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Vac-u-form Table Project: Mark I Design

Prototype Mark I "flip-flop"
Click on the image to view the photo album.

Prototype design:

Here is a photo album of my first attempt to build a vac-u-form or thermaform, table. This is the mark I prototype, with a 12x18" heating [left side] and vac [right side]. A Sunbeam brand $25 indoor electric grill provides the heat, and a Shop-Vac brand 3 hp canister-type wed/dry shop vaccum does the sucking. Initial test prove the technology works. Based on a design found on the web, Click here to see it. Amazingly simple. But regulating the heat was a problem. The center of the plastic got hot first and began to sag. Drawing it closer to the heating element. Not good. I needed the hot plastic to droop away from the heating element. This called for gravity to help out.

The mark II has an over/under design with the heating element mounted on stilts, upside down. This should have the net effect of a more even heating effect. If all goes well, a larger version will be made, so that the larger pieces of Stormtrooper armor can be made. The moulds or "plugs" are made of simple MDF, poplar, metal tube or what ever I have on hand. Detail is actually pretty high. Future projects include a TOS tricorder, and TOS communicator shells, Boba Fett jetpack, an Aliens Colonial Marine armor set and more.

The First Test Pull:

In my initial trials, I used what polystyrene I had on hand, an old "Garage Sale" sign. While functional as a test subject, I really needed to find a good styrene source. I eventually found "US Plastics Corp." and ordered the .060 styrene in a 40" x 72" sheet. Cost is $14.39 plus shipping. Not too bad. I am optimistic that this will work out well. HIPs is just a short name for High Impact Polystyrene. #43334. a 12" x 18" sale sign will run $5.00. The paint on the sale signs seem to cause some weird distortions too.

This project was last update on June 1, 2004.
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