Vacuform Experiment Results!

October 27, 2012

Mask designed by member Halley.

A few last minute modification to the vacuform table were made by Eli and Gabe; the net result being that we can set the top of the table down on to the bottom without having to be persnickey exact. We learned tonight that the only critical factor is to have all the pegboard holes covered by the plastic. As you can see from the pictures, the plastic is pulled into the pegboard holes and forms all the seal we need.

Halley’s Mask (above) was the last and the best vacuform of the night. We thought for sure that the plastic would have to be cut to get the positive/form out (because of the way it formed around the beard), but Gabe and Halley were able to leverage it out without any cuts.

We’d love to tell you what the shiny plastic is, but Gabe picked it up cheap at surplus, provenance unknown. It was about half as thick as the dull white plastic. Being thinner, it went from original form to super melty very quickly. 450degrees is definitely too hot. 300degrees takes more time, but it gives us more control over how soft/melted the plastic is.

More photos and info below the fold. (Click on any picture for larger version)

Mold for Halley’s Mask

Halley covered her mask/mold with Aluminum tape so that the plastic wouldn’t stick to it thus hopefully making it easier to extract (though harder to photograph). Also to give it some structural support. The vacu part of our vacuform table comes from our shop vac, which is surprisingly strong enough to crush unreinforced molds, such as the ping pong ball eyes and the nose and beard.

Our shop logo, made from several layers of hand cut cardboard.

We made many of these logos as we experimented with how long to heat the plastic and how much to let it droop in the oven. Each time we did another ‘form, the shop vac crushed the cardboard a little bit more and caused the support “veins” in the cardboard to show a little more.

Guy Fawkes Mask (provided by Halley)

Halley also brought in a Guy Fawkes mask to experiment with. As you can see, the strength of the vacu was enough to distort the mask before the plastic could cool. (I think) we reinforced the mask with crumbled up newspapers, but it wasn’t enough to provide sufficient structure. The original mask was not damaged, just temporarily mushed.

Jane “Cyber” Doe (head only)

This is the head of our shop mascot, Jane “Cyber” Doe. We let the plastic get a little too soft before we took it out of the oven and put it on the mold, so it wrinkled as it was applied. While that wrinkling can be a nice effect, in this case it was unintentional.


Another experiment using the “Zombie Arm Holding A Soldering Iron” form of our Logo. Also the steel “HACK” part of our name. We taped over the hand to keep the plastic from being formed too tightly around the fingers and we put a shim under the soldering iron, so that we’d be able to extract the form from the mold. As you can see comparing the original arm and the plastic form, the vacu compressed the arm, highlighting the structure underneath and further enhancing the Zombie effect.

After making many more molds than you see here, we finally turned off the oven and started the cleanup at 11:30pm, just as the Artemis folks were getting started. While there were tons of additional ideas on how to improve the vacuform table, or replace it with V2 or V3, the mods that Eli and Gabe made tonight are enough to make the table usable “as is”. Rumor has it that Gabe may be picking up even more of the cheap plastic as we went through almost a full 10’x5′ sheet that he had brought in.

Leave a Reply