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Ideas for a Thermoformer


Well-Known Member
Local time
1:32 PM
Apr 3, 2009
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St. Louis
I recently picked up a vacuum thermoformer cheap on Craigslist. I didn't really have a plan for how I would use it, but it just seemed too much fun to pass up and I figured I would find reasons to use it on my Belvedere projects. Has anyone used one of these before? What did you form with it? This unit is 24x32, here is a couple pics from the first time playing with it. I just grabbed an air cleaner cover and a tail light bezel to see how it would work...

I haven't ever used one for home use but I did use one in high school to make handles for soldering guns. I later ended working for a thermoforming company for 4yrs. They made medical packaging. The plastic came on a roll, would heat up a bit then index forward a certain amount (usually slightly longer than your tooling) the male and female tool set would slam together as the clamp ring around it grabbed the plastic holding it in place. The vacuum could be adjusted on the machine to determine what time you wanted it to come on. This would allow for different wall thicknesses. It would then index forward to get cut to shape. The one you have is the same concept but much slower. Looks like fun. You just have to find a good supplier for the plastic and decide what type of plastic.
Thanks. I got a couple boxes of thin white plastic (used in the picture above), but I'm not sure what it is and I can't find it on the net based on the packaging. How thick of plastic and what type works best? Could I make a tail light for example?

You could try but I don't think you would like the result. Most of the stuff on your vehicle is done by injection molding. You can tell the difference in the process if you look close. Injection molding will leave a part with a small ring and a raised dot. Sometimes its sharp. Thermoforming is more for covering. We used to use a printed wood grain plastic that was used on dash boards as well. Though thermoforming has come along way and has found more ways to become more rigid, the heavier stuff is injected. I'm not saying it can't be done to make car parts but I don't know if it would be worth the effort. I worked at Prent Corp in Janeville, WI for 4yrs. There sister company is called GOEX. They actually extrude there own plastic.Give them a call and see what they would recommend or even possibly sell to you.
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