How To: Mayku FormBox Desktop Vacuum Former
MatterHackers is on a mission to enable people to build things themselves using whatever method works best for them. We started with 3D printing and have expanded to CNC mills, and laser cutters, and now we are selling our first vacuforming machine.
The Mayku FormBox is a $699 vacuformer that makes it incredibly simple to form plastic sheets into any shape that you want.
How Vacuum Forming Works
Vacuum forming is a simple process where you take a sheet of soft (nearly molten) plastic and use suction to conform it to the shape of a template.
3D printing is great for making your first prototypes, but 3D printers are difficult to use for mass production, unless you have a 3D print farm. Vacuforming is a great way to move up from small to medium scale production. A vacuforming machine pairs perfectly with your 3D printer because you can use the printer to make the template, and then use the vacuforming machine to make dozens or hundreds of duplicates.
What You Can Do With Vacuum Forming
Make Things Fast
Vacuum forming is an extremely fast way to make things that only need an outer shell. For instance, the wings of a model airplane, hollow costume and prop pieces, or just containers and packaging. Once you have a template, the vacuforming process only takes two minutes.
Although vacuforming can be used to make object all on their own, where it really shines is in making molds. This lets you cast objects using materials that would never be possible with 3D printing. The FormBox comes with a bag of plaster to get you started. Here are a few other materials you can cast.
Make Things Food Safe
Unlike 3D printing, vacuforming allows you to make parts that are truly food safe. You can make containers for food or drinks out of the vacuformed sheets, or you can create molds to cast things in chocolate, jello, or whatever other food you like.
Make Clear Things
Although transparent filaments are available for 3D printing, anyone who has used them knows that the results never come out clear. Because 3D printers create objects line by line and layer by layer, it is not possible for them to make something that is completely solid, as is needed for optical clarity. Vacuforming, however, has no problem with this. You can use the transparent plastic sheets to make visors, lenses, or clear covers.
Using the FormBox
The kit comes with everything you need to get started, except for a vacuum cleaner. Two large packs of plastic sheets are included, along with some example templates to get you started with, and a bag of plaster so you can try casting as well.
Mayku’s starter book will walk you through your first vacuforming project, and also teach you the 3 rules of vacuforming. Once you have the process down (it’s very easy), you can check out Mayku’s website where they have a collection of other fun projects.
Here is a quick overview of the vacuforming process.
- Get a template. You can design and print one with a 3D printer, mold it out of clay, or just use things you have laying around.
- Clamp the plastic sheet into the tray, set the heater, and start the timer.
- Place your template on the bed.
- When the timer is done, the sheet is ready. Push it down onto the bed.
The FormBox will automatically turn on your vacuum for the right amount of time and the plastic sheet will form to your template. After letting the plastic cool for a brief moment (15 seconds) you can unclamp it from the tray and pop out the template.
The FormBox comes with two different types of plastic sheets.
The Mayku Cast Sheets are transparent. These sheets are made from PETg. They are for making molds to cast things out of other materials, but they can also be used to make clear objects. The material is food safe and is also recyclable.
The Mayku Form Sheets are solid white. They are made from Polystyrene. These sheets are perfect for stormtrooper armor, but they are also great for painting.
Both types of sheets are 0.5 mm thick.
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