View Full Version : Making a vacuum forming table and casing for console systems!
10-30-2008, 02:20 PM
Thought I would share something I spent time making - a cheap vacuum forming table (cost about £12 to make, about $20) and a mold out of hobbyist air-dry clay.
I have made my first casing half with the mold, using 2mm thick Plasticard (Styrene). I need to fine sand a couple of minor areas before I get my final and perfectly smooth casing.
I wanted to get into vacuum forming to make my cases look nice, better than using perspex (my previous cases)
My vacuum table is crude but works really well.
Details of making it, and lots of pics with step-by-step guide on my website!
Pic of the table - as mentioned, it is crude, but works. Very good suction. No point making the table look pretty, it is only to serve a functional purpose after all.
Clay mold, on top of table, ready:
Result - need to touch up the clay mold and lightly sand some small areas to get this completely smooth, so my next case top will be perfect. This one was pretty good, three out of four sides perfect (imperfect one showing in pic) and tiny dips in top which need filling and sanding.
10-30-2008, 04:39 PM
Your neighbours must be thinking you've got OCD with all the vacuuming going on :D
That's some neat DIY there, good guide too.
Looking forward to seeing some of the finished cases from it.
10-30-2008, 06:14 PM
i will give this a shot in my next vacation.
10-30-2008, 07:44 PM
Thanks guys for the comments! Had to make a change to the table:
The vacuum cleaner was destroying the 3mm fibreboard, was literally sucking it out of shape. Replaced with a fresh piece, same thing happened, lost a couple of pieces of plastic due to this.
Replaced the firbreboard with 18mm MDF. There is no way that will bend!
Got a perfect result:
The entire clay mold was completely sucked into the plastic, with a bit of jiggling the clay mold got free easily enough!
Very happy with the result - looks nice, huh?
10-31-2008, 02:56 AM
Great job! We used to use a professional vacuum forming machine and it looks as if your home made one does just as good a job as that did. This was back in the early 90's, so I am not sure how far things have progressed. But very nice! :nod:
10-31-2008, 03:41 AM
nice setup. I do vacuum forming myself. I bought the company a few years back.
Sorry if I missed it but what are you using to heat the plastic up with? On release agents I know Tap Plastics sells some that would help on the mold release.
10-31-2008, 07:17 AM
The only problem with the at home projects is the inability to get sharp details with a home vacuum.. That's why I was going more towards the home cnc.
Your results are real nice though, much better than most I have seen.
10-31-2008, 02:48 PM
Taucias - Thanks!
macwest - I just used my home oven, 220 Celcius, fan assisted. You mention about mold release - will it work on clay (porous).
ASSEMbler - Praise indeed! Thanks.
I know the Dyson is very good at suction, from my testing; doesn't have a safety cut-out so just keeps sucking away until I turn it off (after about 10 seconds after plastic has formed). As mentioned before, the suction is powerful enough to destroy 3mm fibreboard in about 10 seconds!! (hence why I went to 18mm MDF). Sides are made airtight with just paper masking tape, does the job!
11-01-2008, 01:39 AM
BTW - case coming on nicely. Trimmed off the excess, mapped out exactly where the 5" PSone screen is going.
Progress in my step-by-step guide on BenHeck forum here (http://forums.benheck.com/viewtopic.php?t=26417&start=15) although when near completion I will detail it more fully on my own website.
11-01-2008, 08:30 PM
Now if you could only make a mold of a Sega Neptune.
11-01-2008, 10:47 PM
Hey, I have that vacuum!
11-02-2008, 06:03 AM
Sorry to ask, but, How does a vacuum forming table works? What kind of plastic do you have to use to make the case? Do you have to heat it before using it in the vacuum forming table? I'm sorry if I made any mistakes when wirting, I'm from Argentina, and english isn't my first language. If i made any mistakes please let me know so I can correct them and learn from them.
11-02-2008, 01:58 PM
Principle is that you heat thermo plastic (ABS / Plastic card / Plasticard / Styrene, etc) in an oven so it gets so hot it sags; then put it over a mold, and let air suck the plastic into the grooves around your case so the plastic hugs the mold.
Have a look on my web site for more info, feder, if you are confused.
11-02-2008, 05:13 PM
Thanks! Now I understand, but, How much does the plastic cost?
11-03-2008, 03:54 PM
About £6 for 8 sheets, cheapest price; including delivery. E-bay.
11-04-2008, 03:07 PM
that's really quite nifty!
11-05-2008, 12:07 AM
Taucias - Thanks!
macwest - You mention about mold release - will it work on clay (porous).
It should. Although if the clay is greasy it achiees the same result. To make quick and inexpensive molds I have used bondo before. It works fine for small runs. Larger runs I use a metalized epoxy
11-06-2008, 03:38 PM
As I intend to sell my cases in a few weeks' time, I don't want my mold to break or crack; if I were to varnish it, would that make the surface tougher? Would the heat from the plastic, while cooling, cause issues with varnish?
BTW - case is coming on nicely:
More details on BenHeck forum here (http://forums.benheck.com/viewtopic.php?t=26417&start=45)
12-10-2008, 01:08 PM
I have professional level vacuum forming gear if anyone is interested in small levels of replication?? I have produced cart cases in the past amongst other things.
12-10-2008, 10:54 PM
How do you attach the front case to the back case?
12-16-2008, 08:05 PM
How do you attach the front case to the back case?
By making a support for both case halves, then making screw posts inside system.
Will be finishing system soon, have a look at progress on BenHeck forum - last pages: http://forums.benheck.com/viewtopic.php?t=26417
12-17-2008, 04:19 AM
That looks really good. Off to read some more on your site now.
12-18-2008, 12:14 AM
Thanks! I am in the process at the moment of getting things installed into the system, the fun stage!
When the project is done, I will be uploading a better version on my website of the step-by-step guide I have been making on the BenHeck site; and offering my case kits for sale.
Will post here too when done.
12-18-2008, 08:56 AM
That's a very heath robinson setup! Kudos on the ingenuity, though ;-)
Hmm, I'm a little surprised the oven works. You really need to keep that heating uniform. I guess as its fan assisted it should do. If you look at a pro vacuum former, you'll see the frame sits upright next to the heater which gives it that nice uniform heating.
As for the mould, I always used wood, MDF to be precise. You might try doing something similar. Basically, stick sheets of MDF together to the desired thickness, then cut and sand to shape. That'll last you ages ;-) And of course, you can have a nice base on it which assists with getting the thing out etc.
To everyone thinking about going out and making consoles with home vac forming gear - you WON'T get anything anywhere near the same. The material is smooth and making intricate shapes doesn't work (including screw holes). You really need to injection mould something like that, but that's expensive!
12-18-2008, 01:30 PM
Well, the home oven with fan assist gives uniform heat on the plastic, must do, plastic sags symmetrically and vacuum seals uniformly.
Found making a mold with MDF to be hard work so stopped and used clay instead, results speak for themselves - excellent!
Of course injection molding is best, but a hobbyist doesn't have access to this without spending a lot of outlay; which is not realistic or practical. Making small runs making your own table and heating the plastic in a domestic oven is ideal for a hobbyist for low runs, and my process works.
12-19-2008, 10:18 AM
Most certainly - I'm not knocking the method and it's an ingenious way of doing so on a budget. It just seems that people think they're going to produce top-notch replacement cases for consoles by vac-forming, which is far from the truth. You can't get those intricate little detailed parts, the mould has to be fairly simple.
That said, it produces some very useable results for things such as custom handhelds ;-)
MDF mould making is simple - especially if you can get access to a band saw for a few minutes. That's not necessary, though - a good vice and a coping saw would work for the rounded bits. You could even use a jigsaw if you're careful.
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