Vacuum Forming Kickstarter

Guys, a year or so ago, I backed a Kickstarter for a simple vacuum forming machine. It took longer than expected to finish and ship, but the maker did produce a good product and fulfilled all of his commitments.

He is back with a version 2 machine. Some of you might be interested.


@ Blue Hair Bob - Did you make anything with it?

Haven’t made anything with it yet. How many of us have way too many things and not nearly enough time to play with them?

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Looks great, but I have a “burning” question.

If they’re aiming for mass production, why in the world would they laser-cut poplar planks? Certainly that’s going to be more expensive and slower than just about any other cabinetry technique?

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Imagine one of these, but with the capacity of 4’x10’. That’s just one of the toys I got to play with back in my days working at a shop that did TV and industrial theatre scenery. The vacuum was provided by a pump that evacuated air from a steel ball (8-10 feet in diameter, IIRC). Fun stuff! Wish I had a picture to share…

The maker is one guy trying to get moving on a small company. Laser is something you can do small runs of by yourself without a lot of machines. Definitely not mass production. Last time around, he had to do about 175 units.

We had an industrial unit at the big iron company I worked for. I used it for 100 or so enclosures for a test jig we built.

As long as he doesn’t accept many orders…

I’m thinking table saw, little wood glue, 1x1 in the corners, brad nailer. You could bang out a lot, and I’d figure it’d be cheaper and faster than a laser.

Wouldn’t look as nice, though, definitely.

BTW - for anyone considering backing this…if you haven’t done vacuuforming, be aware that it can be quite fiddly. Building good forms isn’t easy, and depending on what kind of thermoplastic you’re working with, getting just the right temperature can be a challenge. Too hot and you end up with wrinkles in the form. Not hot enough, and you can’t get the plastic to pull into tight spots in the mold.

Vacuuforming is very cool stuff, and at less than $100, this kickstarter isn’t terribly expensive. Just wanted to share my experience to temper expectations. When it works, vacuuforming is like magic. But expect plenty of bad pulls, wasted plastic, and lots of time getting molds right.

Very true.

I think you can safely say the same about 3d printers.


Also VERY VERY True!!!

I’ve followed Volpin Props for some time.

Here’s a vacuum forming machine he built from online plans. Seems to have a high rate of success with it, but it’s not just a couple pieces of poplar :slight_smile:

BTW, if you’ve never seen his work before, check out his flickr pages


And site/blog (old)



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@ Pete Brown - Amazing work!

@ Pete Brown - That’s a lot more like the one that I used, in particular, the integration of the heating elements into the table.

Ours was quite a bit bigger, and the frame to raise the plastic sheet up to the heating elements was motorized. The table that held the mold was also motorized, so you could roll the whole thing out from under the oven. It was quite a contraption…wish I had pictures.

The video makes it look easy, but I’d be willing to bet that even with that machine, they’ve had some bad pulls.

@ Pete Brown - I think this is the same kind of vacuuform machine I used back in the day:

Only difference from the one I used is the vacuum tank in this pic is cylindrical, where ours was a big sphere. Otherwise, this is pretty much exactly what I used.

Yeah. Most likely. It’s like 3d printing. It looks simple and reliable, but the truth only comes out when you see the bin of bad prints.

Woah! If it weren’t for the pesky “melted plastic on my face” thing, you could do a full body pull there. :slight_smile:


I’m thinking that between the 2nd degree burns and the likelihood of suffocation, that’d be a bad idea.

I can’t say, however, that I’m surprised that using yourself as a mold was one of the first things that occurred to you. :wink:

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A week ago, we were in Annapolis. There’s a gallery there that has torso casts of pregnant women, all painted and whatnot. Stuck in my head as a really odd piece of art to have hanging on the wall of your house. (More so if you don’t know the person who was the body model )

But yeah, those 3rd degree burns would be off-putting :wink: