How big of a vacuum form machine do I need?


I want to build a vacuum form machine, but I have a few questions.

How big should I make it? I want to be able to make a full set of armor, so at least big enough to make a chest piece.

What kind of plastic should I use? What thickness?

Does anyone have a preferred place to get their plastics?
you can do almost everything with a 24"x24".
24"x 36" if the piece is over sized.

The one my friend had set up was modular with an active 24"x24" and had a removable wall and separate switch for making it 24"x36.

He also had assorted strips of metal to lay on the top so we could alter the opening down to a 4"x4".
With extra strips on the top you can use different sized frames so you don't waste large pieces of plastic on small parts.

24"x 12" for arms and legs, 12"x12" 12"x6", 6"x6", etc...

For the table we used neoprene foam with the opening in the middle.
All the bucks where raised on small 1/4" thick triangles of acrylic for the air flow.
We would wet the foam to help protect it and to quickly cool the plastic that came in contact with it.
Thanks alot! I was thinking 24x24 would be about right, but I figured asking those with experience couldn't hurt. What kind of plastic works best? I'd actually like to do some things with clear plastic as well, like visors or face shields
You are limited by the size of the heater, as that will draw all the power. And they do draw a lot of power!

That said, I did all my armor on a 24x24. But it is nice to have a little extra room for something big that might come along.

Take a look at the Proto-form machine plans. That is a good design for the home fabricator, and the sell oven kits to eliminate the worry.
Styrene works best when starting out because it resists 'boil', but ABS is the plastic of choice for armor because of it's durability and ease to cut. Thickness for armor is based on how durable you want it. .040-.060" is widely used for film projects and .080-.090" is the accepted standard for convention use. Gonna make something clear or smoke - run with PETG and take care not to overheat it.
Styrene works well for a lot of things but gets brittle over time when exposed to UV's and pollution and will eventually crack at any stress points.

ABS is more flexible and stands up well but has the drawback of needing to be moisture free when heating or it will bubble and get an orange peel type surface.
Depending on humidity where you live the sheets may need to be placed in a heating box to dry them out.

For both I have pulled from 1/16" to 1/8"

PETG works well for clear pulls you just need to watch it closely to avoid it bubbling.
It can also be tinted in a bath of RIT dye.
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