Pressure forming might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of manufacturing, but the Mayku Multiplier has its sights set on bringing this technology to small to mid-sized businesses and creatives. Typically reserved for larger production lines, pressure forming is a process where a large sheet of thermo-reactive material is heated and formed around an object to create a mold that can then be used to duplicate the object out of materials like plaster, resin or even food.
Not only does the Multiplier make this available to everyday consumers, but it uses an array of different mold materials to suit different environments and circumstances. Mayku, the desktop factory company behind the Multiplier announced, "These days product manufacturing is too expensive and complicated for the vast majority of people. With this in mind, Mayku is aiming to change the way we think about the experience and output of making by building machines anyone can use at home or in the office."
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Mold making machine
The Multiplier will be available for general preorder from October 5 directly via the Mayku website, and if you're keen, you can grab one for an early bird deal of $1,999 / £1,449 (around AU$2,700), otherwise, the standard price is $4,999 / £3,499 (around AU$6,750). It's far from cheap, but an industrial-grade machine would cost far more, and the only similar direct-to-consumer product we could find on the market is the Mayku Form Box, another product from the same brand that introduced vacuum forming to the desktop space.
Mayku claims that the Multiplier molds complex, detailed shapes by applying pressure equivalent to that of four elephants (four tonnes of force) to a single material sheet. You can then use this sheet as a mold, eliminating extremely time-consuming and laborious tasks from traditional mold making in which several steps must be taken, such as taking negatives of the product you wish to replicate and then manually casting this in your required material.
Speaking of materials, there is a selection of different sheets to choose from, including ones specialized for use with resin, and even a silicone-like 'Flex Sheet' to create flexible molds, something that not only takes a great deal of time to create traditionally, but also requires a lot of skill.
With this new technology, small to mid-sized businesses no longer need to outsource their casting and molding requirements to larger facilities. The Multiplier may not have a price tag as low as we see on modern 3D printers, but it could still save consumers a lot of cash in the long run as most factories won’t accept orders below a certain size and can come with hefty setup costs.
Ben Redford, Co-Founder & CPO of Mayku states: “The Multiplier is capable of replicating 3D prints and other shapes rapidly, bringing manufacturing in-house. With its absolute precision, the Multiplier rivals silicone or injection molding by being able to produce forms which capture lines and grooves up to 0.0004mm thick, picking up the thickness of ink on paper. Having access to factory level products, on the desktop, opens up a world of possibilities for end users as they can start to scale their business at low-cost with better quality materials.”
The Multiplier website states that something as fine as a single human hair can be captured using the machine, and this level of detail is usually only possible with a lengthy industrial mold-making process, so if this claim proves to be accurate, the Multiplier has the potential to revolutionize established batch production.
Analysis: It's time to get creative
Unless you're familiar with industrial processes or workshop mold creation, it's likely difficult to understand just how big of a deal the Multiplier is for creative businesses. I spent years studying how to create high-grade professional molds using fiberglass, silicone and polyurethane and it's a process that's not only messy and time-consuming, it can also be hazardous to your health. This pressure-forming machine removes all the risk and mess, as well as most of the skills needed to create traditional molds.
The Multiplier is restricted to making a single piece mold (as opposed to some molds that are so large or detailed, they require multiple sections), but this system has numerous applications – kitchens, dentists and designers can make a usable mold in a matter of minutes, as touched on by Alex Smilansky, Co-Founder & CEO of Mayku.
Smilanksy states, “We have spent the past three years listening to our global community. We heard that creators want to control their production end-to-end, without relying on factories or having to make large minimum order quantities. "
"With the Multiplier, we set out to create a machine that puts the power back into the hands of makers, from chocolatiers launching new products; to craftspeople and artisans creating new soaps, candles or jewelry; to industrial design engineers prototyping short runs of parts before going to mass production. The desktop manufacturing movement has seen millions of makers seizing control of the means of production. We are seeing the start of the Un-Industrial Revolution and it’s very, very exciting.”
This un-revolution of the industry could see a boom in small businesses or even local mold creation services in the way we now see consumer-grade 3D printers, with online retailers offering bespoke printing services for prototyping products or even just bringing a digital sculpt into the physical reality. Etsy has a number of small stores that specialize in 3D printing services for those who either cannot afford a 3D printer of their own, or have no need of one outside of a handful of things that need printing.
With so many developments into machines like the Multiplier, diode laser engravers and 3D printers, the possibilities for small workshops and businesses are growing without needing to be restricted by large manufacturers. If you were looking for the right time to start your own creative business, we might be about to enter a golden age for at-home desktop manufacturing.
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Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.