Design and Technology (D&T) KS3: Vacuum forming

This short film explains the process of vacuum forming, which is an easy way to make hollow plastic mouldings which can be used in a wide variety of RMT design projects.

Teacher Notes

Points for discussion

What are the important things to look out for in creating the design of the mould or pattern? For example:

  • No undercuts
  • An appropriate ‘draft angle’ on the mould/pattern. Why?
  • Suitable materials

What happens to the plastic before, during and after heating? This can lead onto a discussion of thermoplastic polymer chains and how they can be reshaped and reused, sustainability and issues related to recycling plastics, what happens to plastic waste leftover from the mouldings, etc.

What type of products and components is this process most useful for?

How can vacuum forming be used in prototyping and in the iterative design development of a new product?

What are the pros and cons of vacuum forming compared to other plastic forming methods? For example, drape forming, line bending, etc. Why might vacuum forming be selected over these as the best process for a particular component?

Suggested activities

This process can be used for a whole range of design and make projects. Ideas might include:

  • Creating the body shell for a streamlined racing car. The chassis could be made from softwood, using standard wheels and welding wire as axles.
  • Making the housing for a clock mechanism. The mould can be made from MDF to hold a standard AA battery clock mechanism. The clock face part of the mould could be retained and a graphic applied to it for the final product.
  • Making small compartments for a wooden jewellery or trinket box.
  • Creating a recessed desk tidy for homework stationery.
  • As this process can be used for making components, it can be used in a wide range of KS4 design and make projects.

Curriculum Notes

Suitable for teaching design and technology (D&T) at KS3/KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 3rd/4th levels in Scotland.

More from this series

Laminating wood
Line bending
Drape forming