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View Full Version : 4' x 8' Vacuum Form Build Tips Anyone?



TrueDungeon
10-19-2009, 01:56 AM
First, I hope everyone's 2009 haunt season is going well.

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I run a 21,000 s.f. live-action walk-through gaming event every year, and I have a HUGE hassle every year of setting up 500 4' x 8' panels (on an aluminum pipe and drape skeleton) in 24 hours inside a hotel ballroom. I have used a variety of wall panels, but after many years I have come to the conclusion that I would like to MAKE my own true 4' x 8' vacu-form wall panels for the event. Having a large library of these walls would work out very well for me. Also, since my patrons are gamer nerds, they are awesome customers and they never damage the sets...so I can go with much thinner substrates than most haunts. I am hoping that this fact will make the machine easier to build.

I am looking for any advice about how to go about making a gi-normous vacu-form that can accept perhaps up to 5' x 10' sheets so that they can reduce down to 4' x 8' finished panels. I am not needing anything industrial as I am not making panels for selling -- only my use.

I also own a sign shop so I can get the various substrates at a good price, but my experience with vacu-forming is about nil. Are there any books anyone would recommend about vacu-forming in general, and does anyone have any info about making something this large?



Anyway, any info or tips would be much appreciated.

Allen H
10-19-2009, 06:40 AM
here are great plans for one thats smaller, just scale up for what you need.
http://www.halloweenfear.com/vacuumformintro.html

I have a few recommendations for the scale up
I would not go with an electrical heat source for a 4x8 panel, Im pretty sure you would need 220v service to it. I would instead build a hotbox above the unit out of sheetmetal with a foam board insulation. Look into propane heaters (the kind construction workers use) to heat the chamber. Use several turkey thermometers to check the temperature in several points to ensure even heating. The slide system to get the hot panel onto the vacuform table can be tricky. Check out the 4' ;ength heavy duty drawer slides from sciplus.
http://www.sciplus.com/search.cfm?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=search&utm_content=cf&utm_campaign=celsearchtest&formfield1234567891=64&formfield1234567892=13&formfield1234567894=&term=drawer+slide&btnHand.x=0&btnHand.y=0
There are a few good resorces online if you poke around enough. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.
Allen H

Nightmare_Trance
10-20-2009, 08:51 AM
This guys tutorial is decent as well.

http://www.tk560.com/howtoguides.html

Doug Kelley
10-22-2009, 10:10 PM
I think I remember they used a bunch of small vacuum-formed parts when they were making some of the original Star Wars sets. The small parts were glued together in different patterns to make an endless variety of "different" larger panels. I believe the technique was used for the surface of the Death Star and in other parts of the movie.

Since making smaller (say 2' x 2') vacuum formed parts would be easier, perhaps it would make sense glue eight of them on each 4' x 8' sheet of plywood? You can get a wider variety of panels using less complicated technology. Does that make sense?

shawnc
10-23-2009, 12:47 AM
Jeff, I just took a look at your website. Those are some great sets you have!

Doug has a good idea. You could turn some of them upside down or sideways and end up with many different looks out of just a few panels.

I'm assuming you are always using a castle/dungeon theme. There are many ways you can get the same end result as plastic. Rather than 2x4s for framing, many have used 2x3s or even 2x2s to save money and weight. Instead of plywood, some use luan. You can attach things to the wood for different looks. Split PVC tubing, garage sale and dumpster finds cut in pieces can create some strange walls. I made this suggestion to someone recently who was was wanting to go with a science fiction theme and was looking at spending some big bucks on custom panels. And some sheet metal walls, which have been very heavy, no matter how thin.

Another lightweight option for brick/block walls (a dungeon) is styrofoam. There are lots of techniques on here for carving, painting and sealing them. Some of the material is better than others. Stay away from the white.

I have never actually seen a vacuform panel in use. Can anyone say for sure that they are they sturdy, or are they best used for visual effect where they can't be touched? I would hate to spend a lot of time or money on them and have them start cracking just from setup/takedown and storage.

BrotherMysterio
05-30-2012, 10:19 AM
I am looking for any advice about how to go about making a gi-normous vacu-form that can accept perhaps up to 5' x 10' sheets so that they can reduce down to 4' x 8' finished panels. I am not needing anything industrial as I am not making panels for selling -- only my use.

Was there any development with this?

C.

tonguesandwich
05-30-2012, 10:52 PM
You don't need an industrial machine to get what you want. 2 heavy duty shop vacs will work just as good as an expensive vacuum. Put you heating elements to the side , have your tray push sideways into the oven .. when it gets to the right temperature pull out on rail system. Then have the buck (inverted mold) push up into the plastic. Your keys are proper seal and even heating. Get your elements spaced evenly, measure heat with an engine heat gun. Variable size will be a bitch since a cut machine is expensive and cutting by hand sucks. Plastic is skyrocketing and has gone up about 30% in the last year. Bulk sheets will cost you about 20 bucks each unless you really by huge amounts. Beaded Fire retardant will cost about $100 a sheet (unless someone has a better supplier) and remember you are going to have waist. A lot of haunters want true 4x8.. but a lot of studios and other industries want them smaller cause they look better for scene prospective... something many haunts don't understand.
This is how I will make my next one cause the overhead heat sucks and causes issues. Again the most expensive thing is the vacuum and shop vacs work fine and sometimes better. You also don't need to make as heavy duty as these ....
http://www.belovac.com/videos/model_bvc_class_v2.wmv

Pennywise
07-01-2012, 08:48 AM
I have wanted to make my own 4'x8' vacu-formed panels too, but had no idea where to start. Reading this has helped me a lot. I have no idea where to get the 4'x8' plastic sheets for it still, though. Anyway, I have not yet read through the link Allen posted, but would it be possible to warm the plastic with a heat guns (or guns)?

tonguesandwich
07-02-2012, 01:01 AM
It would be super hard to do it with a heat gun and get even spacing. Unless U are doing a very small piece..like a ft.

BrotherMysterio
07-02-2012, 01:28 AM
I have wanted to make my own 4'x8' vacu-formed panels too, but had no idea where to start. Reading this has helped me a lot. I have no idea where to get the 4'x8' plastic sheets for it still, though. Anyway, I have not yet read through the link Allen posted, but would it be possible to warm the plastic with a heat guns (or guns)?

In a word, no.

First off, the vacuformers that can create a 4' x 8' panel are super huge (bigger than a Buick) and take sheets that are way larger than 4' x 8'. Remember, the sheet isn't going to stay flat. You are forming it into a three dimensional shape. That will take up a lot of slack, to say the least, even with a brick or stone relief. Just imagine what it would be like if you were doing steam-punk or sci-fi, or trying for gothic cathedral elements.

Second, building one yourself would be a herculean task. I've looked into it. I think some members on the board here are looking to do custom work with the big one, but I'm not sure where that stands.

C.

Pennywise
07-02-2012, 03:01 PM
Wow. OK so vacuum forming is out for me lol

BrotherMysterio
07-02-2012, 03:25 PM
Wow. OK so vacuum forming is out for me lol

Well, no, definitely get into vacuforming for prop development and so on. It's just not viable for 4x8 panels on a large scale. That being said, tho, if you only wanted some specialty panels, you might do a few 2 x 4 panels and do four to a wall panel.

Of course, that being said, what kind of panels were you looking to do? Anything with deep relief would be very brittle, and some punk could easily punch a hole thru it.

C.