for single-person operation.

That would usually be less critical with a flip frame machine, or a lift bar like Doug Walsh's on his Proto Form over-and-under machine, if you're forming thin enough plastic that you can hold it down to make a seal with one hand. (It would be okay if it takes both hands to stretch it over the buck, as long as once that's done, you can keep the seal with one hand and use the other to open a valve.) It would also be less critical if you have a high-volume vacuum pump that can make and hold a seal before you open the valve to the tank. (If you plumb your system like Charlie's, so that you can close off the tank while leaving the path from the platen to the pump open. That's a good idea anyway.)

The tricky design detail is that you want to close the valve to the vacuum cleaner, very quickly, just as you open the valve to the high vacuum system. If you do it a little too soon, you may have nothing sucking on the plastic for a moment, and you could lose your seal. If you do it a little too late, the high-vacuum system will suck a bunch air backwards through your vacuum cleaner and pollute your vacuum tank. Ooops.

To get this timing right, we use a check valve (one way valve) in the connection to the vacuum cleaner. When you open the valve to the high vacuum system, and air starts to get sucked backwards through the vacuum cleaner hose, the valve slams shut so that the sucking is all from the platen.

Big check valves are generally expensive, so we do what Doug Walsh does, and use the one kind that isn't---a sump pump check valve, modified in a couple of ways. First we add a hose barb to it to connect the high-vacuum system to the input side. (We could just use a pipe tee there, instead.) Then we add a rubber band to hold the valve lightly shut by default, and make it close more quickly when we engage the high vacuum system. That way, we don't suck too much air backwards through it before it actuallly shuts, and we don't pollute our tank much.


Here's the basic diagram:

Code:

+ - - - - - - - - - - +       
|        platen       |       
+-------+     +-------+       
        |     |               
        |     |                                     +-------------+
        |     |      +-------+                      |             |
        |     +------+  ball +----------------------+   vacuum    |
        |     +------+ valve +---+ +----------------+    tank     |
        |     |      +-------+   | |                |             |
      +-+     +-+                | |                |             |
      |  check  |                | |                |             |
      |  valve  |                | |                |             |
      +-+     +-+                | |                |             |
        |     |                  | |                |             |
        |     |               +--+ +--+             |             |
    +---+     +---+           |  high |             |             |
    |     low     |           |  vac  |             |             |
    |     vac     |           | pump  |             |             |
    |     pump    |           +--+ +--+             +-------------+
    +---+     +---+              | |
        |     |                exhaust
        |     |               
        exhaust


To evacuate the tank, we close the ball valve and engage the vacuum pump, and let it evacuate the tank.

When we're ready to suck plastic, we turn on the vacuum cleaner, and bring the plastic down to make a seal... air flows freely through the check valve in that direction, so the vacuum cleaner sucks the air through the platen, and the plastic is pulled down.

Now we let go of the plastic and reach over and open the ball valve. Air starts to rush through the valve and into the tank from both the platen and the vacuum cleaner, but then the check valve slams shut, and only leaves the path from the platen open. The plastic is pulled down hard.

When we're finished, we close the ball valve again, and use the pump to suck the air out of the tank, until it's ready for the next pull.

Here's a diagram that's closer to what I actually built, which has several extra (optional) features:


Code:

+ - - - - - - - - - - +          ___
|        platen       |         /vac\
+-------+     +-------+        |gauge|
        |     |                 \___/
        |     |      +-------+   | |                +-------+    +-------------+
        |     |      |  1st  |   | |      +------+  |  2nd  |    |             |
        |     +------+  ball +---+ +------+ dis  +--+  ball +----+   vacuum    |
        |     +------+ valve +---+ +------+ con- +--+ valve +----+    tank     |
        |     |      +-------+   | |      | nect |  +-------+    |             |
      +-+ big +-+                | |      +------+               |             |
      |  check  |          sm.  ++ ++                            |             |
      |  valve  |         check |   |                            |             |
      +-+     +-+         valve ++ ++                            |             |
        |     |                  | |                             |             |
        |     |               +--+ +--+                          |             |
    +---+     +---+           |  high |                          |             |
    |     low     |           |  vac  |                          |             |
    |     vac     |           |  pump |                          |             |
    |     pump    |           +--+ +--+                          +-------------+
    +---+     +---+              | |
        |     |                exhaust
        |     |               
        exhaust



The second ball valve is not used in normal operation, and I'll probably take it out, so ignore it. There is also a disconnectable fitting in the hose from the tank, so that the tank can be transported separately from the rest of the plumbing. (Which is handy.)

The vacuum gauge is of course so that you can monitor the vacuum level---in particular, you can see

(1) how far the vacuum has built up when you're evacuating the tank, and

(2) how fast air is leaking in around the edge of the platen and polluting your tank, so that you're losing vacuum strength. (This is normal, but if it happens too fast, you've got a leak worth fixing somewhere, or you need a bigger tank.)

The small check valve (one-way valve) between the vacuum pump and the tee lets you turn off the vacuum pump after the tank has been evacuated, without the vacuum in the tank sucking air backwards through the pump.

(If you're using a piston pump, it also helps keep the pulses of suction from banging your vacuum gauge and screwing up its calibration; that happened to me when I got a piston pump and plugged it into this system. There's a better way to shield the gauge from the banging, which I'll explain later if anybody's interested... basically, you use an "orifice" (a fitting with only a small hole through it) that limits airflow down the hose to the meter, and a long enough hose to absorb the small pulses that do get through the orifice.)


Last edited by drcrash on Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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drcrash
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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued from a thread on hobbymolding.com... it needs a little editing for the new context, but I haven't done that yet, sorry...)

Quote:
Drcrash do you have any photos of your 2 stage system that you mention on TK560. I'm trying to plumb my tank to vacuum pump and I need a little help.


Yes. Some other people have been asking, too, and I finally got around to it. (Sorry for the wait.)

Here's a picture of the whole plumbing setup, laid out so that you can see everything. It's a little different from the diagram, and there's an extra ball valve in there that's going to come out.



Quote:
I've seen the setup you drew put I still don't understand how the ball valve works.


Do you mean the ball valve, or the sump pump check valve?

The ball valve is just a regular (quarter-turn, fully ported) valve. ($5 at Harbor Freight, slightly more at Lowes or Home Depot.) When you open it, air can flow from the platen into the tank and/or the vacuum pump.

Here it is a little bigger:



It's connected on each side with hose barb fittings. The one coming from the platen is a 5/8" hose barb squeezed into 1/2" I.D. braided PVC tube. The one going to the tank and vacuum pump is a 3/4" hose barb sqeezed into 5/8" I.D. high-pressure washer hose. (Both have 1/2" pipe threads on one end, and a hose barb on the other. The smaller one is nylon, and the larger one is brass, because that's what I found.)

The sump pump check valve is the tricky bit. I drilled it and epoxied a 1/2" hose barb in it, and put a tiny eyebolt in the flapper, with a rubber band to hold it closed by default.



The white stuff around the top is just PTFE (Teflon) plumbing sealing tape. The yellow thing just below that is a gasket I made from a piece of craft foam. (Not necessary if you use enough PTFE tape and don't keep playing with the thing.) At the very top you can see an ugly piece of wire I bent into a circle with crisscrosses, to attach the rubber band to.

It screws into a 1 1/4" galvanized steel floor flange on the bottom of the platen. That's way overkill for a little machine, but will let me use mostly the same plumbing on a much bigger machine.

My little high-amp hand vac attaches to the bottom of the sump pump check valve, and sucks most of the air out from under the plastic.
The high-vac system attaches to the little hose barb, and when you open the main ball valve, it sucks the check valve shut, so that it won't just suck air backwards throught the vacuum cleaner.

Here it is in the machine, looking up. (Old picture, with the platen up on a couple of temporary 2 x 4 spacers.)



The black high-pressure washer hose goes from the other side of the ball valve to the tee, which connects it to both the vacuum tank and the vacuum pump.

In these pictures, that simple scheme is complicated in two ways. I actually use a garden-hose type fitting so that I can disconnect the tank and vacuum pump from the main valve and the platen, for moving and storage. If you don't need that flexibility, you don't need that.

I also have an extra, completely useless ball valve between the (garden-hose) disconnect fitting. It's only there because I was afraid the cheap hose fittings would leak. They work fine, so I'm going to take it out.

The female fitting is a cheap plastic "hose mender" from the garden department at a hardware store. The male fitting is another brass one with a 3/4" hose barb on one end and 1/2" pipe threads on the other. It should screw directly into the tee.

The tee is a white PVC all-thread tee that connects to the tank with a 1/2" gray PVC nipple. That screws into the 1/2" threads of the tank opening.

The other side of the tee has a nylon reducer fitting from 1/2" pipe threads to 1/4" hose barb.

From there I use 1/4" braided PVC to connect to the vacuum pump (Food Saver) and a vacuum gauge, using a 1/4" nylon hose barb tee:



Notice the little black thing between the hose barb tee and the vacuum pump. That's a check valve. (A "vacuum check valve," about $6 from mcmaster.com.) It's a one-way valve that keeps the tank from sucking air backwards through the vacuum pump when the pump is off.

That's why I don't need two ball valves as I originally had, with one isolating the tank as in the original schematic.

If I didn't have the check valve, which works automatically, I could use the extra ball valve to isolate the tank from the vacuum pump manually. I'd attach it to the PVC tee on the vacuum-pump side, rather than the platen side, and screw the 1/4" barb reducer fitting into it.

Here's the connection to the Food Saver:



I made a reducer from 1/4" hose barb to 1/8" hose barb, using a 1/4" barb with 1/4" female pipe threads and a 1/8" barb with 1/4" male pipe threads. The 1/4" female one is from the air compressor accessory section at Home Depot. (2 of them for $4); they don't have them in the plumbing department. They're teflon-taped and screwed together.

They do make one-piece reducers, which you might find in some hardware stores, or could buy online if you're ordering from someplace like Grainger or McMaster-Carr.

Here's how I set up my Food Saver II as a vacuum pump:



The Food Saver wants you to push both sides of the lid down before it will actually run. I just bungeed a board across it to squeeze the whole lid down, so that I can turn it off and on with the power switch.

The Food Saver II has a little hose connecting to a barb on the inside of the lid, which I guess connects to the accessory port. (I didn't know what that was when I bought it.) I just ran it out the slot in the back instead, and taped it in place there. It might have been better to use the accessory port, and that's likely to work with different makes and models of food vacuum sealers, but I didn't know what I was doing or have an accessory port hose.

If I haven't overexplained anything, let me know. Smile

Paul

P.S. Some random notes for people who haven't been following all this on tk560.com, and may want to adapt this stuff to other situations:

0. One reason I like hoses is that I like to be able to reconfigure and adjust things. For example, I like to be able to raise and lower my platen so that it's as close to the oven as possible while leaving room for sag. This lets the oven keep heating the plastic to a useful degree after it's pulled down, and extends the thermoforming time.

1. Hose barbs have an inside diameter that's only about 2/3" of their nominal diameters, and can restrict the air flow. That's why I use oversized hose and oversized barbs for the hose. A 3/4" hose barb has about the same inside diameter as a 1/2" pipe. (Be careful about hose fittings. For example, some 5/8" garden hose barbs have the same inside diameter, because the walls are thin, but others don't.)

2. The quarter-inch hoses are fine for gauges and wimpy little vacuum pumps, even with hose barbs reducing the effective diameter. If I had a pump that pulled more than a couple of CFM, I'd use 3/8" I.D. hose for the vacuum-pump connections. (There are nice barbs with 1/4" pipe threads and 3/8" barbs, which preserve the I.D. of 1/4" pipe.) If it pulled more than about 5 or 6 CFM, I'd use 1/2" I.D. hose. Quarter-inch is fine for gauges in any case. (Even smaller would be okay, but quarter-inch air fittings are common and cheap.)

3. The half-inch hose barb epoxied into the sump pump check valve is a potential bottleneck. It's 3/8" inside diameter is big enough for a 12" x 18" platen, but maybey not one that's more than a couple of square feet. I only used such a little barb because that's all that would fit in the place I drilled the sump-pump check valve. You could use two or three and tee them together, but that would be ugly. Better to use some kind of nipple or elbow in between the valve and the flange, and drill that---or just use a big tee and a reducer fitting for the high-vac connection.

4. The half-inch braided PVC hose doesn't stand up well to vacuum, as the quarter-inch hose does. That seems to be okay on the platen side, where it's not under continuous vacuum, but it's lame. I should have used 1/2" compressed air hose, or 5/8" high-pressure washer hose there too. You could also try 7/8" high-pressure washer hose on 1" barbs, but I don't know if the 7/8" size can stand up to vacuum. (External pressure handling falls off rapidly with diameter.)

5. The 1/2" pipes and 3/4" hose barbs are big enough to use without the vacuum cleaner (or the sump pump check valve) in a high-vacuum-only system, for this size platen. You could just use a 1/2" floor flange and a 3/4" hose barb to directly connect 5/8" high-pressure washer hose all the way from the platen to the main (ball) valve. That would be simpler, but would require a bigger tank for the same level of performance, and a faster pump to evacuate it in reasonable time.

6. This size plumbing is also big enough for a much bigger platen, say 2 x 2 feet, in a two-stage system with a vacuum cleaner. That's what I'll probably do, eventually. I'll remove the bottleneck at the sump pump check valve, and use the 5/8" hose with 3/4" barbs all the way, and plug it all into a bigger system.

7. If you're worried about slow leaks, you may want to put hose clamps around your hose barbs, and use teflon tape on all the threaded joints. I haven't bothered; I just put teflon tape on the metal-to-metal joints and anything that seemed kinda loose. Mostly I just screw the plastic threads tight, and it's good enough. My system leaks about half of its one cubic foot in about 8 hours, but doesn't leak noticeably during a vacuum forming cycle. If it starts to leak more, I'll seal things better.

8. Some rough price info, for figuring out what this sort of thing will cost you:

7-gallon compressed air carry tank: $20 at Wal-Mart (You can usually get used 30- to 50-gallon water heater tanks free for the hauling if you look on craigslist or freecycle. That's better, if you have the room for it and a pump that can evacuate it fast enough for your tastes, and it can do a good job with a big platen. I do have a better pump now, but I don't have that much room.)

Vacuum gauge (optional, but nice) $3.50 from Noshok Direct on eBay, but shipping is $6. (If you buy two, shipping's $7.)

sump pump check valve: about $7 at Lowes

vacuum check valve w/barbs: about $6 at McMaster-Carr

1/2" full-ported ball valve (threaded): about $5 or $6 at Harbor Freight or Lowes

3/4" brass hose barbs (w/ 1/2" male pipe threads); about $2.10 at plumbing supply stores or McMaster or Grainger

5/8" high-pressure washer hose: about $1.30/ft at Lowe's
1/4" braided PVC hose: about $0.30/ft at Lowe's

Brass garden hose adapters: about $2.50

Misc nylon hose barb fittings: 50 cents to $2.00, depending on size.
Misc small brass hose barb fittings: $1 or $2 or thereabouts in the plumbing or air compressor accessory section of hardware stores.

PVC nipples: 50 cents to a dollar depending on size
PVC tee: a couple bucks(?)

These things add up to several times what I spent on my vacuum sources, but those cost almost nothing---I got the hand vac and the Food Saver for a few bucks each at thrift shops.
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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2007 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Another post copied from the thread on hobbymolding.com...)

I've been asked about the ugly wire in the picture of the sump pump check valve.

The wire is there to make a strut across the throat of the valve and hold it in place. The strut is what you attach one end of the rubber band to; the other end holds the flapper of the valve lightly shut.

(I screwed a tiny eyescrew into the center of the disc-shaped valve flapper; the valve I got from Lowe's had a dimple there, like it was meant to happen.)

The wire around the throat of the valve is just there to keep the part that crosses the throat from slipping in, in a kind of circle-with-a-slash-across it shape, where the slash is the important part and the circle holds it in place.

This is pretty much in accordance with Doug Walsh's instructions in his nice little book "Do It Yourself Vacuum Forming for the Hobbyist," which I hadn't actually read when I did it. (But now I have. Good book.)

Here's a diagram from an ad for his book, which you can get on eBay or from his site, build-stuff.com:


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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Paul! Great info you have there! I started working on a 2-stage, but, as luck would have it, I got a hi-vac pump. Still to set that up either. But I'm getting real close!

Jim
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, I think there are probably better check valves to use than Walsh's modified sump pump check valve.

I suspect a regular white (spring-loaded piston) PVC check valve from the plumbing department of a home improvement store would do the trick.

I don't really like the modified sump pump valve. The rubber band will eventually break and need replacing, but the spring-piston valve shouldn't need any maintenance. (Mine has broken & been replaced once already.)

Judging by some pictures I've seen of walsh's 12 x 18 machine, I think he came to the same conclusion after writing his book. It appears to use a regular white PVC check valve, which only costs a few dollars more.

One tedious thing about those is that you usually only find the socket-weld version, which requires a bit of interfacing to screw-together plumbing.

One concern I have with the white PVC valves is that the spring in them is pretty strong, so they may restrict the air flow to the vacuum cleaner significantly. I don't know if it helps to use a bigger valve; the springs on the bigger ones may be that much stronger, so that it's a wash.

I intend to try replacing my sump pump valve with a white PVC valve, but I haven't done it yet.
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laimonas123



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm. Very intresting. I think i will try it. Thanks for tutorial.
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Last edited by laimonas123 on Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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spektr
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is 1 thing missing... You need a check valve in the vacuum line to prevent backflow from a WET VAC PUMP towards the vacuum cleaner motor if you use a wet vac pump. If you don't , the oil will be pulled out of the pump when the pump is off....
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spektr wrote:
There is 1 thing missing... You need a check valve in the vacuum line to prevent backflow from a WET VAC PUMP towards the vacuum cleaner motor if you use a wet vac pump. If you don't , the essential oil blends will be pulled out of the pump when the pump is off....


I don't get why oil would be pulled out when its off ? Is that preventable with a different method? plumbing


Last edited by DrRabiSchtingStein on Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:41 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A little history here,.. When I wrote the little yellow book in 1992 none of the check valves I could find had return springs. Product distribution tends to be regional too. What I can find here may not be available somewhere else.

When I published the Hobby-Vac plans I included info on the spring loaded valves. DR Crash is right that the spring tension does reduce the vacuum that gets through, and most valves come with too stiff springs. I found one brand that was available with a 1/2 lb spring and I used to sell those for a while. Valves are typically found in stores with a 2 lb spring.

This company has 1/2 lb springs,..

http://www.kbico.com/product_info.php?cPath=21_26&products_id=229&osCsid=d6eba847554efa20ee262964c9e0b822

I'm finding now that most of my Hobby-Vac customers prefer a simple direct pump system with no tanks or valves. This is possible due to the small 12 x 18 platen size and inexpensive 5+CFM vacuum pumps coming from China like these.

http://www.wholesalepartsandtools.com/products/FJC_6912_5_0_CFM_Vacuum_Pump-382-89.html
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Doug Walsh
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Hobby-Vac and Proto-Form machine plans

Also other plans books and videos for people who like to build things
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spektr
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Joined: 07 Jan 2008
Posts: 425

PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is all good stuff to read, BUT what I was commenting on was the fact that a wet oil filled pump needs a check valve between it and a storage tank. The reason is that when you pull a vacuum AND cycle the pump on and off, the stored vacuum in the tank will pull oil out of the pump.
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radnd838
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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad you posted the pictures and diagram to help get my mind around this vacuum forming. It was difficult to follow when I read your explanation, since I'm just starting out, but once I saw the diagram and the pictures you posted, it really made sense! Thanks again!
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kevvenl



Joined: 26 May 2011
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2011 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

radnd838 wrote:
I'm glad you posted the pictures and diagram to help get my mind around this vacuum forming. It was difficult to follow when I read your explanation, since I'm just starting out, but once I saw the diagram and the pictures you posted, it really made sense! Thanks again!


Hi there, I'm new here and unable to finding your images??? Rolling Eyes
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RRK4
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Joined: 17 May 2011
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2011 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hes talking about the pictures in the first two posts of the topic. If you can't see drcrash's images then maybe you need to register to view.

I basically built the one in the last diagram. I will post some pictures after I do my first pulls.
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