バキュームフォームのガレージキットの特徴は?メリット・デメリットについて

模型の成型方法の1つ、バキュームフォームについて紹介します。

By Will Abbott (Flickr, cropped) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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バキュームフォームキットとは?

バキュームフォームとは、熱可塑性樹脂製の板を熱することで軟化させた後、木で作られた原型に密着させ、真空成形していく手法を指します。

直訳では「真空成形」というような意味になります。

バキュームフォームの組み立て模型を作るために必要な機材は、樹脂板を熱するためのヒーターや、樹脂板をセットするための枠、原型を置くための台と空気を吸引する真空ポンプです。

原型を置くための台は沢山の小穴が空いているのが特徴で、その下の部分には真空ポンプから導かれる吸引ダクトが付いています。

バキュームフォームキットは、やり方さえマスターすれば自分でも組み立て模型を作ることができるのが魅力です。

真空形成を行うには、まず最初に樹脂板を枠にしっかりセットして、その上にヒーターをかぶせて熱していきます。

樹脂板が軟化したことを確認したらヒーターから離して、原型を乗せている台の上から枠をかぶせて、真空ポンプを動かし、枠と台の間にある空気を抜いて真空成形します。この工程で、原型に吸着させていくという訳です。

樹脂板が冷え、再度硬化したのを確認したら原型からはがしていきます。

こうすることで、元型と同一の凹凸が付いている樹脂板が完成します。

どんなものかイメージできないという方は、卵が入っているパック、あるいは縁日でよく見られるお面を想像してみるとイメージしやすいでしょう。

ちなみに従来は、型を製造するには木の型を手作業で作ったり、数値制御工作機械という機会を使って型を削り出す方法などが採用されていましたが、近年になってから3Dプリンタも型を作るために導入されつつあります。

バキュームフォームを組み立て模型に利用するメリットは?

バキュームフォームでは雄型を使用する場合は雄型成形、雌型を使用する場合は雌型成形と呼びます。

雄型の場合は外側を加圧します。
雌型を使う際には、原型に吸い出し用の穴を設置し、減圧させて軟化した素材が型に密着します。

雌型を使う場合は、表面のモールドを細部に至るまで再現できるというメリットがあります。

バキュームフォームキットなどの模型分野においては、模型自動車のポリカーボネート製クリアボディや、模型船のボディとなる船体、模型飛行機などの製造に活用できます。

例えばバキュームフォームを利用して飛行機の模型を作ると、胴体部分の右側と左側、翼の上面と下面を原型で作れば一つのキットが完成します。

また、バキュームフォームで外側を使っていく方法ではなく、内側を使う反転使用にもメリットがあります。

つまり、バキュームフォームパーツを埋め込む形で使うことになりますが、この方法ならシャープな凹モールドを作るのもそれほど難しくありません。

バキュームフォームキットは、プラ板では再現するのが難しいような曲面を作りたい時や、左右対称になるパーツが必要な時にも利用できます。

円錐形、円筒形なども作ることができます。さらに、塊で作ってしまうと可動モデルに使用するには重すぎる場合がありますが、バキュームフォームキットなら軽めのパーツを作って重い塊のパーツと交換できます。

そして、キャストなどの塊で作成した組み立て模型のパーツの内部を、中空にしたい時も役立ちます。

人形の場合、片腕や片足だけ作れば、反対側のパーツも量産することができます。

バキュームフォームにはデメリットもある?

バキュームフォームで組み立て模型を作る場合、原理上の特性から、雄型の成形では表面に細かい凹凸があるものは再現がしにくいという特徴があります。

雌型による成形であれば、表面のモールドは細部まで上手く再現することができますが、成型品そのものは単に凹凸が付いている板に過ぎず、上手に切り抜いて隙間も段差もなく貼り合わせるためにはかなりの技量が必要になるでしょう。

張り合わせる際は、薄いプラ板を間に挟んで、切り代と一緒に接着した後に切り代をヤスリで削り、成形していきます。

細い棒のような形状の組み立て模型のパーツは作りにくいので、そうしたパーツが必要な時は自作しないといけません。

バキュームフォームを利用する場合には、バルサ材などの原型を使ってバキュームフォームキットのパーツを作りますが、この材料の入手もネックになることがあります。

バルサ材とはカッターでも切れる材木としてホビーファンから支持されていましたが、現在はなかなか手に入らない場合も多くなっています。

以前はホームセンターにもバルサ材が並んでいましたが、今ではパイン材やDIY材というものが主流になり、置いていない店舗もあります。

こうした材料は、カッターでは上手く切れないことが多くなっています。

バルサ材は模型店でも取り扱っている店舗が少なくなっているので、近所の店舗で探すよりは通販を利用した方が早く入手できる可能性があります。

最後に

初心者の方は最初は戸惑うことが多いかもしれませんが、バキュームフォームキットは慣れてくれば自作のキットが作れる魅力がありますので、挑戦してみてはいかがでしょうか。

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