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Better Armor Through Science?

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Alright, so I'm a chemist by trade and I got to thinking about the options we have out there for bending/reshaping ABS and HIPS. Basically from what I gather we've got the following two techniques....


1. Heat Gun - Too easy to burn ABS or HIPS.

2. Boiling water - Does anyone really have a pot big enough to do greaves? Also 212'F plastic hurts...


So I was thinking....dangerous right? Both ABS and HIPS have a glass transition temperature (Tg) right around the boiling point of water. ABS is 105'C (221'F) while HIPS has a Tg around 90'C (194'F). The Tg is the point at which the plastic rapidly goes from a soilid glassy state to a flexible plastic state and is the reason why these plastics can be easily thermoformed on a vac table. So, what I'm wondering is whether or not anyone has attempted to use a steam cleaning machine (or some other similar steam generating device) to attempt to form or bend armor as opposed to a using the traditional methods? I would think the steam would be advantageous as it could be easily directed similar to a heat gun but without the possibility of easily overheating a piece like a normal heat gun. Directional targeted heat would also mean you don't have to mess with a giant hunk of near molten boiled plastic and a cauldron of boiling water either as is the case with boiling your armor to reshape it.


So, anyone tried this? I'd do it myself right now, but I don't have any nice scraps of ABS laying around to try it on.

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I have not done any steam heating. But I have boiled TD end caps and knee belts to heat them up to better fit or just to bend them into shape. And while the water might be boiling, I doubt that I ever left the parts inside the water long enough to actually reach 100C themselves. I find it to be a good method for the smaller parts, and way safer than a heat gun.

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that's actually a really good point! I'm studying engineering and always like ways that science and stuff can improve the things we do ;)


The only downside I can see is that there might be some splash back from the force of the steam hitting the plastic, but I may give it a shot to see how easy it makes it to bend... 

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Sorry Walt, should have explained myself better. The steam bending idea would be entirely for bending/forming small areas that don't conform to the shape you need (greaves, belts, helmet, etc...). I never meant to imply that you would want to use it for the vacuum forming process itself.

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