How to Make an SLA Finishing Station // 3d Printing How to Make a Larger Vacuum Former 2 days ago   11:43

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We got a new SLA resin 3d printer, so we made a finishing station to help clean up and cure the prints. Sponsored by CuriosityStream, for a free month, go to and use the code "iltms"
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For this project, we are making a cabinet specifically made to wrap around our new SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) printer from our friends at Matterhackers, the Moai 200 from Peopoly. We are using this machine to make some super-detailed prints for a collaborative project with and Adam Savage to replicate the Apollo 11 Command Module hatch called Project Egress. This printer is very large, think minifridge sized. It isn't practical to sit it on a table and the top surface isn't large enough to be an adequate work surface. Our design will add a set of shelves beside the printer that will match its height and a tabletop that will span across the top of the two.

I cut the pieces out of 1/2" plywood on the table saw and assembled the 3-shelf unit with glue and brad nails. The height was based on the size of the printer so it may not be the same in your instance. I also cut a door that will fit inside of the top cubby. This door will close off the light from the curing area we made in the next section. The table top was placed on top of the shelving unit and brad nailed from underneath. The whole unit was set in place overtop of the printer and it looked great!

SLA printing works by curing liquid resin inside the printer. Once the print is complete it is covered with uncured resin and the part itself isn't yet fully cured. When the part is removed from the build plate, it needs to be rinsed with alcohol (we used denatured, but isopropyl works too) so that the extra liquid resin is removed. The build plate itself has to be cleaned of residual resin so that it is ready to use on the next print.

Because of the size of this large printer, the cleaning process requires a lot of alcohol. We needed a bath of sorts to clean the build plate and a rinse jar to clean the part. I got 2 plastic storage bins the same width as the build plate (so I didn't have to use too much alcohol) and poked holes in one of them. The idea would be that I could lift the holed bin up out of the other and it would act as a colander leaving the solid pieces in the top and the alcohol in the bottom.

For the part cleaning, Josh found a plastic storage bin that is made for keeping vegetables fresh. It has a clear plastic outer bin and a perforated basket on the inside with a lid. With this basket, we can dunk the part in the alcohol, lightly brush it with a soft-bristle brush, and easily remove it to dry. Both of these containers will be covered and set on top of the cabinet surface as part of the finishing station. We covered the top of the cabinet with come contact paper so that the resin and alcohol wouldn't reach the wooden surface, keeping it cleaner over time.

Once the part is dry from its alcohol bath, it still isn't finished. The resin isn't fully cured yet and to complete that process it needs to be exposed to ultraviolet light for 20-30 minutes.  The top cubby in the shelving unit will act as a UV light box equipped with a small light-activated turntable. The turntable allows every side of the part to be hit with UV light to maximize even exposure.

Josh order a strand of UV LEDs with an adhesive backing; the set came with a power adapter and an on/off switch. I cut a scrap piece of wood, covered it with aluminum ducting tape, and stuck the LED strip to it. I had to double the lights over creating a zig-zag path to cover the whole wooden sheet. To make the rest of the reflective walls inside the cubby, I used some left-over mirror tiles that were 12" x 12". To save weight, the door was covered in the same reflective aluminum tape and attached to the shelving unit with some face-mounted hinges. Now, when the light-activated turntable is placed inside and the lights are turned on, the part can rotate around and bask in the curing glow of 360 degree UV light.

Comments 246 Comments

The P.I. Workshop
To see our 3d printed entry for Project Egress see it here
Antibody Entertainment
Hey bob, you should try MR clean or simply green and a ultrasonic bath to clean your resin prints, and or print bed. I cant remember who did a video on it, but it seems pretty dang effective and no need to brush your parts (for that oh so gooood finish lol)
please never say “squirting out” ever again
Good job but u have to move the curing station every time u need to level the printer assuming it has the same system as a regular Moai.
I’ve been watching you since I was I was 6 I’m now 11

You were a big part in my childhood creativity wise so thank you for making me the person I am today
Jake Goldberg
Hey Bob, mirrors would not be good for this project, because glass is not transparent to UV wavelengths of light. Since mirrors are a reflective surface behind a pane of glass I don't think mirrors would reflect UV light well. The best option for this project might be to line the walls with aluminum foil.
Intan payung
can you make a board games projects?
Kaleb Barbour
So cool!
Aluminum tape is expensive and looks even worse than aluminum foil wrap burnished flat, or you could have mounted channels to slide a mirror into!
Skyler Hotchkiss
Bob, you should put a small timer on the door so you know its finished
Eco Mouse
I'm pretty sure that mirrors like that actually have UV absorbing properties as part of the glass composition. The reflective portion of most mirrors is actually on the back of the glass. If you went to a glass company, you can specifically ask to have zero UV protection glass. In this particular case, I think I would just buy some pre-polished/mirror stainless steel.
No link to the printer
Slytherin Reviews
I may need help with planning a new desk build
Brent Oberholzer
good job on watching where your fingers were when you were Brad nailing
Alex Stewart
dont wash the bed, just wipe it with ipa and that will make it clean enough
BurnerProducts RocketStoves
Also there is an option to recess the hinges between the sides and the door. And even easier option, just align the hinge to the outer border of the sides an get those 1-2mm over on the door side. It does not need to be centered on the gap. Than on the other side of the door, take little off from the inside corner, to make sure it does not bind up on the side while opening. That is it. Keep up the good work.
Ubbe Berg
A UV-box like that is perfect for curing screens for screen-printing . :)
D2K Prime
You live a blessed-life Bob.
ties pau
For a brief moment I forgot sla does not mean lettuce in English, and I was really confused what this build was supposed to be
Mirrored plexiglass would work even better as it is thinner and lighter.
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How to Make a Larger Vacuum Former How to Make an SLA Finishing Station // 3d Printing 2 days ago   17:41

I'm remaking the vacuum former from my very first project video, but way better this time! Come check out the process.
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As many of you know, I don't really repeat projects.  Not that each project or video is perfect, far from it actually, I just rarely have the time or desire to completely reinvent something I've already done. If you check out the link for my first project video, you'l see why this project (being far from perfect) is in need of a revamping.

In my previous attempt at making a vacuum former, I placed the material in a frame and placed it in my oven to soften the plastic. This technically did work, but presented a lot of problems; melting plastic where my food goes, taking over the kitchen with a prop-making project, the plastic starts to cool when moving it around, etc. So I found a small space heater that is meant to hang from a shop ceiling to use as the source of heat to soften the plastic.

A vacuum former works by heating up and thereby softening/slightly melting a thin sheet of plastic. That malleable sheet is then pulled down over an object that sits on a flat bed of holes. Once the plastic is pulled down over the object and sealed around the bed, a vacuum pulls the air from under the sheet through the holes and the plastic sucks down into the object's nooks and crannies creating the vacuum formed shape.

To keep the heat source above the vacuum bed, I built a box out of 1/2 inch thick MDF and mounted the heater in it. The vacuum box was built in the exact same way and I used the CNC to drill a bunch of holes for the air to escape. I had to drill a large hole in the vacuum box's side panel so I can attach the shopvac hose directly to the lower box.

Some aluminum angled stock will act as the vertical supports. We guesstimated the amount of sag that the plastic would have when heated and added some space for a tall-ish object laying on the vacuum bed and that was my height dimension. I screwed the aluminum supports directly into the two MDF boxes and the vacuum former took shape.

To hold the plastic sheets up near the heat source and to bring it down on top of the object, you need a material support frame. This is a two-part frame that will act as a clamp on all sides of the material as well as a pulling mechanism that should seal to the vacuum bed. I decided to use some 3/16 inch thick steel flat bar because it would be rigid over the 24 inch span without much support. After welding up the two frames independently, I added two simple handles to one of them. You have to make sure to grind the welds flat, especially where a tight seal would be needed like the bottom and where the material would be held.

Furthermore, I added some simple MDF handles to the sides incase the frame got too hot for my hands. The two frames would be held together with some flat-bottom binder clips  and held up near the heater using some magnets suspended on long screws. This will keep the frame in place whilst heating and still allow me to pull the material down with minimal force.

On our first test pull we learned a lot. First, plexiglass is super brittle when vacuum formed and didn't work that great. Second, the space heater's radiant heating area was smaller than I thought, but it still worked well enough. Third, the binder clips prevented a perfect seal with the vacuum bed, so I needed to add some extra gaskets. Thin EVA foam cut into strips would acts as a seal when the material frame sat on the vacuum bed. I lined the outer perimeter with the EVA foam, and then added small pieces in the areas that wouldn't touch the binder clips. This made little notches in the gasket so that I could line up the clips in the same place each time.

Our second test went much better and it was time to switch to some more appropriate, polystyrene sheets. The white polystyrene sheets heated up and drooped like I've seen in professional-grade vacuum formers. I turned on the shopvac right before pulling down the material frames and wham! Good pull. The white plastic sucked down to the vacuum bed and the camera I was forming was wrapped perfectly. It was a success! MUSIC: