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Thread: Vacuum Film Technique - A Quick Explanation

  1. #1
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    Default Vacuum Film Technique - A Quick Explanation

    Due to time constraints, I have not had the resources to get a proper ShopBot Web Column article properly done...So until I do, here's a quick & dirty write up of what I call the 'Vacuum Film Technique'

    I have been using this technique for the past few years to hold tightly nested, small and/or thin parts securely to the vacuum table without the need for tabs or other labor intensive band aids. I have used it to machine all types of plastics, non-ferrous metals (silver nickel, brass, AL) and even thin wood veneer.

    (pics to follow at some point...I'm not at the shop at the moment)

    I'll explain the basic concept using a 4 X 8 X .1875" Cast Acrylic sheet as our material to cut. Let's say we have an entire sheet completely nested with parts with little or no scrap, in order to get this job we desperately need to keep afloat.

    I'll start by cleaning one side of the acrylic paper with a dust brush. Then I will adhere two 24" wide strips of High Tack transfer tape, taking care to avoid bubbles. Use a J-roller to firmly adhere the tape to the paper on the acrylic sheet. Then I take 6" wide mounting tape, which is very aggressive & double sided, and stick it to the entire back of the transfer tape I just put on. Then I take a $7 4X8 sheet of Coroplast (corrugated plastic) and laminate it to the mounting tape to give me a layup that looks something like this:

    Acrylic Layer
    High Tack Transfer Tape Layer
    DS Mounting Tape Layer
    4mm Coroplast Layer

    I run the J-roller over the whole deal and make sure everything is bonded really well. Then I place the whole layup right on my universal vacuum bleeder & pull vacuum. I cut my parts, keeping an eye on things to make sure I am not asking too much from this hold down system by cutting too aggressively. If I get part movement, I make adjustments, but it is rare that I have to do this. I cut all the way thru the acrylic, tapes and well into the coroplast. This allows me to cut all the way thru the parts without ever breaking vacuum. The vaccum holds the coroplast...the coroplast holds the tapes to the acrylic.

    When cutting is complete, I simply peel off the acrylic along with it's protective paper. The super aggressive adhesive remains attached to the coroplast and the transfer tape easily peels off the paper backer on the acrylic without a hitch. The mounting & transfer tapes are so thin that adhesive build up does not typically present a problem.

    That's it! Now you can cut parts you only dreamed of cutting before!

    Everything I mention here is from HarborSales.net:

    Mounting Tape
    6" x 72 yd | White | Double Side Adhesive
    216 Double Coated Poly Film Mounting Tape
    Price: $64.77 ea

    Transfer Tape
    #4076 | Conform/RLA | Higher Tack
    24" x 100 Yards
    Price: $58.00 ea

    OK - This needs to be said to many of you. You MUST charge for part fixtures since there is a consumable cost - the coroplast and tapes, plus your labor in laying everything up. If the customer balks at this, then you might want to think about getting some new customers. There is no reason why you should have to pay for this out of your own pocket. I prorate the cost of the tapes and coroplast and charge shop rate for labor in the layup.

    You are essentially giving the customer superior edge quality for just a few bucks more than a hack job and tabs. Something for you to consider.

    -B
    High Definition 3D Laser Scanning Services - Advanced ShopBot CNC Training and Consultation - Vectric Custom Video Training IBILD.com

  2. #2
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    Default

    Brady- that is an excellent technique. Thank you for sharing. I can see where that could be very useful in my applications.

    I can see a rich area to explore there for holding down all manner of parts.

    Good thinking!

    D
    "The best thing about building something new is either you succeed or learn something. Its a win-win situation."

    --Greg Westbrook

  3. #3
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    Default

    this may be better then contact cement. think it would stick to wood?

  4. #4
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    Thanks guys. I'll get some pics together as soon as my life simmers down a little. This method works unbelievably well, compared to every other method of hold down when doing thin or small parts. I have literally cut hundreds of thousands of parts with this technique.

    Steve - I have used it for solid & sheet/plywood type material up to 1/4" thick. I'm not saying that it wouldn't work for parts thicker than this, but you have to stop and think about the physics going on in the cutting process. The thicker the material, the greater the force that can potentially be exerted against your hold down method. Even with conservative step downs, it is possible for a spiral bit to lift the material in such a way that it causes the transfer tape to fail. So using thick materials with this method is something you guys should try out - and then report back to the group to share your findings.

    Non-porous materials are not a problem. Woods and other porous materials should be cleaned religiously and tested for adhesion. Veneers of any material are a cakewalk with this system. It is VERY important to use a j-roller to really get these sheets to stick together. A professional lamination machine is really the best...but don't bother unless you already have one in your vinyl shop.

    -B
    High Definition 3D Laser Scanning Services - Advanced ShopBot CNC Training and Consultation - Vectric Custom Video Training IBILD.com

  5. #5
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    i used your method today to cut 1/4" pvc and it worked great
    a less aggresive application tape seems to works better with pvc
    it really sticks to the raw pvc

    I ran my cut file again to clean up the welded shavings and nothing moved even though some of the parts were less than 1/2" x 3/4"
    almost no sanding

    great tip! thanks

  6. #6
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    Quite a testament Randy.. 1/2 x 3/4" is really small!

    Brady, Thanks for posting the tip. I have been using almost the same method except that I usually use our "Premier" Contact Adhesive spray setup instead of your double sided tape layer. This contact cement is pricey and may not be saving me any material costs but I do think it may be faster. But thats only cause I have it here already.

    Do you apply the double sided tape (6" wide roll) continuously over the full area you plan to cut? Even if done that way, you could still get about 3 full sheets from a 72 yard roll.

    And I fully agree about charging for ANY necessary hold-down, clean-up, or any other reguired procedure regardles of what it might be. I do here, at full shop rate, and I hope all others are as well. Please dont give it away!!

  7. #7
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    Randy,
    Glad you were able to test it out! Yes - On really smooth plastics etc, the transfer tape really takes hold. BUT...the good part is that it comes off of the finished part easy enough to not damage or kink the part. This is really helpful on thin aluminum, where carpet tape would just ruin the parts because there is no way around not bending the AL to get it off the table.

    John,
    I have used contact cement as well, and it winds up being a bit cheaper than the tape. I didn't want to have to mess with cleanup or kill myself with the fumes. There are some good low odor water based contact cements out there, but unless I am doing 5+ 4X8 sheets, then setting up for it isn't worth it. I just use the tape.

    HINT - Try cuttings some 1.5" tall letters using this method. Sorta opens up a whole new realm of things you can cut on a ShopBot doesn't it?

    -B
    High Definition 3D Laser Scanning Services - Advanced ShopBot CNC Training and Consultation - Vectric Custom Video Training IBILD.com

  8. #8
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    Brady,

    Thanks for sharing! Now, I have a few questions when you have some time.

    1) You mentioned that this method works for "thin wood veneer" as well. Exactly how thin? Standard commercial veneer is about 1/40th of an inch.

    2) How small of pieces did you try cutting in veneer? I sometimes have pieces that are about the size of a small child's fingernail.

    3) I do not have vacuum hold-down on my PRT. I usually use screws. My thoughts are that a) the pieces that I will be cutting will be relatively small. That is, anywhere from smaller than a dime to about 15". b) I could simply use the same materials as you suggest but screw the coroplast to the spoilboard instead of using vacuum. Your thoughts?

    4) What thickness coroplast do you use?

    5) I believe I understand your description, but photos are always nice.

    Thanks!
    Charles

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckurak View Post
    Brady,

    Thanks for sharing! Now, I have a few questions when you have some time.

    1) You mentioned that this method works for "thin wood veneer" as well. Exactly how thin? Standard commercial veneer is about 1/40th of an inch.

    2) How small of pieces did you try cutting in veneer? I sometimes have pieces that are about the size of a small child's fingernail.

    3) I do not have vacuum hold-down on my PRT. I usually use screws. My thoughts are that a) the pieces that I will be cutting will be relatively small. That is, anywhere from smaller than a dime to about 15". b) I could simply use the same materials as you suggest but screw the coroplast to the spoilboard instead of using vacuum. Your thoughts?

    4) What thickness coroplast do you use?

    5) I believe I understand your description, but photos are always nice.

    Thanks!
    1) As thin as you can get it. You could probably hold down tin foil.

    2) The last I recall is about 1200 parts @ 3/8 X 3/4" with a 1/16" bit. It boils down to machine resolution at that point.

    3) Screws = Bad News. If you have a shopvac, and some scrap, then you have enough to put together even a rudimentary vac setup. Have you at least tried some type of vacuum hold down? If not, you are missing out big time! Anyway....Just use carpet tape on the back side of the coroplast to mount it to the spoilboard. Screws and small precise parts should never be mentioned in the same sentence, when it comes to cutting.

    4) The cheap kind....4mm I believe. Don't get stuck on the 'it's gotta be coroplast' thing. It is cheap and available for me...you can just as easily use scraps of PVC or whatever you have laying around. Stay away from woods if you can.

    5) Yeah...

    -B
    High Definition 3D Laser Scanning Services - Advanced ShopBot CNC Training and Consultation - Vectric Custom Video Training IBILD.com

  10. #10
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    Thumbs up

    Thanks Brady

    You just opened up a whole new world..........
    http://www.WoodworkingByErminio.com

    Custom Cabinetry, Furniture ,CNC Services
    Email:Wberminio@msn.com
    914-666-8746 Shop/Office

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