|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (December 2010)|
Based on the industrial process of vacuum forming, a rectangular piece of plastic was clamped in a holder and heated over a metal plate. When the plastic was soft, the holder was swung to the other side, over a mold of the object to be formed. Then pressing a handle on the side of the unit created a vacuum, sucking the plastic down over the mold and shaping it to it. When the plastic cooled it solidified, making an impression of the item.
Various molds came with the kit. Several expansion kits were also available for molding various other shapes. In actual use almost any small object that could withstand the temperature of the heated plastic sheet for a few seconds of could be used as a mold. Plastic refill sheets came in a variety of colors.
Mattel's VAC-U-FORM toy is well made and many are still in use today both as a toy, and used for small size part production in conjunction with other hobbies such as making R/C aircraft cowling and other parts.
Because very hot surfaces were easily accessible to a child (or adult) playing with the toy, it probably could not be sold today due to safety restrictions.
ToyMax (Cedarhurst, NY) produced a similar product called the "VAC-U-FORMER" in the 1990s around 1993 with the trademark filed on April 24, 1992. The ToyMax product is similar in concept to the Mattel product. In an attempt to conform to more modern safety concerns of the period several product changes were incorporated to improve safety over the Mattel product. The hotplate was replaced with a light bulb in style similar to an EASY-BAKE oven. The mold and forming area was covered so the hot plastic was protected from direct touch during the molding and cooling stage.
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