Every tool in your workshop has a purpose and you want to use the right tool for the job. You wouldn’t want to use a circular saw to cut lengths of steel tube. And in the same vein, your 3D printer isn’t the best tool for every job. Vacuum forming is a better choice in many situations, and now you can get an affordable unit through the VacuumSnap Kickstarter campaign.
VacuumSnap recently launched on Kickstarter with a $10,000 funding goal and it has already raised almost $300,000 from more than 800 backers. If you’ve been thinking about getting a vacuum former, then now may be the time to pull the trigger.
A vacuum former is a machine that shapes flat sheets of thermoplastic into three-dimensional contours. It works by first heating a sheet of plastic until it is very malleable. The user then pulls the hot plastic down over a form. A vacuum pump sucks out all of the air through holes in the work surface, which pulls the plastic down tight around the form. Within seconds, the plastic sheet cools and hardens, giving you your finished part (trimming may be necessary). Vacuum forming is perfect for large, mostly convex plastic parts of a uniform thickness, like packaging, molds, and cosplay armor.
VacuumSnap appears to be a nice vacuum former at a good price. It has a forming bed that measures 400x400mm, which is suitable for most hobby applications. It has a built-in 2KW halogen heater and 700W vacuum pump capable of 95kPa. The draw mechanism looks sturdy and easy to operate. Everything resides in an attractive and compact enclosure, with a handy touchscreen interface for entering parameters (like heater settings and vacuum time).
The entire machine measures 550x550x700mm, so it should fit on most workbenches. The maximum forming depth is 150mm and that specification is practical, as a larger ratio (compared the bed size) would produce poor results. VacuumSnap should work with most common thermoplastics, including PVC, HIPS, PE, and ABS up to 3mm thick. You can buy plastic sheets from VacuumSnap, but aren’t limited to their material.
If you want a VacuumSnap, the Kickstarter campaign will run until February 16th. Super early birds can get a VacuumSnap with 10 sheets of HIPS for $299 plus shipping. Rewards should ship to backers in June.