Vacu-forming With HDU: North American Aviation

vacuum form mold using HDU

North American Aviation’s list of accomplishments reads like a who’s who of U.S Aviation Superpowers. They have been an intricate part of our country’s dominant air transportation industry since the early 90’s.  Specializing in composite interior and exterior aircraft parts, NAA sports a state of the art in-house Tooling, Design, and CNC division. Be it low temperature or high temperature, fiberglass or carbon fiber, pre-preg or epoxy molds, master models or mockups, they have the experience to produce the most difficult configurations with precision and accuracy.

With the elevation of today’s technology and advancement in superior materials, NAA naturally uses the top of the line tooling board from Coastal Enterprises. I had the opportunity to speak with the director of Tooling and CNC div., Tyler Allen, about their department’s use of Precision Board Plus and how it has become an integral part of their company’s success. The engineering team will begin by designing a part, send the final design file to Tyler’s department, launching his group into action CNC’ing the pattern.

When vacuum forming, if the tool is going to see heat, they like to use Precision Board High Temp Plus, PBHT-60, which will hold its configurations at a casual 300 degrees, they will then drill holes into the board and vacuum form kydex or lexan parts off that tool. When they are using Precision Board Plus on small production runs it is stable enough to machine and make the parts directly. Utilizing it for Master Molds NAA will procure PBHT-30 or PBHT-40, mill it and manufacture a production tool out of the HDU master. Here is a picture of an interior vacu-formed part made from Precision Board Plus by NAA.

Tyler’s first step to finishing Precision Board Plus is to apply an industrial lacquer as a sealant, sand smooth, and then apply mold release wax to ensure an accurate and detailed part. Because the HDU has been lightly coated with the release wax the composite can be easily removed from the mold with minimal disruption of the actual part.

Another way NAA utilizes Tooling Board is by using our Low Temp Precision Board Plus for vacuum and CNC holding fixtures. Instead of building a heavy aluminum composite holding fixture they use a block of PBLT-30 or PBLT-40 cut the pattern and relief into it, select the tooling hole locations and hold the parts to cut. After using our high temp material as a master tool they will then come back and machine relief into it and use that as a CNC holding fixture. The advantage to using HDU as a holding fixture is the fact that it is much lighter than aluminum, it offers practical pliability in case of machine error and it does not affect their router bits when cutting relief. Imagine drilling 8” inches into hardened aluminum, how much fun do you think that bit is having?

Tyler and NAA are witnessing a composite tooling boom with the innovation of new technologies and the development of new aircraft. This increase is especially notable because of the OEM’s block point design changes that are being implemented to refine and upgrade interiors allowing for sleeker ultramodern designs. These advances in technology have produced quite the workload for companies like North American Aviation who are ready and able to handle the increase in composite tooling. For more information or to view their list of capabilities visit North American Aviation’s website at

Vacuum Forming In the Movies: Flix Fx

Marc Pollack of Flix FX, Inc in North Hollywood, CA has been producing special effects/props for use in TV, commercials, movies, events and the music industry for the past 21 years. They’ve branched out to include a new patent pending process that will expand the horizon of what can be done with vacuum forming by being able to digitally pre-print a registered graphic image on the plastic prior to the forming process.  It creates a finished product that is useable in POP, theatrical, retail advertising and many other applications.

Step 1: Digital File

Step 2: Digital 3D Sculpting

Step 3: Routed Precision Board Plus





Step 4: The Final Result








Flix FX also known as 3D Vacuprint, has been using Precision Board Plus PBLT-10 on the majority of their 3D relief carvings. They start with a 2D image and create a 3D file through specialty software. The 3D file is converted to a file that is readable by the CNC router, which cuts the 3D profile in PBLT-10. At this time, a 2D image is printed on plastic, using proprietary software to compensate for distortion on the finished form. The final step is to register the form under the plastic and vacuum form it.

Marc says, “We can get 50-150 pulls from the PBLT-10 and when we need more than that, we’ll switch to a higher density or make a fiberglass mold.  Just like anything else it has its purpose and where it fits.  Precision Board Plus is our material of choice, and is a vital step in the creation of our product.”

For one of their recent projects, the Flix FX team created Toyota Drones for a television commercial.  The forms for the drones were machined from PBLT-10, the carbon fiber fin was processed by 3D Vacuprint.  The form (drone) was then vacuum-formed and used in the commercial that was played for NASCAR audiences.

Watch the video clip. If you would like more information, give Marc a call at (818) 765-3549. Take a look at their web sites to see the diverse projects for both Flix FX and 3DVacuprints.

Thermoformed Likes it Turnkey

Thermoformed Plastic Products, located in the Air Capital of the World, manufactures Vacuum Form tools, Master models, CNC holding fixtures, Composite Layup molds and other tooling for many of the well-known aerospace companies.  TPP chooses Precision Board Plus and Coastal Enterprises to help them get the job done efficiently and on time.  “At TPP, we like turnkey.  We can order a custom-bonded block, or just order a block large enough, that we don’t have to take time to bond up large shapes before starting the machining operation,” says co-owner Chet Hunter.

Vacuum Form Fixtures


Ordering ready-to-machine, custom blocks and large sizes is just one reason why TTP chooses Precision Board Plus as Chet adds “Precision Board Plus is always available in a broad array of sizes, quick to machine, and easier to seal than other substrates.”  Call Thermoformed Plastic Products for your next fixture, model, or tooling needs at (316) 841-8398 or (316) 214-9623.

Vacuum Formed Tool PBLT-30 Custom Bonded Tooling Blocks