Vacuform Machine and Helmet Design and Fabrication

So I decided to start this thread for those of us at the watch and chat level of the Fon Davis Class (and anyone else who might like to chime in).  We wont have instructor interaction at this level but at least we can help and inspire each other.             

I spent some time at OSH hardware and saw a lot of the parts necessary to build the vacuformer but didn’t get anything as of yet.  They had a small shop vac there for a reasonable price but when I opened it up I saw that it didn’t have a straight vac tube that we saw in the demo one so it would not work.  They also had perforated aluminum sheet that looks a lot like Fon’s old platen. It is pretty thin so it would need re-enforcement below to make it work but would save a lot of drilling.  (Although Fon mentioned he wouldn’t use this material again because of the deformation under vacuum). 

Seeing as I don’t have a lot of the tools in my shop to cut, grind, and weld I am going to hold of on the heater portion of the vacuformer for a bit. 

So I have been working on a couple of concept sketches for my helmet.  Some things I am thinking about are practical; like comfort so I am designing a space at the back for a small squirrel fan.  The other things I am thinking about conceptually are utilitarian (i.e. if I was designing a real helmet I would want…)  So for this idea I am thinking that the wearer of the helmet has electronically elevated senses.  The overall animalness of the design is because many in the animal kingdom have greater sense of hearing and smelling.  I want to put small servos in the ears to rotate giving the character the ability to hone in on certain sounds as well as offering the ability to animate them for reactions. The large eye areas are meant to give the wearer full range of site including the periphery. 

I was thinking of constructing the plugs on the half and seaming it down the center but that may create construction problems.  I’m not sure would love input.



  • If you want to use the thinner perforated metal sheeting for the platen you can use "fluorescent light diffuser grid".  (try a google image search to get an idea of what it looks like)  It is inexpensive, available at most hardware stores, and I've seen it used for similar reinforcement tasks before.  Though you might want to grind channels into the bottom or insert some risers to allow airflow between or under the grid cells.

    Those are some cool sketches.  I can't wait to see what you end up building!

  • Here's a quick sketch I did comparing the proto-form platen to what Volpin did.
    I plan on using a wireform mesh in the vacuum cavity but I'll be pulling with 25-27 inches of pressure.
    The shop vacs from class will get about 5 inches...
    You can find the wireform next to the steel sheet metal at home depot and its dirt cheap if cost is a factor.
  • Dig your design Brian. That will look great. If the squirrel fans because a design issue, action-fans have cyclone fans that pipe in air via a tube. I use it when I'm cutting alot and I wear my big boy safety goggles, but I would work for a helmet on a hot day.
  • Chuck,

    That Action fan is exactly what i have been looking for thank you.

  • Here are some updated sketches.

    I went to michaels to scope out the floral foam, held off though until I can hit up the foam place in my hood to see if they carry surfboard foam.
  • Brian- I dig it. Are you going to use clear for the eyes?

    I talked to a friend of mine and I'm going to make one of his characters. Hopefully he can use it in a Kickstarter or if he ends up at a convention.

    I did make some progress on the vacuform:

  • Yes clear with hopefully a shade treatment so you can see inside as well.

    I love that design of yours. reminds me of a character from the old scooby doo.
  • I've been wanting to try this and this might be a great fit... With an led on the inside, the light and the operator will look red, but it looks like an opaque grey on the outside when not backlit.
  • That's a cool helmet design Chuck.   Looks like he would fit in with the robots from the 1979 Sci-Fi classic "The Black Hole"


  • Yeah you mentioned the VHT in class looks like a great solution. let me know if you get a can and test it out.
  • My finished vacuum form.
  • Very nice! Love the signage.
  • Looking great.  The signs give it a great style.

  • Troy PicouTroy Picou ✭✭✭
    edited April 2014
    Thanks, working on a helmet design. I used an electric grill for my heating element.
    image.jpg 1017.9K
  • Looking forward to seeing the designs posted come to life, good work.
  • Wasn't able to do the class due to real life, so I'll be waiting on the video to come out. Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.
  • @chuck - You can also apply automotive tint to a plastic sheet. I think you'll get a more even result than the spray tint.
Sign In or Register to comment.