7 years, 6 months ago
#MakerMonday with Alex Smilansky
We caught up with Alex, Co-Founder of Mayku, to hear about their latest product FormBox: a desktop vacuum former that makes beautiful things quicker than a 3D printer.
Giving people the tools to make is a democratising force and Alex and Ben have been working on doing just that since they set up their company Mayku in 2015. On a mission to demystify and shrink down opaque and expensive factory processes, their first product the FormBox is a compact vacuum former that gets you making straight out of the box and has just been funded on Kickstarter with incredible support raising $588,775. We had a quick catch up with Alex to find out more about the FormBox and the power of making.
Q: Tell us about your background
A: Both Ben, my Co-Founder, and I have maker routes but cut our teeth in the digital world. We met studying design at Goldsmiths and formed our working relationship at Mint Digital. A digital product development studio based in London and New York.
Q: What’s the story behind the FormBox - how did it come about?
A: The FormBox started it's life as Ben's degree show project at Goldsmiths. He was interested in how everyday items like vacuum cleaners could be hacked to help people make their own things. While he was putting a product into production in China it struck him that more of the big complicated tools in factories could be miniaturised. That was how the broader idea for Mayku came about - to create a family of mini machines that make making easier. Ben and I were having coffee a year ago when he mentioned what he was thinking of doing and we decided to start the business together.
Q: How exactly does it work?
A: The FormBox works by softening a sheet of material with heat, draping it over a 3D form and sucking all the air from around it using a regular household vacuum cleaner. As the material cools, it makes a perfect replica of the shape almost instantaneously. This can be used as a product in itself or as a mold to cast multiple products. The process can be repeated over and over until an entire run of products is ‘microfactured’, bringing production capabilities to small independent makers that they simply haven’t had before.
Q: So can you use most materials then?
A: The FormBox can be used to create plastic shells out of sheet material or to make molds which you can use to cast a whole host of materials:
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene ABS (the stuff Lego is made from)
- Polystyrene PS (Commonly found in: Product packaging)
- Polycarbonate PC (Commonly found in: Drinks bottles)
- Polypropylene PP (Commonly found in: Buckets, spades, chairs, everything!)
- Polyethylene (Commonly found in: sheet and foamed sheet)
- PE (Commonly found in: Insulating cases, bottles)
- Polyvinyl Chloride PVC (Commonly found in: straws, plastic pipes)
- Acrylic PMMA (Commonly found in: Light up signs)
- PETg (Commonly found in: Food safe molds)
- HIPS (Commonly found in: Disposable cups)
For Casting - We've experimented with:
Q: You’ve just completed a Kickstarter campaign gaining $588,775 for a $50,000 goal - incredible - why do you think people are so excited by FormBox?
A: People love making stuff, but it's hard. I think people have found the FormBox to be a breath of fresh air because it's so simple to use and the possibilities are immense. A lot of maker products on the market like 3D printers and CNC machines are incredibly powerful but they require a lot of technical knowledge and an understanding of how CAD works. The FormBox opens making up to people who've never had the skills to access it before. The extra funds mean we can do some very exciting things, watch this space.
Q: In your campaign you say - ‘no design degree required’, new technologies play a massive part in empowering people to create and make. Why do you think it’s so important for everyone to be able to make using previously inaccessible / sophisticated technology?
A: Making is a deeply satisfying thing. The more tools we have that let people express themselves, the better. Marx famously said "The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control." We believe that putting the power to create in the hands of everyday people is a democratising force. When you expose how things are made it makes people think differently about what they consume.
Q: What do you think the future holds in this space?
A: More, simpler, better machines and online platforms for sharing the knowledge of how to make things will enable the indie manufacture scene to go mainstream. I don't believe that everyone will become a maker but I do think we will see the maker community grow far beyond where it is now.
Q: What’s the best thing / most exciting thing you’ve seen printed with FormBox?
A: They're all incredible in their own way. The funniest thing I've seen created was a banana chandelier.
Q: I’m guessing you’ll be pretty busy fulfilling orders now, but what are your dreams for the future of the FormBox?
A: The FormBox is a great simple machine but what it needs to come into it's own is an online platform that helps people explore what they can make with it. That's where a lot of our focus will be over the coming months.