Our Vacuum Forming mold Process
1) The Pattern: The process of making a J&M Ceramic vacuum form mold begins with the pattern. Generally made of wood, we either produce the pattern to your specifications, or work from your supplied pattern. All J&M produced patterns are primered and sanded prior to beginning the process, so as to keep the tool as even and smooth as possible.
2) The Negative (a.k.a. SPLASH): This is the first step in building a ceramic vacuum forming mold. Through our lamination process, a reverse copy of the pattern is produced -- essentially a thin tool in the negative form. This process generally takes a day. Once the splash has been completed, we trim the edges, release it from the pattern, flip it over, frame it with wood, and prep the surface.
3) The Vacuum Forming Mold: With the splash complete, we begin work on the tool. A surface coat of ceramic material is applied, and allowed to harden. We then build the tool in several applications over the course of two to three days, depending on the size and shape of the project. Each application is painstakingly applied so as to eliminate any air voids, which makes for a rock solid tool.
4) Bracing: A J&M vacuum forming mold isn't solid, so the interior void of each one receives custom bracing. Each set of braces is evaluated on a case by case basis in order to determine the most effective way to ensure the structural integrity of the mold. We use furniture grade plywood, cut to mirror the contour of the mold which is arranged in an "egg crate" or honeycomb fashion, and then ultimately married to the interior of the mold.
5) Prep: We take extreme pride in our attention to detail, but the realities of working in a vacuum forming mold shop (think, dust) necessitate at least minor prep work on most of our finished tools. Depending on your request and the type of plastic you will be running, we have a number of options.
6) Drilling:Every vacuum forming mold is hand drilled to your specifications. From 1/8" or 1/16" bits for patterns, 3/64" and 1/32" diameter bits for most tools, and on down to the microscopic #78 (.0160 diameter) bits that we use for face drilling TPO tools, we take the time to do it and do it right.
7) The Vacuum Box & Base: Unless otherwise requested, our vacuum forming tools are all mounted on a (nearly) bulletproof vacuum box which is constructed on legs to meet your particular requirements, and then married to the tool with ceramic material and screws. Over the years we have reached a decision on the design that we feel provides the best balance of stability and light weight, but we are more than happy to build to your specifications.
8) Quality Control: Before it is delivered or shipped, each vacform tool goes through our quality control process. It will be checked for vacuum, foil taped, and then approved for surface quality. Despite attention to detail and precision, mistakes can and do happen. This is how we catch them.