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Circuit Breaker

The Vaquform is a desktop vacuum former for rapid prototyping and custom costumes

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‘Suck fast. Squeeze Hard.’

Vacuum forming is a manufacturing technique that’s been around for a while. You take a heated sheet of plastic, press it down onto the object you’d like to make a mold of, and then use a vacuum to suction down the sheet of plastic to accurately capture the exact details. It’s a pretty analogue process for the most part, but the Vaquform is a Kickstarter project that hopes to add some digital technology to the mix, while also promising to bring an industrial level of quality to a more consumer-friendly form factor at a lower price.

The Vaquform’s digital smarts come in the form of a IR probe for monitoring the temperature of the plastic and preset settings for different material thicknesses and types, making it relatively easy to just start making dozens of horrifying, realistic masks. The system also uses a two-part vacuum system — first, a low-pressure, high-speed vacuum quickly sucks out most of the air, followed by a slower but more powerful vacuum that helps mold the plastic more closely to get the exact details.

The Vaquform team envisions a variety of uses for the device, from rapid prototyping to art projects to custom props and cosplay (or, again, terrifying masks). The team is taking production slowly, with three batches available on Kickstarter — a first run of 250 units available for $599 expected to ship in October, a second $645 batch for November, and a third $699 group that won’t land until January 2018.

It’s at this point that the usual Kickstarter warnings come. The Vaquform is a first-time product from a small team that’s never built or shipped their own hardware before, and it’s one that’s making some pretty big promises. While the small, wave-based release cycle should help with that, it’s still something to consider before backing. But if you’re interested, the Vaquform is available to back Kickstarter now.