Formbox: This 3D printer alternative is powered by an ordinary vacuum cleaner (Video)

Formbox
© Formbox

3D printing is making gradual but impressive inroads into manufacturing, architecture and even science. While the price point for desktop 3D printers has come down in the last few years, for many cash-strapped DIYers they can still be prohibitively expensive.

Well, there is a cheaper alternative -- and one that can actually be powered by your vacuum cleaner at home. Co.Design writes about product designers Benjamin Redford and Alex Smilansky of Makyu, who are launching Formbox, a machine that performs a scaled-down version of vacuum forming, an industrial molding process used by factories to make things like airplane and train interior trim, ATMs, toys, and many more everyday items.

Formbox© Formbox
Formbox© Formbox

The creators say that the compact Formbox is but the first in a line of desktop tools that will help democratize design further:

The tools that we use to make things are getting more complex, more expensive and harder to access. That’s a problem. We think everyone should be able to make things, so we’re building a set of small, simple and affordable tools so anyone can make stuff, wherever they are. The FormBox is our first.

Formbox© Formbox

The team characterizes Formbox as a "factory for your desktop", and it functions by heating a sheet of material on a tray, so that it can be lowered and stretched over to conform over an object, creating a single-surface mold. The vacuum helps by sucking the sheet materials to hug in more closely to the original object. The mold can then be taken and used to quickly replicate objects using a variety of materials like resin, concrete, silicon, plaster, ice and even chocolate.

Formbox© Formbox
Formbox© Formbox
Formbox© Formbox

While some may argue that the world certainly doesn't need more crap made from the desktops of well-meaning makers, tools like the Formbox and 3D printers are just that -- tools. One may never know what enterprising and innovative individuals might prototype up, be it the next amazing time-saving invention or something that may help advance science, medicine or design.

Formbox© Formbox

Ultimately, the creators envision Formbox as a way for ordinary people and small businesses to get their designs made and out into the world, or as part of any DIY maker's arsenal of creative tools. With pricing for a Formbox starting at $349, the project has been extremely successful on Kickstarter, and you can check out the Makyu website as well to keep updated on their future projects, as well as the planned online library for designs made by Makyu machines.

Tags: Downloadable Design | Gadgets | Kickstarter

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