Forming vs 3D Printing

Q: I'm often asked why do you Vacuum Form rather than 3D Print.

A: I emphasize, they are not mutually exclusive, each process has advantages and disadvantages. I just happened to start with Vacuum Forming because it was an economical solution to what I needed at the time. There is really not a one tool solution to 3D output anymore than a one program solution to computing. Different tools are needed to solve different problems and this is no different.

The best case scenario is using both 3D and Forming to compliment each other. For example the 3D printer is well suited to print high tolerance structures such as for internal scaffolding for a power tool as an example. The Vacuum Former is better suited for exterior surfaces where the finish is important. Used together, each tool is used for its best application with a better end result. 

To sum it up, it just depends on what you're trying to accomplish. For me, It continues to fit my particular needs. In a garage setting I'm able to quickly form parts of different plastics, finishes, textures and sizes. I also found its more end maker friendly where less hands on attention is needed for completion. Below you will see parts that would be challenging for a 3D printer to do and/or do economically.

The more I work with this tool the more I realize its untapped potential. I keep pushing the boundaries and find that I can overcome many things that previously seemed out of reach. The strategy in which molds are designed and built largely affect what can be accomplished. I find these problems very gratifying to solve.

This half scale engine facade is built from formed plastics that encapsulates a store bought cooler. The engine is an example of how multiple forms, plastics, finishes, textures and colors can be brought together to create something that would be difficult to do with other output devices. Add to that the economics and rapid repeatability, all done in a garage setting.