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twistedsymphony

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Those of you who follow my projects know that I bough myself an industrial-sized Vacuum Forming machine about a year and a half ago: The Obligatory "Post Your Recent Purchases" Thread



I bought this explicitly to attempt to create reproduction part for my Sega Flash Beats Cabinet: Sega Flash Beats Restoration


I've mused in various threads about using this machine for other projects such as reproducing the official Capcom CPS1 cases, Shock Boxes for PGM carts, and Pinball Ramps and other stuff. What else can this be used for? well Vacuum forming is actually a really common process for large plastic parts or small plastic parts with low production quantities. As such it's used a lot in arcades. nearly every plastic parts on that Sega Flash Beats Machine is Vacuum Formed. A lot of the large plastic parts on Racing and other simulation cabs are vacuum formed (such as seat-backs, dash boards, etc), pinball rams, and large plastic toppers (like the one on Alien Syndrome) etc.

Generally if the plastic part is like a large "shell" with one large open size and no internal structure (ie: no screw posts and no "fins"), it's most likely vacuum formed. So there are a lot of potential uses for one of these machines, particularly a large one like mine. Despite the fact that I own this machine and have for over a year and a half none of this has come to fruition, for a number of reasons.


This topic came up again recently and I thought I'd start a dedicated thread to just keep track of what needs to happen for this stuff to move forward.

Problem #1: this machines needs to 240V AC and my garage isn't wired for it, due to the way things are laid out in my current garage I wouldn't be able to use the machine during the winter months and last Fall we were considering moving in the Spring so it didn't make sense to hire an electrician to upgrade the power in the garage only to have to have it done again at the new place... well COVID threw a wrench in those plans and the move got put off at least another year at this point, and my garage is still packed away like winter so yeah...


Problem #2: I need to install additional heat elements in the header, and reconfigure the machine. currently it's setup for only using part of the vacuum bed and while this will be fine for smaller items it's not so for the Flash Beats control panel. This really hasn't been a priority since without power I can't use the machine and even before I reconfigure it it'd probably be best to use it in it's current configuration on smaller parts to learn the ropes before I start modifying it and wasting huge expensive sheets of plastic to learn how to use it.


Problem #3: Sourcing material. I've found companies that sell clear, smooth, PETG and I've found companies that sell textured black, ABS but I've not found anyone that sells anything else. For Flash beats I need a very specific color of translucent blue/purple PETG and for the CPS1 cases I need gray (not sure what material the originals are but I don't think it matters much), and pinball ramps are all sorts of different colors.
These materials must be out there somewhere, I'm using the same process of the original manufacturer so where are the original manufacturers sourcing their materials?

Problem #4: Trimming the parts. Even after I get the machine working, find the material, make my molds, and use it, I'm left with a large sheet of plastic with perfectly shaped bump in it. the part needs to be trimmed out and in the case of something like the CPS1 cases additional mounting and vent holes need to be trimmed out. it's unclear how this is done in the original manufacturing process but something like a Dremmel or router should be used with some kind of jig... I'm still not sure on the best process for this though. Doing this purely by hand seems like it'd be a nightmare if I want consistent and high quality cuts the "skill" needs to be taken out of the process.


Why make this thread
I don't have any one single place where I've laid out all of the Vacuum forming stuff and I do get asked about it on occasion so now it's all in one place and I can keep this thread updated and reference people here going forward.

Also, maybe someone in the community can offer some insights into resolving problems #3 and #4? Obviously problems #1 and 2 are ones that only I can solve myself but I haven't put much effort into them until 3 and 4 are resolved.

So if you know where I can get material other than plain clear and textured black, or have any insights on how to construct a cutting jig or what tools to use, or simply have some ideas for vacuum formed parts that would benefit the community please post! :thumbsup:
 

bagheera369

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You need to ping a conversation with the folks that are reproducing pinball ramps......all vaccuformed and they should have some insight. Unsure if there are conversations on Pinside, or if you're going to have to dig deeper,...but there is wisdom there, im sure.
 

twistedsymphony

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that's not a bad idea... certainly in the arcade space they have more experience than anyone else.
 

twistedsymphony

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lol for sure. It just always astounds me how much people pay for pinball machines and accessories. it really is a whole different market from Video Arcades.
 

jermz1

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you possible could do a large silicone mold and cast a piece.
 

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I am actually a 20 year pinball collector who is sick of the crazy prices of pinball and is finding the «expensive » arcade games pretty darn cheap and having a blast!
 

bagheera369

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Pinball is like Cave and Raizing Shmups....strictly pay to play, unless you're into EM's, and willing to horde parts.

Ive been fortunate, in finding some deals....much like my candy cabs.....but they are still, extremely high dollar investments.

If you stick to the mainstream stuff, parts and playfields are made pretty regularly....but you get into the obscure, and yes, you can wait years for a part to show.

I've got a few left that I want...but after those 2-4, I'm happy with the collection and done.....much like I'll probably get another vewlix or two, and then I'm out of the buying game.
 

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These materials must be out there somewhere, I'm using the same process of the original manufacturer so where are the original manufacturers sourcing their materials?
I don't have any clue where to buy colored petg or what the options are, but I do know some of the pinball ramp makers dye the pieces after forming. Here is one thread with a treasure trove of information on vacuum forming: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/freeplay40-ramps -- Ordered two ramps from him yesterday, I think the prices are reasonable for hand made niche market goods I cannot buy anywhere else.

or have any insights on how to construct a cutting jig or what tools to use
Multi axis cnc routers, die punching is common in the high volume world

Bespoke molds I have seen a shop have a cutting buck, a shape the similar to the original mold but with guide channels cut into it for rotatory tool to follow (ie; rotozip, palm router, etc)
 

twistedsymphony

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I don't have any clue where to buy colored petg or what the options are, but I do know some of the pinball ramp makers dye the pieces after forming. Here is one thread with a treasure trove of information on vacuum forming: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/freeplay40-ramps
Thanks for that! that thread had this interesting video:

I'm gonna need a some enormous buckets... these Flash Beats control panel are about 100cm (40in) wide!
I'll have to read more later I'm sure there's some more excellent info in there. Thanks!

Bespoke molds I have seen a shop have a cutting buck, a shape the similar to the original mold but with guide channels cut into it for rotatory tool to follow (ie; rotozip, palm router, etc)
yeah the guy I bought this machine from was using it to make replica dashboards for classic Jaguars, he had a cutting buck he madeand was using a dremmel like tool to trim. the biggest head scratcher for me is how I can cut really tight shapes like the vent holes on the back of the CPS1 case.

maybe there is some info in that thread about good cutting options for that, there certainly seems like a few of those rams have similar small holes in tight spots.
 

TheDeath

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Cool :)
I have a Formech 450DT, i used to reproduce mostly plastic inlay trays for Neo Geo, Super Famicom, Famicom, and soo on.. that maschine cost me 3500 euro..
i gained back the investment and now it just sits there in my lab... i haven't find other useful ways to use it, but the real hassle is the primary mold. Make these were a pain in the ass
 

twistedsymphony

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yeah these machines are quite expensive, based on the number of people who are interested in just the Flash Beats control panels though, if I can make them properly I should be able to make back my investment.

Any tips from your experience?
 

TheDeath

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yeah these machines are quite expensive, based on the number of people who are interested in just the Flash Beats control panels though, if I can make them properly I should be able to make back my investment.

Any tips from your experience?
Yeah, lots of patience :D
Probably in US the situation is different but here finding the ABS/PET was pretty hard and expensive. I had to go through ebay to find proper sheets when i need them. Luckly my local hobby store had constant quantity of thin trasparent poly and that was the mostly i used for the inlays.
Don't use wood for the master mold, none of them, they just stick on it no matter what you use, i even try to oil the surface but it never worked out, until i used hardened clay.
Also, master molds must be perfect, one of them took me 4 tries just because there was a slight angle that would not prevent the mold to pop off and i had to think a solution over and over.
 

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I don't have any clue where to buy colored petg or what the options are, but I do know some of the pinball ramp makers dye the pieces after forming. Here is one thread with a treasure trove of information on vacuum forming: pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/freeplay40-ramps -- Ordered two ramps from him yesterday, I think the prices are reasonable for hand made niche market goods I cannot buy anywhere else.
FreePlay40 is my friend's dad, he got into pinball ramp repro as something to do in his retirement. He's documented a lot of his journey into learning things, definitely a good resource.

Part of the expense of pinball ramps is their size and the work and effort required to even be able to make them. Doing a buck for a big ramp is no small project. And then of course you have to be able to pull a pretty big vacuum, do the trimming etc. It adds up.

But yeah, put me in the camp of pinball collector who got burned out on the crazy prices and chasing the next game. I've whittled my collection down to 3 games, and I'm really not playing them right now. It's a cool community in some ways, and a major bummer in others. In these political times being into a hobby that's mostly old white men with money ... well, you can figure the rest out probably.
 

twistedsymphony

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You pinball guys might appreciate this... Dude in the next town over from me is ranked #1 in the NH pinball league the last few years and I think he came in 18th or so at nationals last year.

he's not wealthy but does restorations for people that are to fund his own restorations he's currently designing and building a Sonic Themed Pinball from scratch:
109338481_754027546583_6382016985999207394_o.jpg
 

Aurich

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That's a pretty slick looking homebrew, haven't seen that one. That loop ramp on the left looks fun, like to see how that shoots.
 

twistedsymphony

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Reading through the Freeplay40 thread I came across this:


Freeplay40 said:
Colored PETG is just simply not stocked by anyone in the US. It can be ordered from overseas, but the minimum order is about 2,000#. What a shame.
This is sadly what I was running into in searching for colors to do the parts I need. :(

looks like dying will be the only real option

I wonder how well it would work if I dyed whole sheets BEFORE vacuum forming
 
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