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Custom Plastic Molds

Posted 14th July 2023

I had been interested in vaccum forming for some time, due to its potential applications. I enjoyed the idea of creating my own custom packaging or even creating molds for resin work. 

The concept was simple: heat an acrylic sheet until its soft, then press it over your object while having air sucking it down onto a flat surface. 

For those with the space and don't mind a little messiness, this would be an easy project. I live in a small apartment with a partner who takes fastidious care of our shared spaces.

TLDR: tread lightly and wipe up as you go.

Ghostly Twin!

Like many of my DIY projects, it starts out innocently enough - make a box. 

And every time, without fail, I am reminded of how difficult such a simple task is to get right.

This was the cleanest stage of the project, involving only nails and pencil. 

Once the drilling and the sawing had to start, my spare toilet started looking like a scene from Dexter.

My Dremel handled most of the work perfectly, drilling hundreds of holes only took 20 minutes; it didn't overheat, thankfully. I had a circular saw head attachment which made quick work of cutting lines too. 

The last component I needed for the vacuum forming box was a simple pipe to connect the vacuum cleaner to.

It was surprisingly hard to find PVC pipes used for plumbing these days, so I improvised and used a Coke bottle lined with a rubber strip. 

With all the components prepared, it's time to put it all together!

I used a kneading putty from Selley's to make the box airtight, and make up for my lousy worksmanship.

The putty hardens after a little while, making it perfect for fixing the bottle in place. 

I also applied a little hot glue along the edges just in case.

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The second part of this vacuum forming project is a frame that holds the acrylic. 

It's made of 2 frames with holes just slightly larger than the box, so the box can slip through it. 

The 2 frames clamp onto a piece of acrylic tightly, and they are secured with clips. 

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Vacuum Forming Machine Complete!

Time to test it!

Special thanks to my partner for helping me with the video recording, so many takes! 

It was possible to handle the operation by myself, all it took was a few tries and practices. 

However, we soon realised that more heat was needed to keep the acrylic soft, so a second pair of hands was needed to point a hot air gun at it while the vacuum did its job.

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The results weren't too bad for a DIY project! What do you think?

It needed a little practice, and it wasn't perfect yet.

The box was very easy to make; the workflow was very quick and easy. 

You could get a good feel for the timing after a couple of tries. 

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This was a quick one-day weekend project, with lots of room for improvement! 

Was it worth it? Did I make a machine that could help me with other things? 

While it certainly has the potential, but the journey was the point of it all. I finally got to do a little home carpentry and it felt good. 

I'm sure the lessons learnt will benefit my future projects!

On to the next project!

Vacuum Form Box 1

Vacuum Form Box 1

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Vacuum Form Box 2

Vacuum Form Box 2

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