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Apr 03, 2013, 02:04 AM
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Suitcase Vacuum Former


Something I started a while back. I made a vacuum form set up useing an old space heater and vacuum pump from a car. This set up worked well enough but i quickly ran into a few issues and I am now remaking the system from scratch to adress those issues.

The first set up was simple enough. Two boxes that joined together to make a "suitcase", but that could be taken apart to use the two halfs. Kind of like how old typewriters used to come set up with a "suitcase" cover on them (No, im not THAT old, but we had some old stuff around my house when I was a kid).

The heater box was very simple. A space heat removed from its original houseing with a removable extention to hold the plastic over the heat in its frame.

The vacuum box was a simple 18"x12" table covered in foam rubber for a good seal when the heated plastic was placed over the slug to form the plastic. Inside the box was a 4" diameter by 12" long tank that was pumped down to 18hg by use of a car vacuum pump. A lot of cars in the 80's and 90's used these pumps to work valves for climate control systems. A ball valve was used to release the vacuum and suck out the air at high preasure and PULL the palstic around the slug. The tank was there to give a good initial pull while the pump once again would work down the preasure till the plastic cooled.

The set up worked well enough but there where a few problems I ran into.

In my haste to build my set up a number of areas of the box became damaged. Though only cosmetic, it still upset me to see something I worked so hard on looking so shabby. I also only had the use of a staple gun to hold the wood together while the glue dried. Seeing these ugly 16g 1/4" wide staples all over the edges of my creation also made it look more shabby. The staples work great for when I have to build a nice custom sub box for teh stereo shop I work at (since the boxes get covered in carpet), but not for making good looking wood working projects.

Next, I really didn't like how little room for storage I had for holding the frames. Some had to be tossed some place safe.

To activate the vacuum, I would have to let go of my frame, releaseing preasure to get a good seal, and turn the ball valve.

Most importantly, I forgot some basic physics. That when there is a very sudden change in preasure in a given atmostphere, it can force moisture out of the air. My parts and slugs would be soaked in water. Also my tank was filling with water!

So now comes version 2 of my vacuum box. I've nearly finished building the new wood boxes for each half. Also here is how I am correcting the issues I ran into in the past version.

Issue 1: Got some nice new clean wood to make my new boxes. I also got a pin nailer so now I no longer have large ugly staples showing.

Issue 2: storage. My old set up lacked any good space to safely store the frames I use to hold the plasstic to make my parts. I've built in a larger area in the middle to allow for storage of the frames.

Issue 3: I was able to find a decently large vacuum solinoid (3/8" opening). I plan to have the table top be spring loaded. When I push down on the table it will activate a switch, trip a relay and fire open the solinoid to release the vacuum. Now I will be able to keep preasure on the frame to maintain a good seal while the vacuum pulls the plastic down.

Issue 4: The new tank will be much easier to remove from the system to drain. Also since I am useing a 3/8" solinoid instead of a 3/4" ball valve and PVC pipeing, the relase should be slower and with luck reduce the water being forced out of the air.

I will post some pictures of the new set up when I get a chance. here are a few of the older set up.
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