Additive Manufacturing Strategies

FORMART 2 on Kickstarter: Vacuum Forming is a Perfect Marriage for 3D Printing

ST Medical Devices

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Despite the Mayku and other entrants, the “desktop vacuum forming revolution” has not happened yet. Now, the Myyard FORMART 2 is trying to conquer Kickstarter and, by extension, the world for vacuum forming. With vacuum forming you can take a simple 3D printed or other object and inexpensively create many copies, packages or molds of it. The process is rather simple and the FORMART has presets for 16 different plastics.

The company says that it is the “desktop model equipped with automatic mold releasing technology, which uses fans to instantly cool the formed plastic, while a reversing valve transfers the air pressure towards the mold to allow the finished product to be removed from the forming bed quickly and safely. The FORMART 2 also has a built-in pressure sensor and offers vacuum pressure as high as -90 kPa and as low as -10 kPa. While experienced users may want to adjust this manually, the unit also has three power presets for those who are just starting out with vacuum forming.”

The machine has been optimized for PET, HIPS, PP and TPU. I would advise users to be extremely cautious when working with heating TPU specifically, but also HIPS, due to fumes. It describes PET as being safe for food, opening up the possibility for food molds and the like. For now, the system will be US$1,859. I like that it has presets and settings for different types of sheets from third-party vendors. It also does not require an external vacuum cleaner for suction either, as some other desktop models do.

So should I ask my boss to buy Should we give up on this finicky 3D printing nonsense and focus on igniting the vacuum forming revolution instead? Perhaps not. But the combination of 3D printing and vacuum forming is a powerful one. I love the idea of having a business that combines design and 3D printing with vacuum forming to create inexpensive customized food molds. For chocolate, pastries, confectionaries or food, this could be a very inexpensive path to market. Food safe these (preferably silicone, though it’s not offered directly by the Kickstarter) molds could really be a lovely way for food professionals to differentiate themselves and get timely products to market. Did your team win yesterday? We will have a relevant pastry or food mold tomorrow for you. I really think that this would be a very valuable and easy product that can be deployed from your own home initially. But, there is another even more significant business opportunity and that is the marriage of 3D printing and packaging.

It’s all fine and dandy making unique 3D printed things, but have we really thought about how we are going to package all of this specialized, mass customized stuff? Breakage in 3D printed parts is a huge problem, especially in service bureaus that have a lot of different geometries. How can they reduce the problems with parts that they ship? With an unending variety of geometries, sizes, and customized goods we will never have one box that will work for everything. We’re always trying to reduce the amount of packaging we use. The solution to all of these problems? Vacuum forming—you’ve guessed correctly, gold star for you!

With vacuum forming, you can give an optimal package for every single item that you make. Because the mold is shaped by your object, it will fit precisely. With relatively little in the way of packaging, you can get a perfectly formed sheet in a box that fits your 3D print exactly. Making this unique packaging is fast and can be done near the moment of shipment.

I really think that 3D printed mass customized goods and vacuum forming are a match made in heaven. I especially love the idea of the vacuum forming step somehow also being used as a quality control step. For example, wouldn’t it be super handy if the geometry of your part was checked in the vacuum forming step, which could also be a packaging and a QA step in which your part is scanned all in one movement? That would be a labor-saving way of doing quality efficiently.

Even without this, I think that we should as an industry use vacuum forming much more extensively in packaging our products. This is a process that could scale along with us to a considerable number of products. More automation in vacuum forming and using sheets for instructions or branding could also extend the applicability of this considerably. Fewer breakages and a nice presentation could also really help the presentation of 3D printed products. If we’re serious about mass customization, we should make sure that we can make mass customized packaging, as well.

The Kickstarter has already more than doubled its modest $10,000 goal on the first day of launch. To learn more about the project, visit the Kickstarter page here.

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