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After having some of my blaster parts laser cut in acrylic I needed to jump on the strip heater to bend them into shape. It's a nifty device with an infinite variety of practical uses when manipulating plastic so I thought I'd share a quick "How To" for anyone unfamiliar with the magic of a strip heater. A strip heater is pretty much a long heating element (similar to the kind you would find in a toaster or electric home heater) that has an adjustable cover made of thick steel. This adjustable cover lets you expose just a "strip" (hence the name) of heat source at your desired width, which allows you heat specific sections of you plastic piece without affecting the rest of it. Unlike a heat gun or an oven you can heat very precise lines and very small areas individually, which allows for bends, sharp turns and shaping in only certain areas of the plastic. Think of taking a flat piece of any thermo plastic and bending it into an L shaped bracket for example. Of course, in my infinite wisdom it didn't occur to me to actually take a picture of the strip heater as I was working the parts, but basically they look like this: And work like this: It's an incredibly simple machine, and although it takes a little practice and care to get used to the plastic your working with, the heating times and the cooling times etc you can do some pretty nifty stuff very easily with this bad boy. So where do we start? First adjust your gap to the width that will suit the sharpness of the bend you are looking for. Obviously the wider the gap, the larger the area of plastic that will become flexible, so a small gap will make sharper turns, while a large gap will make larger softer curves. If necessary place some additional blockers to shorten the strip length wise as well, and place you piece of plastic on the bars, with the area you wish to bend directly above the exposed portion of the element. Here I am doing it with the flat cut out of the folding stock butt template: The length of heating time depends on the material and the thickness of that material - this 3mm acrylic took about 10 minutes to become fully pliable. You will know when it's ready as the plastic in that area stops being smooth and takes on a strange almost wavy appearance, as seen here: Don't worry - it's much easier to see in real life than it is in a photograph. At this point the plastic will take on the consistency of a stiff rubber. Remove the plastic from the heater and simply use your hands to bend the shape you want: The smaller the strip the more the plastic will naturally bend toward the intended crease. If you heat a wider area you must be careful to get the curve exactly where you want it. You have to work quite fast here as the plastic stops being flexible much faster than it seems to cool. (ie; it can still seem very hot to the touch long after it has lost it's flex and gone hard again) If you keep applying pressure too long it's likely you will crack the plastic. Much like working with a heat gun, It also helps to push a little further than your intended shape as there will be a little spring back. Once you've got the position right, hold it until the plastic has no more movement in it to ensure it stays where you want it. This is hard, as at this point the hot plastic will be burning your fingers, so don't wuss out here... The great thing is that once you've done one part, the strip heater will heat the next part while protecting the bit you just worked on from reheating and losing shape. Thus you can do one part at a time. This is my butt (oh ha ha - grow up <_< ) after heating and bending two sides: With a wider strip setting you can heat a bigger portion of plastic and bend softer curves like this: Of course this requires more holding and shaping with your fingers than a simple bend so you are really, really gonna burn your fingers doing this (if anyone says why didn't you wear gloves, it's because I'm really tough ) I also found that the smart thing to do was have a score line in your plastic where you want tight folds. It not only helps line up the piece on the strip heater, but it will bend more naturally where you want it to: (See the state of my hands? I repeat: your fingers will suffer and hate you - ignore them. They don't understand how cool it is to blend plastic to your will...) Now we understand the principle here's a quick series of photos showing it in action to make the arms for the folding stock: Rough test fit of the parts: You'll note the underside of the butt piece is a touch flatter than is accurate. I should have (and will soon) given that a slight curve by placing it underside down on a wider setting on the strip heater. All in all this a great piece of kit. It's much less strenuous than working with metal bending and using plastic allows for much more precision in shape. It would be ideal for making inner drop boxes too, or getting a better fit on your crotch tab. If you don't have access to a strip heater they are actually really quite easy to make (and let's face it: no workshop should be without one). They cost about $300-$500 but there's a great tutorial on how to build one for under $30 here: http://www.mp3car.com/fabrication/111936-how-to-build-a-heater-strip-to-bend-acrylic-for-30-bucks-or-less.html I hope this encourages other to give it a shot - if only because it's so much fun! Zero Over and out
Of late I've been mulling over various ways to make the ever elusive accurate T-track and have come up with several different methods worth trying. I've decided to try them all and thought I'd share them here one by one as I go. So here's method number one - aluminum T-track that anyone can make at home with nothing but a book and a ruler! Now I'll pre-empt this by saying all my following experiments will be based on the assumption that the screen accurate dims for T-Track are as follows: Now, I don't claim any expert knowledge here or solid evidence. The dimensions and shape have come from research here and on the RPF and they are, to the best of my knowledge, correct but don't hold me to it - we know the T-Track is a slippery beast, and while I don't purport to have caught one this info comes from some pretty experienced fishermen... Start by getting a roll of aluminum flashing from your local hardware store: It comes in various thicknesses - I've chosen .3mm for the balance between ease of bending and strength. Cut of a strip to size. I suggest going a little longer than you'll need for the finished length. I worked at about 190mm long by 38mm wide. Next you will want to score your aluminum to make the various folds easier to manipulate and sharper in the finished job. After a lot of fiddling and paper patterning I made this diagram to show the distances between the score lines that will result in the correct finished shape: Use a ruler and a stanley blade to score your lines according to these measurements: This bit can be tricky and I had a lot of fails along the way. If you score too lightly the metal will not bend sharply or will bend in places other than the intended fold. If you score too heavily it will simply snap when you try to fold it. This was simply a matter of testing and practice. I ran the blade several times over each score and found that once the sliding started to feel "rough" I had about the correct amount. I also found that it helped a lot to graduate from heavy scoring in the inner most lines outwards to lighter scoring. This is because of the order in which we want the folds to be made, and it helps the metal go naturally in that order. Here is a diagram where black represents the heaviest scoring getting lighter: At this point my aluminum strip looked like this: Next, I measured and marked the exact centre of the strip: Grab an old hardcover book. The non spine edge has a nice approximation of the shape and size of the centre rail of the T-Track right down to the inverted U shape. In this case I'm using the same out of date diary I'm using as a cutting board: Using the centre marking as a guide I bent the aluminum over the edge of the book cover. Lining this up straight was a right PITA but if you get it wrong (and I did a few times) you end up with horribly lopsided T-Track: I simply pressed and pressed along the fold until I got it very flat. It should be almost so tight it's stuck to the book. I also found this process was made easier by holding a metal ruler on each side of the aluminum strip and clamping with pliers. Do not apply the pliers directly to the aluminum or your T-track will end up looking like Pruneface's head... Once that was done, I slid a ruler under the lip of the aluminum strip to keep it flat and bent it upwards. If the scoring is good the metal will naturally start to fold at the innermost score line: I did this on both sides and then removed the strip from the book cover. I found it helps to bend this first bend too far as it will naturally bend back down as you fold the other parts down: Then it was a matter of some simple origami to fold each section one by one to shape: When the score lines were good this was easy - when they were bad it was a nightmare... I lost a few efforts at this point. However once I got the hang of it I was on to mass production! Once shaped the track is surprisingly strong. Remember - the arch is one of the strongest shapes in engineering! The good thing about using the aluminum is that with some care and strength you can use pliers to get a nice bend on the end that slips into the vent holes without heating it: Sure - the ends are messy but they won't be visible so it doesn't matter a bit. I'm pretty happy with the results, but this is a method that requires care and the sharp aluminum edges did my manicure no favors. It's definitely worth trying but it won't stop me continuing to experiment with other methods. So stay tuned for method number two - here's a sneak preview:
Supplies: Flat sheet of plastic or any material you prefer to use for the drop box covers Foam Sew on Velcro Sticky Velcro Glue (any brand CA glue works well) Rotary Tool (Dremel), Scissors, or Box Cutter Pencil Needle and Thread (optional) You can use a variety of materials for the covers. I used a spare sheet of ABS plastic provided from my armor kit. (1) Measure the length and width of the drop box. (2) Draw two rectangles on your drop box cover material from the measurements. (3) Cut out the covers. (4) Cut out 2 rectangles from 1/2 inch foam using the measurements. I used 1 inch thick foam and cut one rectangle then VERY CAREFULLY cut that vertically in half to make two 1/2 inch thick rectangles. (5) Loosely sew a piece of Velcro to the foam. If you sew too strong the foam will compress. You can glue the Velcro to the foam if you prefer. (6) Glue the foam to the covers. (7) Apply sticky Velcro to the inside of the drop boxes. (8) Place the covers in the boxes. Done!
Alright I'm too young to actually join the 501st yet but I still wanna get a Stormtrooper suit that fits good and I could use later on. So I wanna know is how should I measure myself for armor. sincerly, cajoco