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Vacuum Forming And Nerf

Replicating guns of the past: A start
engineering manufacturing equipment

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#1 Lucian

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 11:56 PM

For several months I have been planning what I was going to do, in order to give back to the the NIC I benefited so much from. And in the past few weeks, I have been perfecting the process of Vacuum forming nerf guns.

Vacuum forming, commonly known as vacuforming, is a simplified version of thermoforming, whereby a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, stretched onto or into a single-surface mold, and held against the mold by applying vacuum between the mold surface and the sheet. The vacuum forming process can be used to make most product packaging, speaker casings and even car dashboards.

Vacuum formers are simple to make and not difficult to use at all. Even Shrub could do it! I won’t take the time to show you how to do it, simply because thousands of people have already done a great job that on Youtube. Go make your own and you won’t regret it.

The goal of this project is to bring back guns of the past, and my objective this whole time has been towards replicating the Crossbow in particular. While I have not fully achieved this, I have had relative success with a replicating half an SS2 shell, and Here is a link to a video that Nerfer 9 edited for me.
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Although this project is nowhere near finished, and I am not about to stop until I reach my goal, I hope that the NIC will see this idea and run with it.


Edited by Aeromech, 23 November 2015 - 01:15 AM.

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#2 nerfer9

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 12:01 AM

Bravo, my good sir!
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#3 TantumBull

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 12:07 AM

We have one of these at the shop. A friend of mine who knows my hobby has kept bugging me to use it. I've thought about it for nerf, but never really pursued it much simply because of how the plastic tends to slant over sharp edges. If you can somehow fold those down more before removing the blaster, that might make this a bit more functional. Heat gun maybe?

Edited by TantumBull, 27 June 2010 - 12:07 AM.

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#4 Lion

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 01:32 AM

I've been wanting to vacuum form a shell for a project I've been wanting to do for a litle wile now.

I would say your next step in making a SS2 shel half is drilling holes in what you have done there and making that the new bottem of your forming platform, and that should give you a pretty decent copy of the ss2 shell you used to make that one. Maybe try doing what you have done with a thinner sheet to see if that will give you a better mold to make you shells.
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#5 atomatron

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 02:41 AM

Is your intention to use these as molds or just use the vacuformed sheet as a shell?
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#6 nerfer9

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 03:51 AM

Trying to work with acrylic that thick will melt the actual SS2 before you ever get sharp corners.
You need those sharp corners.
Switch to styrene. And probably no more than .060" thick.
Get some practice under your belt, then you can think about thicker or higher-melt sheet goods.


I've been talking to him, and I'm pretty sure he's using petg sheet. I've looked at his setup, and to me it looks like he needs a stronger vacuum to get those edges, but hey, I may be wrong.
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#7 nerfer9

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 04:12 AM

From what I know, he's using a toaster oven to heat the plastic. So what you're saying is probably right. He probably needs a propane stove or something of the like to do a better job than the oven.

Edit: Just remembered, I'm pretty sure he told me he's using 1/32 sheeting.

Edited by nerfer9, 27 June 2010 - 04:13 AM.

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#8 Helio

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 09:03 AM

That is extremely neat, but how do you plan on getting the plastic back to the shape of the SS2, since right now it is slightly larger?
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#9 Lucian

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 10:56 AM

We have one of these at the shop. A friend of mine who knows my hobby has kept bugging me to use it. I've thought about it for nerf, but never really pursued it much simply because of how the plastic tends to slant over sharp edges. If you can somehow fold those down more before removing the blaster, that might make this a bit more functional. Heat gun maybe?


Next I am going to try to raise the shell above the surface of the former so that the edges are sharper.


Is your intention to use these as molds or just use the vacuformed sheet as a shell?


Well if I form with thick enough plastic, Homemade internals could easily be made for the gun, but I may just do something like fiberglass the inside of the mold I made for an exact size replica.

Trying to work with acrylic that thick will melt the actual SS2 before you ever get sharp corners.
You need those sharp corners.
Switch to styrene. And probably no more than .060" thick.
Get some practice under your belt, then you can think about thicker or higher-melt sheet goods.


Its not acrylic, but .030 Petg sheeting. I am very much aware that I need to get the corners sharper, do you think setting the toaster to 500 degrees and using a shop-vacc would solve the problem?

That is extremely neat, but how do you plan on getting the plastic back to the shape of the SS2, since right now it is slightly larger?


Well if I use a thick enough plastic, I could use it as a shell for homemade internals. Or I could fiberglass the inside of the already made mold for a shell that was to scale.


Edit: I tested the mold I made with a mix called Perma-stone-

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Seems to work well, but I really need to fix the edges.

Edited by Lucian, 27 June 2010 - 11:56 AM.

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#10 Lucian

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 11:10 PM

Legit Double post:

Click Here for a video of making the SS2 Shell.

This is a great video of the process of vacuum forming. Kudos to Nerfer 9 for editing it for me!
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#11 Helio

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 10:11 AM

Ok, now I see what you're doing.

Its not acrylic, but .030 Petg sheeting. I am very much aware that I need to get the corners sharper, do you think setting the toaster to 500 degrees and using a shop-vacc would solve the problem?

And I think that might be too hot for the SS2, but (I think) it would solve it if it didn't melt the SS2.
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#12 ModSquad

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 11:27 AM

Ok, now I see what you're doing.

Its not acrylic, but .030 Petg sheeting. I am very much aware that I need to get the corners sharper, do you think setting the toaster to 500 degrees and using a shop-vacc would solve the problem?

And I think that might be too hot for the SS2, but (I think) it would solve it if it didn't melt the SS2.


If he used the plaster cast that is the same size as the SS2 shell he could use much higher temperatures.
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#13 Possemhunter

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 02:42 PM

I see a lot of potential with this idea, but it has one major drawback. The inside of those shells is sooo complicated with all the plugs for the screws and mounting points for internals. If you could find a way to replicate the inside, I would be very impressed. If you could use the piece you just made to make a plaster version as a negative mold and then make another negative mold for the inside, you could put the 2 halves together and pour molten plastic in with some sort of pressurizer to fill all the nooks in the mold. Complicated but if you could get the process down, easy. (hopefully)
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#14 Soothsayer

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 03:38 PM

I've thought about this since I saw a few episodes of mythbusters where they use a legit one that costs thousands of dollars. If anyone had a college that had one of these, they could certainly make some spot on replicas of older blasters. It would be a pain staking process to add all of the groves and walls and screw holes, but it would be extremely useful for repairing damaged blasters that have cracks or huge(non important) chunks sawed or broken off.
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#15 Draconis

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 04:59 PM

Lucy Anne, what about doing this process in the opposite order? Make a negative plaster cast of the outside of the shell. Then, after it is dry, drill tiny vacuum holes all the way through the plaster, from the lowest points in the mold. Then you should be able to make a positive from the sheet plastic.
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#16 TantumBull

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 09:37 PM

I've thought about this since I saw a few episodes of mythbusters where they use a legit one that costs thousands of dollars. If anyone had a college that had one of these, they could certainly make some spot on replicas of older blasters. It would be a pain staking process to add all of the groves and walls and screw holes, but it would be extremely useful for repairing damaged blasters that have cracks or huge(non important) chunks sawed or broken off.

I have a "legit one" at school but it has the same problem. Granted, I haven't done a ton of testing with it, but there was a significant slant in the edges of the piece my friend demoed for me.

I'm not saying its impossible, all I'm saying that from what I've observed with the equipment at school, there would be similar issues.
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#17 HOTH

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 10:22 PM

Just saw this thread. Look, I know you hate me a lot, but this is really cool. Keep it up.
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#18 naitivenerf

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 09:43 PM

i think if he gets this to work and make replica shells of blasters everyone wants. he will make alot of money

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Edited by Daniel Beaver, 01 May 2015 - 06:57 AM.

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