Hobby-Vac Vacuum Forming Machine Plans

Create and mold complex plastic shapes by using heat and vacuum!

Powerful Vacuum Forming Machines

Hobby-Vac is 5 times more powerful than a Shop-Vac and has a built in oven.

Perfect for the serious hobbyist or small business. This homebuilt machine is based on the popular “Hobby-Vac Pro Series” production machines (now discontinued). It features the same oven design and 2 stage vacuum system that made those machines collectable when production stopped. This plans built version was re-designed to be an easy 2 or 3 weekend project using ordinary parts and a wood housing. The built in 12 x 18 inch oven, is the largest size you can run on a 120 volt 15 amp house circuit. The plans will give you several choices for single and two stage vacuum systems. You can use many plastics, and form over simple molds made from wood, plaster, epoxy or other materials.

Imagine the possibilities…

The comprehensive plans take you through it step by step, and heating element kits are available to speed up construction and guarantee good results. There are no small machines currently being produced with this level of performance.

What does it do?

“Vacuum Forming” or “Thermoforming” is a simple process where you take a flat plastic sheet, and heat it until it’s soft. Then you stretch it over a mold or pattern, and suck it down tightly with vacuum. The plastic cools quickly and retains that shape. Vacuum forming is ideal whenever you need a “shell” type plastic part with uniform wall thickness. You can form over wood, plaster and many other materials. (See sample parts below)

How Does it Work?


Lets make a part..

  1. Clip a plastic sheet into the pivoting clamp frame, and
  2. swing it over to the oven side for heating.
  3. Place your mold anywhere on the perforated forming surface, (also called the “platen”). When the plastic is soft and begins to sag or droop, its ready to form.
  4. Turn on the vacuum pump, and
  5. swing the frame over the platen. This will stretch the plastic sheet over your mold, and the vacuum will suck it down tightly.
  6. The plastic cools quickly and retains its shape.
  7. Remove the finished part and do another one. a typical cycle time is less than a minute for thin plastic, up to 5 minutes for 1/4 inch thick sheets.

Who is it for?

The Hobby-Vac is an affordable, table-top solution for the thousands of small businesses that need vacuum formed parts.

  • Model Makers
  • Maker Spaces
  • Prop Designers
  • Mythbusters
  • Inventors
  • Design Studios
  • Theaters
  • Specials Effects companies
  • Cosplay
  • Candy makers
  • and more!

The Hobby-Vac machine is perfect for prototype parts and packaging, display models, signs and even volume production of high quality parts. Your machine will have better performance than machines costing ten times as much.

Now the alternative to those high priced machines is to build your own. The concept is very simple and the parts and materials don’t cost much. In addition to our comprehensive construction plans, we offer heating coil kits to make your project go smoothly.

Hobby-Vac Specs

Sheet size 12 x 18 inches or smaller
Platen size (usable area) 10 x 16
Depth of draw 6 inches depending on shape
Max plastic thickness 1/4 in. thick
Built in Oven 110 Volt, 13.5 Amp
Vacuum system 1 or 2 stage, air or electric pump


  • Serious Forming Power - Choose from three vacuum system designs, all capable of forming up to 1/4 in. thick plastic sheets. Five times more powerful than a vacuum cleaner. Works with ABS, PVC, Styrene, Acrylic, Lexan, HDPE, PET-G, and many other plastics.
  • Proven Oven Design - Heating element design uses strategic venting along with both convection and infrared radiation to concentrate heat around the perimeter where it’s needed. 120 volt heating coil kits are available to maximize the heat available from a residential house circuit. You get fast, even heating, yet the machine stays cool to the touch.
  • Multi-Size capable - Plans show how to make smaller platens and clamp frames to use smaller sheets. Quick change over, make as many sizes as you need.
  • High Performance Platen - This optimized design uses an airtight sandwich construction over a wood core with an aluminum top surface. Ultra low volume for fast response. Allows direct hookup to vacuum pump without tanks or valves.
  • Flip Style Clamp Frame - Simple clamp frame is easy to build and use. Allows fast and accurate transfer of plastic form the oven to the frame.

Sample Parts

Sample vacuum formed parts made on this machine.

Sample vacuum formed parts made on this machine.

These sample parts show how versatile your Hobby-Vac machine can be.

The upper left part shows a deep draw over a large plaster mold. To the right of it, you will see a model airplane canopy formed from 1/4 inch (.250) thick plastic to demonstrate the forming power of this machine. This heavy part amazes people at trade shows, and you can see it still formed with excellent definition.

The black part in the center is made of 1/8 in. (.125) ABS with a textured surface. ABS is available in many colors and textures. The white parts are high impact styrene, and show some typical uses for hobbies and crafts.

High Definition Parts

High definition parts

Rivets and body panels visible

The part to the right displays ultra high definition because it was formed into a female mold cavity. When the soft plastic touches the mold surface, it picks up very fine detail. This technique is often neglected, but it can make parts with an “Injection Molded” look at a fraction of the cost. This mold was made by pouring a urethane casting resin over existing model kit parts.

What’s in the plans

What's in the plans

Easy to read construction plans are written in plain English and tell why not just how things are done. Plans now on CD include the following items. The photo to the right shows PDF file printed out. The assembly manual on bottom right is over 100 pages.

  • 100 page assembly manual, with 32 full page drawings for all of the parts. Includes Bonus information on moldmaking and forming.
  • 16 close up photo’s during assembly
  • Material cut lists and parts lists show sources with phone numbers for all the components.
  • Large 11x17 drawing shows a cut-away view of an assembled machine.

Hobby-Vac - Heating Element Kits

Important: These heating element kits are custom made and optimized for the Hobby-Vac machine. They have the correct watt density and infra-red wavelength as well as built in supplemental perimeter heating. You do not need temperature controls with these kits because they are “tuned” to work well with plastics. There are many other types of elements that can be designed into this machine, but none of them will do a better job, and all of them will cost more. There are simply no “Off the Shelf” elements you can buy that will work as well as these oven kits.

These oven kits really work well!.. Please don’t try to re-invent this critical component.

What’s in the kit

These kits include a pre-coiled Nichrome wire element of the correct gauge and length. This element operates at the proper infra-red wavelength to best match the heat absorption characteristics of the plastic. High temp.1/2 in. thick ceramic fiber board forms the floor of your oven and allows direct surface mounting of the element. Stainless steel terminal screws and fasteners eliminate corrosion. High temp hook up wire with nickel plated ring terminals attached. Full size template for drilling holes. Easy 1 hour assembly.

Attention: These are not universal heating elements to be use on other machines or for other uses. They are designed specifically as a bottom heater and work properly only when installed and vented according to the plans. There are no instructions supplied with the elements. For liability reasons these kits will only be sold to Hobby-Vac plans purchasers, and the installation instructions are part of the plans.

110 Volt Heating Element Kits $65.00   Buy Now