Yes, you can use a 3D printer to fabricate a whole load of things. That doesn’t mean it’s ideal for every single job, though. For producing masks, turnpike signs, and protective covers, however, a vacuum forming machine is likely to do the job a whole lot better. If you’ve been thinking of adding one to your workshop, the Vaquform offers a desktop-friendly option.
Unlike other fabrication machines, the device doesn’t involve entering a CAD model and waiting for the object to be finished. Instead, it works like traditional vacuum formers, where you set down a mold on the build area, insert a plastic sheet onto the frame, pull it down right on top of the mold, and wait for everything to finish. Except, you know, with a little less manual work compared to traditional vacuum forming machines.
The Vaquform comes with a heating element on top that cooks the plastic to the desired temperature, while an IR probe takes constant temperature measurements. When it detects that the forming temperature has been reached, it switches on the integrated vacuum system, which sucks the sheet of plastic down towards the mold. It uses a two-part vacuum suction system: a low pressure, high-speed vacuum that sucks out air and a more powerful one that wraps the plastic around the mold.
To make sure it heats the plastic to the right temperature, it has pre-programmed profiles for eight different materials, with three user-customizable profiles in case you’d rather use alternative materials. Features include a build area measuring 9 x 12 x 6.3 inches and an LCD screen with physical buttons so you don’t need any extra device to use it.
A Kickstarter campaign is currently running for Vaquform. You can reserve a unit for pledges starting at $645.