How It’s Made: DIY Vacuum Forming

by Adam Hughes

DIY Custom Packaging

Have you ever wanted to learn how to create your own custom packaging or vacuum form your very own design?  Even if you’re just a little bit curious, I’m about to explain how you can do it yourself. A video outlining these steps is also featured below.

What do you need? Here is a check List:

  • 3D printed Mold (sparse fill density)
  • Sand Paper (180 600 1000 grit)
  • Glue (hot glue, super glue, silicone)
  • Cardboard backing template

Tools Required:

  • Shop Vac (or any vacuum really)
  • Propane Torch
  • Vacuum Form machine (custom made, check it out in my “How it’s made” video below)
  • .020 ABS, PC or PTEG plastic sheets (available on Amazon or eBay)*

* each of these has different material properties and you will have to select the proper one for your application (I suggest starting with PTEG or ABS)

The 3D printed mold has a sort of honeycomb inner fill, this is excellent for vacuum forming because it allows the air to flow through the part. The molds I tested were made from ABS and PC. I found PC to be more resilient to excess heat and warping, so with ABS take your time. Before you vacuum form, make sure you sand your 3D printed part very well. The better you sand it the easier it will be to remove the plastics from the mold.

After placing the plastic sheet in the vacuum forming machine and centering your print, fire up the torch. The last thing you want to do here is apply too much heat, so TAKE IT SLOW; especially the first time around. The torch should also be on a medium to low setting so you don’t melt your 3D print.

After you have heated the plastic sheet and formed it to the mold (it won’t ever be perfect on a machine like this) let it cool. A great tip is to leave the vacuum running and use the exhaust as a cooler (convection simulation anyone?)

Timing varies but after about 5 to 10 minutes you should be able to pop off the formed plastic. The cooling period between cycles is also necessary so that you don’t overheat and melt/warp  your 3Dprinted mold.

Lastly, trim cut and glue the blister pack vacuum form to the cardboard backing. Try different glue and use the one that best for your project.  Superglue can sometimes distort the ink when placed on printed paper, so try silicone glue or hot glue gun.

Thanks for reading as I hope you enjoyed this. Now, go ahead and click play in the video below and stay tuned for more great projects coming soon!

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