Vacuum-Forming RC-Body Shells

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This work-in-progress. Just wanted to let you know. :-D

The Goal

I wanted to make my own body shells, ones NO ONE has. Insane[1], I know. :)


The Vacuum-Forming Tools


I made two VacForm-Boxes: One with 50cm x 28cm and one 64cm x 34cm. Why?

  • The 50cm x 28cm - sized: because I can cut 3 sheets from the supplied 1000x500mm PET-G sheets[2]
  • The 64cm x 34cm - sized: because some body shells are too large for 50cmx28cm. Unfortunately I can cut only one out of above mentioned sheets.

The boxes are around 10cm high and have one 35mm - hole on the side to attach the vacuumer.

I recommend rubber seals like this: E-Profil-Seal

The finished box looks like this (and yes, drilling hundreds of 4mm-holes really bored the hell out of me):

If you have kids - great, let them help - they will be SO proud:


You also need a frame to mount the PET-G-Sheets in. Mine look like this:

The Form

Ah yes - the most important part. The positive form. I could talk hours about what to do, and what not (that is, you supply enough beverages :-D ).

DMC DeLorean

I found this STL on Thingiverse, plane-split it with MeshMixer and printed it...
DMC01.jpg DMC02.jpg DMC03.jpg DMC04.jpg DMC05.jpg DMC06.jpg DMC07.jpg

And then came filling and sanding. THAT was hard work...

Karmann Ghia

I found a great STL at Thingiverse.

I split it in 4 pieces and printed it:

While glueing it together I noticed:

  • It doesn't have windows! Dang, should have checked this before!
  • It doesn't have lights! (same)
  • I can't vacform this as one piece, because I would never get the form out.

First I fixed the windows:
Ghia10.jpg Ghia12.jpg Ghia13.jpg

Then I designed tail and headlights and glued them on:
Ghia20.jpg Ghia21.jpg

I designed a tailpiece, that can be vacformed separately:

Then came more modelling, filling and sanding...
Ghia40.jpg Ghia41.jpg Ghia42.jpg Ghia43.jpg Ghia44.jpg Ghia45.jpg

The Heater

I ended up with a box fitting my two frames. It is about 60cm high and houses two RoWi 1.2KW heaters[3] at the bottom and has aluminium (YES. ALUMINIUM![4]) lining on the side walls:

Decals & Masks

Ah, no body shell without decals!

I use OraMask masking tape and Sattleford adhesive film with a Oki C332 colour laser printer, which can transport the film without bending.


This is how I designd them using OmniGraffle:

The Results


VacFormDMCResult01.jpg VacFormDMCResult02.jpg VacFormDMCResult03.jpg VacFormDMCResult04.jpg VacFormDMCResult05.jpg VacFormDMCResult06.jpg VacFormDMCResult07.jpg


Did I mention it also looks good with VTA-Tires?
VacFormDMCResult10.jpg VacFormDMCResult11.jpg VacFormDMCResult12.jpg VacFormDMCResult13.jpg VacFormDMCResult14.jpg

Karmann Ghia

This are photos of the very first try:
Ghia90.jpg Ghia91.jpg Ghia92.jpg Ghia93.jpg Ghia94.jpg

The Lessons Learned

  • Print the parts as big as you can (meaning: less parts, less transitions, less filling, less sanding)
  • Filling takes more time than 3D-designing (see the Ghia's windows!)
  • Don't ever use different fillers on the same surface! (I did...and ended up with an surface on which I have two fillers, one is easy to sand, the other is not, which makes it very hard to get it levelled!)
  • 140°C is about right for PET-G
  • Act quickly! Heat it up, fire up the vacuumer and hit the box with the frame as fast and accurately you can!

  • Footnotes: