Vacu-form machines

Many years ago the Mattell toy company made a Vacu-form machine that enabled plastic models to be made from scratch with just small flat sheets of plastic put over a mold and then melted or formed to the original form in the machine.

Is there any similar device available today (one that doesn’t cost a fortune), or are there any plans available to make one of my own?)

I suspect it’s no longer an ‘acceptable’ item for kids - unless someone’s developed a plastic that melts at breath temperature…

You can find plans here. No idea what the total cost is, but it does give plans for a low-cost and high-cost version.

Here’s an example


Creepy Crawlers (the same machine with a different color scheme and food-themed molds was marketed for girls) was sold about 10 years ago.

Melt O Matic, the magic plastic melting machine (The ads featured the voice of Oswald from the Drew Carey show) was sold about 5 years ago.

At the moment, I cannot recall any recent vacuum molding toys. Creepy Crawlers and Melt O Matic, as far as I know, relied on plastic which melted when heated by a light bulb in an enclosed space.

I have quite a few sheets of black ABS Vacuforming plastic out in the shed. Project from a few years back. One needs very special tools and a heck of a vacuum pump to really make a go of that technique.

I can soften the stuff in boiling water ( 212 F ), but not make any real inroads till I heat it either in the oven on a plank of wood, or with a heat gun. It’s remarkable stuff. Most ATM machinest that are in the corner bodega have an ABS vacuum formed shell over them.

Not kids toys at all…


I bought an old working Fun Flowers kit on eBay a couple of years ago. Fun Flowers was the same basic model as Creepy Crawlers, except that it had flowers for the forms instead of bugs and lizards. This was an ORIGINAL Fun Flowers set, the kind that you could get second degree burns from. While I was searching for this item, trying to recapture my childhood, I found a lot of Vacu Form machines, too. The prices ranged from very reasonable to outrageous, depending on the seller and the condition of the item.

I had one of those Vac-U-Forms as a kid. In fact, I still think it’s in my parents’ attic. Great fun, until the pre-sized and perforated plastic sheets ran out.

You certainly can build your own vac-u-form. It’s a standard plastic forming method (the toy just miniaturized an existing technique). When I was in grad school, another grad student built his own from scratch and used it in his apartment kitchen to manufacture night-time frisbees. Not glow-in-the-dark frisbees – these frisbees used sophisticated flexible electronics that caused lights around the rim to turn on when it flew (centrifugal switches) and to blink when it landed (so you could find the disk in the dark). Nifty stuff. The vac-u-form mold was one big hunk of aluminum, though.

I remember seeing a vending machine that did this. You put your money in it, chose from about 3 or 4 possible models, and watched as the machine pushed out a mold, dropped a sheet of plastic over it, heated & vacu-formed the plastic over the mold, and then ejected the model into a slot where you could pick it up, still warm!

There was one of these in the building at Itasca State Park, near the head of the Mississippi river. One of the choices was a model of the carved tree at the headwaters. I remember getting one of these, and watching it being made was an exciting highlight of that trip. This was about 40 years ago; no idea if they still have such vending machines there now.

I had one of those as a kid. It may still be in my parent’s basement. We had a lot of fun with that thing, and of course we knew better than to burn ourselves with it. I understand why toys like it aren’t sold anymore but it still seems a shame. They show up for sale on eBay occasionally. In fact, I just checked and a few are on auction right now. Just search “All Categories” for “vacuform”.



Yep, that’s it exactly.