View Full Version : laminating by vacuum forming?

11-16-2006, 11:03 PM
Anybody here know anything about laminating by vacuum forming?

My understanding is that it's commonly done to put tough plastic coatings on things like MDF office furniture. I'm interested in trying to laminate vacuum-formed sheet foams and non-foam plastics.

I don't know what kind of adhesive to use, and any other tips would be appreciated.


11-17-2006, 12:22 AM
I suspect that commercially vacuum forming is not used to apply laminate to MDF......it is most likely a temperature sensitive adhesive which is pressure laminated....using an awfully large press....

Some hobbyists use vacuum forming for applying veneer to surfaces......without a large press, that is the cheapest way to do it....and they use everything from contact cement, hide glue, alphiatic glues, etc.

One of Many
11-17-2006, 12:58 AM
One company I work for several years ago, thermal formed a material called Soft Touch.

It was an ABS backed sheet with leather textured foam available in many colors on the face. The limitation was about a 1" in draw depth to a (1" rise or less), to prevent delaminating between the 2 materials. There may be a better formula in maximum elongation percentages, but cosmetics were the best indicator where ever tight inside corners were attempted. Proper die design and orientation can help minimize some of these issues.

Bottom to top heat was rather critical. You don't want to scorch the top while soaking the bottom. In a production situation , there should be enough material to get past the learning curve of forming anything unknown like this. This kind of material was not exactly cheap, but it was high quality. Beyond that, it takes a good eye to read the material as it forms. In that respect, it's not exactly a home shop project material.

I was surprised at how nice it trimmed with a Kett Saw blade. No fuzzy burrs on the foam.

Check it out here:
Spartech Plastics (http://www.spartech.com/plastics/alloys/softtouch_ABS.html)


11-17-2006, 11:13 AM
Here in Europe and I would imagine in the States too, no coloured kitchen doors are painted anymore but use a very thin coloured film on a roll which is laminated to the mdf doors (reliefs and all) via a high speed inline vaccuum forming machine. This provides a coloured durable finish that looks like it's been done with 2 pack P.U. but isn't. Have a look at a standard Ikea kitchen door to see it. Only problem is that the machines cost a fortune, (>$250,000) need to be operated in a hermetic environment, and are only suitable for mass production.

11-17-2006, 11:17 AM
skippy...I suspect that the reason they are using vacuum forming is because the film is being wrapped around the edges of the kitchen doors all in one process?

11-17-2006, 04:24 PM
I suspect that the reason they are using vacuum forming is because the film is being wrapped around the edges of the kitchen doors all in one process?

That's what I'm after, too---forming-and-laminating something around relatively complex compound curves. (No fine detail, but mostly commpound curves with a radii of roughly an inch to ten inches.)

One way would be to vacuum form two layers seperately and then vacuum-bag them together with glue, but it seems simpler to just spray some adhesive on the first layer, and then vacuum form the second layer right over it, glue and all. (And some might scorch, emit especially toxic fumes, etc. ... who knows?)

The ideal adhesive would be one that set up within a few minutes, so that I could demold the thing, and maybe even one that the temporary heat would help fix. So maybe something like a hot melt glue dissolved in a solvent so it could be sprayed, or maybe a thermoset that could use the extra kick.

I might just try various spray adhesive and see what works, but I'd be afraid that I'd find out later that I'd damaged the glue and it degraded quickly.

One advantage of laminating with the vacuum former would be that I wouldn't have to vacuum form pre-laminated stuff, and deal with trying to heat multiple materials appropriately, without overheating one or the other. Even before seeing One of Many's comment, I thought that might be tricky. Doing them in separate passes would let me use materials with significantly different thermoforming temperature ranges.