You may have never heard of vacuum forming, but you use products made with the technique all the time. The lid on your coffee cup, the plastic bowls you used at last week's barbeque, and the blister packs your prescriptions come in are all made with a vacuum forming machine.
The process basically comes down to pouring melted plastic over a mold (called a "buck") and using a vacuum to suck out all of the air out so that the plastic sticks closely to the mold.
So, what can you do with it at home? Well, for starters, you can make some pretty kickass Halloween costumes. Wanna be a Stormtrooper? This tutorial by TK560 will show you how to make your own armor with a vacuum forming machine.
Don't want to make a full body suit? You can use a vacuum forming machine to replicate just about anything. If you have a friend who's got a mask you like, you can make a copy and save some cash. Or, if you've got some drawing skills, you can design your own.
So, what do you need to make one? Prop maker Eric Hart built his DIY vacuum forming machine with a shop vac, a heat gun, some medium-density fibreboard, lauan (decorative plywood), and a few spring clamps.
First, he cut the MDF into an 8x8 inch square, then drilled a bunch of holes in a grid pattern. Then he drilled a hole for the vacuum hose in the bottom and made the frame out of lauan.
Check out Eric's video above for more details, as well as his full written guide here.
What would you make with your own vacuum forming machine?