Making a Vacuum Former

Recently I made my own vacuum former from scratch so that I could use and manipulate plastics when creating props and costumes.

Vacuum forming is a process where a sheet of plastic is heated until it softens, where it is then quickly stretched over a mould and tightened around it using a vacuum to suck out the air around the mould.

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Over 400 holes were drilled into a sheet of MDF to form the top of the former. A single hole was drilled into the base sheet of MDF, large enough for the tube of a industrial wet-vacuum cleaner.

The heater unit was also constructed from MDF lined with reflective foil. An infrared patio heater was placed inside, this meaning it only heats what the infrared radiation first comes into contact with (the sheet of plastic placed above it), not the entire box.

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The moulds were hand-carved and sanded from extruded polystyrene blocks (XPS) glued to MDF boards. These moulds were for a futuristic celtic-inspired backplate and arm guard.

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The finished product was made from two sheets of plastic, one white and one clear, and completed with electroluminescent (EL) wire to illuminate the knotwork design.

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