Custom mold creation can be enormously useful in any number of pursuits, from cooking to design prototypes to architectural models. A project recently backed on Kickstarter could provide solutions for many of these uses. Touted as “the most advanced desktop vacuum former,” the FORMART 2 is for professionals and beginners alike, boasting a full suite of capabilities from smart suction control to material ID scanning.
The first introduction of industrial vacuum forming technology into home contexts may have been a Mattel vacuum forming toy of the 60s, the Vac-U-Form. Though it is no longer sold, a few are still used today both as toys and for home small-size part fabrication. It could never be sold with the safety regulations on the market today, though, because it had an exposed hot plate. A '90s version of the toy made by ToyMax attempted to reduce potential harm by changing the hotplate into a light bulb, a la the Easy-Bake Oven, and covering any hot surfaces. These toys are still available on sites like eBay and Amazon, but their uses are limited as they were designed for kids to make their own plastic toys using pre-packaged molds.
More robust than a toy, the FORMART 2 is a desktop unit for industrial-grade vacuum forming. It functions without exposed heating elements and features rapid cooling to both increase safety and speed up creation. Other quality of life features include a built-in materials library, preloaded with a complete parameters database. A QR scanner in the machine lines up with the QR code on a loaded thermoplastic and can automatically enter optimal parameters into the system. For third-party materials not purchased to go with the machine, you can just select the plastic-type from a menu.
Built-in components also include a pressure sensor, carbon fiber heating elements encased in quartz, a bed three times larger than other desktop units, and a quick-adjustable knob to secure the clamp frame at any height. Combined with a 3D printer, a vacuum former makes part fabrication quicker and simpler; 3D print a piece, then begin replicating it in seconds. Currently, mass production is slated for July 2021. The Kickstarter campaign is still offering rewards, with the machine itself and basic kits priced at $1,799 — that’s $1,200 off retail. Much pricier than a toy for sure, but also certainly in a different league — though you could still use it for projects with your kids.