So you don't like pre-made cases? Not exactly the right size? Well look no further because this guide will show you how to vacuum form cases!
Materials you'll need:
2. vacuum forming table and frame (you can make your own, more details later)
3. plastic (this is good stuff for small portables: http://www.indplastic.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=detail&id=1097063&product=303
4. mold (more details later)
6. something to hold up frame in oven (oven safe bowl and the like)
7. Large office clips
This is an easy enough tool to get. Pretty much any vacuum will work, it just has to have a hose on it.
2. Vacuum forming table and frame
These can actually be really easy to make all you need is a saw and wood. (The more dense the wood the better, makes a better seal)
The table consists of three basic layers. The first one is the base layer, this layer is just a normal piece of with a hole in it the right size for the hose of your vacuum. The second layer is the spacer layer, this allows the suction from the vacuum to suck air through all of the holes in the third layer. The third layer has holes in it, hence the name "hole layer". The hole layer is what you place the mold on and has all the holes that suck the air out from under the plastic.
Here's basically what it looks like.
You can see the hole layer is smaller then the other two layers because the frame needs to fit over the hole layer. The frame is just two squares with smaller squares cut out in the middle for the plastic. Here's my table and frame.
I originally built this for my first n64p so I taped up some unnecessary holes.
You can also see the frame is held together by large office clips
Basically you need sturdy plastic that can me softened by an oven. I buy mine from here: http://www.indplastic.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=detail&id=1097063&product=303
You can buy different thicknesses too but I like this because it's very strong after it's molded, if your portable is going to be very long and wide then you may need a thicker plastic.
This is actually the hardest part of vacuum forming because it can be difficult to make it by hand. You can make it out of anything though, clay, wood, etc. I made mine out of wood and cut it with a saw so it's almost perfectly uniform. If your case isn't going to be symmetrical you're going to need a mold for the front and the back. Here's mine:
Another household appliance. You just need one that can go to 430 F (220 C) and can fit the frame inside.
6. Frame holder
The plastic will sag when it is warmed so as not to burn it on the metal shelf you need to raise it with something. You can use an oven safe bowl or anything that's small and will fit. You could put legs on the bottom of the frame but when you take it out you have to flip it to get it on the table.
7. Large office clips
You probably already have these, but there probably not big enough. Basically a mini clamp that can hold the two parts of the frame together. You can see mine in the previous picture. Office clips also work well because you can squeeze and pull out the metal handle.
Optional. mold spacer
This is optional but I recommend raising the mold slightly off the table. This allows the plastic to form around the whole mold with out curving out too early. You can use some scrap wood or the like for this.
STEPS FOR MOLDING
Ok now we are ready to form the plastic.
1. Place oven spacer for the the frame in the oven
2. Preheat oven to 430°F (220°C)
3. Prepare the table by putting the vacuum hose into the base of the table, putting the mold spacer on, and put the mold on the spacer
4. Place plastic sheet into frame and clip them together with the office clips
5. Place frame into oven
6. Wait approximately 2 minutes for the plastic to soften (it will sag 1-2 inches)
7. When the plastic is done softening turn the vacuum on, pull out the frame, and place the frame on the table over the mold
8. Let the vacuum run for about 5 seconds
9. Turn off the vacuum and wait a few minutes for the mold to harden and cool
Finally you should end up with this.
Now when you pull the frame off the mold will probably be stuck in the plastic. It may take a little force to remove it, or it could fall out on to the table.
And that's it, you now have a plastic case. Now all you have to do is cut it off the extra plastic. You can use a dremel or other power tools for this. With the right cutting and sanding you can end up with the first half of your new plastic case.
A little extra tip is to score the excess plastic with a knife then snap it off of the case.