Product design whiz Eric Strebel is at it again – this time with his personal guide on how to create a small batch of 200 vacuum-formed panels for display at a car show.

YouTube video

Eric starts the same way he begins all his designs: in the ideation phase. Even though panels aren’t the most complex products, how they look and their ease of presentation to the public are still important factors to take into consideration. He settles on a simple half-pill shaped design similar to nail polish color samples used at nail salons.

The panels come with two hidden hangers at the back which allow a person to hang them for display on either side. There’s even a tiny notch on the hanger where a nail or pin can be used to suspend the panels.

After deciding on the final design, he creates the CAD data for a production tool on the CNC machine. Eric takes this time to add four notches to the corners of the tool which serve as registration marks for each individual panel.

To aid the CNC machine with production, Eric crafts an aluminum tool which the panels will be created on. This can’t be totally done on a machine, so Eric benches the metal and sands it by hand to create a smooth surface for uniform panel production. If you look closely at the edges of the curves, you will notice that he has drilled tiny holes for the air to escape during the vacuum-forming process.

Using a PETG machine, Eric creates the 200 panels using the single tool he crafted with the help of his CAD.

He outsources a local laser cutter to cut out the panels while he cuts the smaller hanger parts himself. Once he has all the pieces, Eric glues the hangers to the panels using a solvent and propping them up using a laser cut piece of cardboard.

They still need their individual coatings of paint, but for the most part, the panels are done. Eric ships them out in specially-designed boxes for painting and shipping to the client.

As always, you can find more or Eric Strebel’s informative production videos on his YouTube channel.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.