October 8, 2017
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Variable vacuum-formed plastic

Although vacuum-forming molds are typically costly, the parts they produce are relatively inexpensive due to the economy of mass production. Vacuum-formed thermoplastics display several other positive attributes. For example, the plastics are light and, when formed correctly, require little structural support. They are durable, impervious to water, and noncorrosive. Most thermoplastics are recyclable, and new bioplastics are produced from renewable resources.

Minneapolis- and Vancouver-based design and research firm HouMinn Practice explores vacuum forming as a method for producing low-cost, multifaceted architectural surfaces, despite the fact that the cost of the mold and its inflexibility typically prohibit aggregation with difference. The VarVac system is made by suspending heated plastic sheets in midair over a wood frame with connective wires. The end of each wire may be manually shifted along the x or y axis, providing the opportunity for endless variability via simple, rapid changes during setup. Once heated, depressions form on the plastic sheet in the voids between the wires. The cooled material is then cut with a CNC router to form voids, which may be strategically located for functions such as acoustic absorption or access to light switches. When panels are combined to form a unified surface, the result is a heterogeneous field that can be tuned precisely to meet local needs and preexisting physical conditions.

Contact: HouMinn Practice, Edina, MN, USA.

For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future

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