|What do you do when you are on the other side of the world and need some light vacuformed interiors, but you can't get your hands on "Werksteile" because the shipping alone will cost a fortune. Well...you make do with what you can get, or...you start making your own. At least that's what Al Paterson did when he prepared his cars for the 2006 IMCA Worlds. And it really isn't that difficult, at least not after you've read "Big Al's" report on how he made his own Vacform machine and sucked himself into Worlds Concourse winning shape.
Step 1 Building
This is a homemade example of how a Vac Former works, and I've used it successfully to help prepare parts for cars which are not commercially available. Total expenditure, around a 100-00 bucks.
First, you need to "get" a vac-forming table, something which will hold the original part you wish to form, and
also provide the vacuum component for the process.
This is my table.. It's a cheap, sturdy plastic box from a local hardware store. I bought two sheets of PC Board (With the holes already in it), and mounted this onto the lid of the plastic box using silicone and nuts and bolts.
In the side of the box, I made a port, which I can plug in the pipe from my Vaccum cleaner. Very important is to have a strong cabinet which won't collapse under the pressure and will be airtight.
The laminate holder
This piece of firewood is my laminate holder.. It's like a Photo Frame in two pieces. You take the two parts apart by
un-screwing the one from the other. Then you lay down a piece of clear Lexan or Polycarbonate, available from plastics
suppliers and Stationers, like the clear film used on files, or overhead projectors. There are many different types of
laminates available. Anyway, you stick it down to the frame with some double sided tape, then screw the other frame
onto it. This piece of wood is measured and cut to slide into my household Oven. The hole in the middle is also big
enough to fit completely over my table above.
Step 2 "Cooking"
The process is as follows. Put the oven on about 180 degrees C, when hot, you slide in the frame with the clear
laminate in to the oven, somewhere in the middle, not close to the elements, as this will burn the lexan.
Then chill, but watch the lexan, as it will first ripple like mad, then slowly calm down, and start to heat up.
While this is happening, make sure the table is closeby to the oven, and the vaccum is plugged in and ready to be switched on.
and, don't forget to have something on the table which you want to form over... After about 10 to 15 minutes,
The lexan will start to droop in the frame, and here's where it get's tricky..
You need to watch it from side-on, so you'll probably be on your knees peering through the over door at this point.
It will bowl down quite a lot before it actually burns or melts, but I'm talking about 8 to 10cm's lower than the frame, the whole center of the
lexan will be sagging down in the frame, like a soup bowl.
Step 3 "Sucking"
It's about now you grab some oven gloves, and whip open the door, slide the tray out, crank on the vacuum machine, and drop the frame and lexan over the top of the object on the table. Once the frame har reached the sides of the table, there will be no more air to suck except
what's between the lexan and the object you're moulding, and the vaccum sucks the lexan around the object fairly
quickly as it cools.
Pictured below is an example of an interior I made from Plaster, four Light holders for 1/24 bodies headlights,
and just to check, I put on some Wheel inserts.
It's not easy to photograph the finished product, but you can see the shapes of the items after I've pulled off the
sheet from vac forming table. Now a bit of deft scissors work, some paint, and you've got a perfect, lightweight
replica of whatever was on the table.. The lexan cools down around the object you're forming, and in a few seconds,
you can switch off the vaccum machine, and gently lift the frame up from the object. Sometimes, depending on what
I'm forming, the original object will be well "sealed" in the lexan, and then you might need to use a sharp knife and
scissors to cut the object out your formed product. It might take a few tries to get it to do the job properly, but I've
found good success with such a simple device, and finished products are perfect. I've made lightweight interiors,
driver figures, windows, engine detail, and even wheel inserts in this manner.
This was the Ferrari 430 GT as used at the 2006 IMCA Worlds. The original motor and windows/cockpit were done on this
vac former, and the results came out pretty good.