New thermoformer at Nova Labs

Eric with the completed thermoformer Nova Labs member Eric K. recently finished building a large thermoformer that will be co-located in the shops. He gave us some details about the tool and its capabilities:

Proto-Form thermoformer build

Heating elementsThe thermoformer uses 2×4 foot sheets of plastic. The 208v heating oven is divided into 2 zones, allowing us to save electricity when heating smaller sheets of plastic. Each zone is also independently heat controlled, allowing the user to heat plastic more slowly if desired. The oven is equipped with two shut-off interlocks for safety.


Safety timerIt has not been fully tested, but it is expected to form plastic up to 1/4″ thick, with up to 12″ of draw depth. It will form ABS, Acrylic, Styrene, PVC, Polycarbonate, and other thermoplastics.

Vacuum guage and heat controlsIt was built based on the Proto-Form build plans available from Workshop Publishing ( It was built entirely at Nova Labs, and will remain co-located there for the foreseeable future.

Circuit breakers

The machine uses a 208v circuit, so it needs some big breakers to keep things safe.

Near-term improvements include: building a plastic cutting jig to help with sizing material, making adapters to use smaller plastic sheet sizes, and running wiring that will allow us to move the thermoformer into the laser lab.

For the time being, only a few people are authorized to use the machine. We will be spending a couple of months testing the machine and its capabilities, and expect to offer the first training class in mid-June. I am usually at Nova Labs Monday and Thursday evenings, and will be happy to discuss projects and explain the machine.

Thermo formed part for plane

A large part for Nova Labs’ Rhinohawk team that was recently tested on the machine.