SOO.. Being a creative with years of experience has brought me into some fun (and interesting) opportunities. I have the awesome fortune to know and hang out with some awesome people. Just last week I tripped into a project I couldn’t have been happier to fallen into.

For name sake, we’ll call her Super B. Well you see Super B is your high energy, tag playin’, peek-a-booin’, giggle filled 4 year old, and Super B does all this from a wheel chair. No tears, no “awe”, Super B crushes the other kids for energy and happiness. The hang up is, the wheel chair takes it’s toll on Super B’s shirts. The wheels drag and catch her sleeves and make short work of them.

While they were visiting I walked into Super B’s Mom working with low temp molding plastic. She was making fenders to save Super B’s cloths. After a conversation, I discovered the commercially available options are $400!…. FOR FENDERS?!?!? This will not do! #TheLab can’t stand for such nonsense and we went into action!

We started where Mom left off. A solid template of an existing piece to the wheel chair we could mount to. (It should be noted that Mom is a super genius and had a great start)
You’ll see that we drew the actual fender template on the reverse side to keep scale (and some BASIC) dimensions.
Once we had a rough on paper we needed to pick a material. We decided to go with .1 inch Lexan Plastic. I have to admit, this stuff is pretty awesome. I certainly wouldn’t throw it on a vacuum form, but I’ll be using it in other high impact applications. It really cut nicely on the scroll saw, and took quite the beating in our trial phases.
Next we needed to cut a form. I knew we’d need to accomplish two things with this.

  1. Hold some type of main shape (duh)
  2. Restrict the heated areas to only the specific areas to be bent

I used some scrap 2x4 as a quick solution here.

Now that we had all that in place a template was cut into card stock, transferred to the Lexan and cut.
I’ll be the first to admit, there needed to be a few more iterations in the template before we jumped to forming the plastic. I used a 1100° heat gun as the heat source. I did the trick, however be warned, I learned Lexan like to bubble when it gets TOO hot. There is no going back from that (-100 points to aesthetics)
This is where “Practice in Paper, not materials” really rang true. After several attempts to get the Lexan to form as expected I went back to the drawing board with the template. Here you can see the Lexan warped and folded in on it’s self no matter what I tried. (-200 to function, +10 to abstract art?)
After some down time, some string cheese (Hey, don’t judge! Obey your inner six year olds snack cravings!), and a long talk with the #LabMascot about the inappropriateness of eating off the table when his food is CLEARLY in a dish on the floor I redesigned the template. This was to reduce excess materials (noted for causing the folds), and better control the curvature of the fender top.
Here you can see the Lexan in the form, and the result. A MUCH better outcome! The folding was gone on this test piece (I was tired of burning through materials on tests) and the bend was clean and strong.
And VIOLA! The first fender came out a success with the updated templates. The second was an easy replication, after which I drilled the holes for the bolt through feature to attach the wheel chair. But wait, we are missing something. Clear is cool and all, but come on, we need COLOR!
I pulled together a quick painting jig just for this project. (Really, it’s just foam, some wire and a bad tie off job). The base coat is a plastic bonding primer from Krylon. Seriously, if you’re working in this, or any other poly type plastic take the time to use the right primers. If not your paint will flake, and there are serious points lost ( in the thousands.) As always get your PPE (personal protective equipment) on. Your shirt over your mouth doesn’t count! check out these FINE options from 3M. You and your health will thank me later.
Now, there was a VERY specific request for colors, ok… COLOR. HOT PINK. (looks around #TheLab) Yea, not on the typical scheme here. After some hunting I found florescent pink. This stuff seriously needs a radioactive label. After a few coats I slapped a high gloss finish and had a really nice product for a prototype set!
I finished off the pair with specifically measured machine screws and nylon washers to keep the torque off the fender, Placed the peacefully in a comfy blanket of bubble wrap and shipping Styrofoam (don’t get me started on the types of styro), sent it off to Super B for testing! We sure hope she likes her new mods! Keep creating #LabRats, together all of us can change the world. ~~#MadMan
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