DIY vacuum former from scratch

Today we’re going to be working on a very exciting DIY project: building a large vacuum former! If you don’t know what a vacuum former is, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. It is basically a large machine that is used for the process of thermoforming in which a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, and then stretched onto a single-surface mold and vacuumed against it. This method is usually used to make permanent objects like highway signs and protective covers out of plastic but you could use it to make anything you want! If you’re interested, read more to find out how it is made.


Products needed for this DIY project:

1.      Space heater

2.      Shock vac

3.      Half inch MDF

4.      Angled aluminum

5.      Styrene sheets

6.      Rear Earth magnet

7.      Spray paint

8.      Wood glue

9.      Screws

10.   Drill

11.   Miter saw

12.   CNC machine


Let’s get started with our DIY project!


Step 1:

Let’s start with the woodwork. For this, we will be making two boxes whose dimensions are 12 inches by 24 inches. You can however customize these dimensions depending on how big your other parts like the space heater are. The depth of these boxes doesn’t need to be too much, you could make it about three to four inches. In total, you will have to cut out four large pieces of MDF to form the top and bottom surface of both the boxes and eight side pieces to put along the sides to make it a box.

Step 2:

In the top piece of the bottom box, you need to make tiny holes close to each other. You can either make these using a CNC machine or a normal hand drill. You also need to make a hole for the shock vac in one of the side pieces of the bottom box.

In the top piece of the upper box, you need to make a few vent holes for the heat to escape using a CNC machine.

Once all the holes have been made, put the boxes together using wood glue, some screws, and a drill.

You also need to mount the space heater onto the top piece of the upper box carefully in this step.

Step 3:

To connect the two boxes, we will be using four aluminum L brackets that can easily be cut to length by using a miter saw. Once cut, you need to drill four holes on both the ends of each aluminum bracket using a drill. Then, screw these aluminum brackets onto both the boxes using some screws and a drill.

Step 4:

Now let’s work on the frame that will hold the plastic on the inside. For this, we will be cutting four strips of flat steel according to the dimensions of your boxes. Once cut, weld these together carefully without overlapping the pieces. You also need to weld two more pieces to the sides that will act as handles. Repeat the same process and make another identical frame. Using a grinding disk, you can smooth all the welded surfaces to give it a nice finish. Take a 24 inches x 12 inches sheet of styrene, put it in between both the steel frames and secure all the three parts together using some binder clips.

Step 5:

To connect the steel frames to our existing structure we will be using some screws and magnets. Drill some screws into the bottom of the upper box but make sure that you don’t drill them all the way through. Then put a rear earth magnet at the ends of all the screws. Make sure to use a minimum of 6 screws and 6 magnets so that the hold is just strong enough.  The magnetic pull of the magnets will hold the steel frame while the plastic is being heated and then it can easily be pulled down for the thermoforming process.

Your very own vacuum former is now complete! You could spray paint this or decorate it in any way that you want to personalize it. You can now use this to make a plastic covering for literally anything that you want. What is so unique about DIY projects is that you can customize them in any way, shape, or form that you want so let your imagination run wild. Enjoy your latest creation!

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