I've been thinking about vacuuforming. I know how to do it, but i dont know anything else about it. Is it expensive? Would it be worth building one to make jet packs and gauntlets? Info would be appreciated.
I just got my table built, everything I needed to know I found at

It will be great for making gauntlets and jet packs, but my only problem right now is finding plastic; no stores in my area seem to sell ABS, styrene, or anything that is suitible for vacuforming with.

So check that site out, it has every single thing you would need to know to build one. It took no time to build mine.
A good pump will set you back a $200-$400 easiliy. Of course, you could always go the Shop Vac route, but your pulls won't be as crisp.
hmmm...for 200-400$ thats not too bad seeing how many cool things you can get out of it. the sheets of plastic look like they would be hard to find also. it would be a huge investment for me...but i just might.

thanks a lot for the info guys and gals
When I posted that first post I didn't have this information handy but this is a cheap alternative to the expensive electric vacuum pumps. And a better alternative to shop vacs. All for $44, a couple of valves and some extra pieces of misc pipe.

part # 3952-5VGA ($13.99) This is a venturi vacuum pump and REQUIRES that you have an air compressor (90 psi) to function as the power supply to create the vacuum, but it's cheap and does a real good pull for the money :)

The problem with cheaper vacuum pumps is that they don't pull the volume of air out quick enough, before the plastic cools. To get around this use a tank, vacuum all the air out of the tank in advance and with a simple lever valve turn, it will create an initial and almost immediate vacuum in your chamber, and with the vacuum pump turned on at the same time will continue the pull nice and tight. Here is the a cheap tank, I don't know how good it will hold up to the vacuum but for the hobbiest it should be fine (the worst it could do is collapse :) ) part # 40057-0VGA ($29.99)

Set it up like this

air compressor - vacuum pump - valve - tank - valve - vacuum chamber

The valves allow for you seal off the pre-vacuumed tank, when it's time to do your pull fire up the air compressor and vacuum pump and as soon as you have the sheet of plastic in place open both valves. POOF :)
"Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter..." - Homer Simpson

I just built a vac table myself, going the ShopVac method, but I'd like to start doing this semi-professionally.

Could you come up with a diagram of a simple design? I'd love to see what you've got in mind.

BobaFettish wrote:

A good pump will set you back a $200-$400 easiliy. Of course, you could always go the Shop Vac route, but your pulls won't be as crisp.

Really? I know a guy with a 6HP Shop Vac in our 501st group that regularly used to rip .080" Styrene because the pull was so great. He stepped down to either a 1.5HP or 2HP, and now he has no problems...

I can imagine that a cheap (.5HP) Shop Vac wouldn't have enough pull, but most everyone I know uses around a 2HP model and they seem to work fine. Could be the design of the vacuum box to and what type step-down nipple you're using...
And remember guys, Styrene DOES yellow over time and with exposure to UV light (the SUN). If you can, go with ABS. They use white ABS in suntanning booths to keep the bulbs from yellowing the plastic. ;) We've got a local company that makes tanning beds, and our plastics wholesaler stocks white ABS along with the normal (and cheaper) black ABS.

Also, ABS is stronger than Styrene. You can generally use .060" ABS in place of .080" Styrene. It'll be thinner and just as strong, due to its different molecular composition, plus it's thin enough to pull with a 1.5HP Shop Vac! ;)

Have fun!
I suggest starting with a simple 5-6 HP shop vac and avoid any vacuum tanks etc simplly due to the difficulty in dealing with them. Remember. You usually only have 2 hands to do all the controls etc with.

Your limited only by the heating apparatis that you use for your frame dimensions.

Also a 1.5 etc vac wont pull ABS. It cools way to fast.

ABS will yellow. Look at the original ST suits and its very evident.

Could you come up with a diagram of a simple design? I'd love to see what you've got in mind.

I don't have anything off hand. For the table you can probably use the one you have built as for the rest of the design try a google search for "vacuum forming" or something along them lines. Most designs will use a vacuum tank or two to assist the pump so this will provide some pics. Also most designs will use electric pumps but you can sub in the cheap pump I suggest above if you have the air compressor to drive it.

The shop vacs should work for most people and if it works for you then there is really no need to do another design. If you are serious then there are some very good plans out there for some semi-pro units, although most plans cost some $$$ but they are complete units with heating elements built in, and still fall well below the cost of commercial units.
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