Magic Plastic

3/23/2015 - Have you ever needed to make a part for a plane or a mold to form a part? Yah I know, who hasn’t broken something on a plane and needed to do a quick repair? How many times have you been building a plane and wanted a nice tie down for wires, a bushing, fairlead or latch. How many times did you want to re-enforce a structure or make yourself a custom doodad for the cockpit or exterior such as pilot figures, controls, ducts, vents, switch holders etc?

If your wood, metal or casting skills are not up to the job the alternative is to buy something ready made that may or may not do the job quite right. If you bought it online you would need to wait for delivery. Maybe your skills are up to the task, but the time required is just not worth the effort for a one off item.

Boys and girls let me tell you about one of the neatest craft items I have encountered recently. Its called polycaprolactone plastic, also known as PCL. This stuff is user friendly and bio-degradable.

Sold under numerous brand names (PolyMorph, PolyMold, Friendly Plastic, InstaMorph, ShapeLock, U-Mold and others) with quite a variety available on eBay and Amazon. Its looks and feels a lot like nylon plastic at room temperature and can be worked with tools and painted. Its a thermoplastic with the interesting property of turning into a taffy like consistancy at 60c (140 F). It is sold as opaque white plastic beads that when put in hot water turn clear to let you know they are heated up enough to be formed. It can be reused endlessly simply by reheating it. When cool it changes back to opaque white. You can trim it easliy with scissors or hobby knife while warm, but can be carved and drilled when cool. This stuff looks like a match made in heaven for model aircraft builders. So long as the application stays below 120 degrees or so you can use it for just about anything.

I found a link to a site where the material was tested for compatibility with other plastics. You can see the results here. The good news is that common plastics like ABS, PLA, PVC and Polycarbonate all bond well with Polycaprolactone. It can be formed tightly around metal, but does not stick to it so it can be used for threaded applications such as nuts, screws and bolts.

Here are some video’s showing its properties and how to use it. There are a lot more videos than this available on YouTube, but this should get your gears turning!

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