Mayku wants to give you the ability to manufacture your designs at a tiny scale, starting with a desktop vacuum former that’s about the size of a coffeemaker.
Start a Production Line at Your Kitchen Table
FormBox is a desktop vacuum former — powered by your vacuum cleaner — that allows you to set up a mini-production line right on your desk. It can be used as a complement to a 3D printer, or you can use it on its own. Either way, Smilansky says, “It works super-fast and lets you make lots of things very quickly.”
The device molds shapes in seconds, so you can move from hand-crafting or 3D-printing one thing at a time, to creating short runs of products anytime you want. You get the advantage of making multiple identical products, without needing the initial investment traditionally required to produce items in large numbers.
Promoting a Vision of Democratized Manufacturing
Smilansky says that the co-founders’ experience in product design and manufacturing has allowed them “to see how much the method of manufacture is the limiting factor for somebody with an idea.” In other words, he says, “If you have something you want to make real, the main thing that stops you is how it gets made.”
His company aims to remove that barrier by creating a series of mini-machines designed to fit on your desk and work with each other. The FormBox is only the first of these. “If you can produce things from your office,” he explains, “then your capital expenditure goes down, your lead times go down, your risk goes down, and the size of your bets can go down.”
The co-founders want to enable more people to bring their ideas into the world. As Smilansky puts it, “We think that when you democratize the ability to make, great things happen.”
From University Project to Entrepreneurial Venture
The two founders met each other during their university days as design students at Goldsmiths, but they got to know each other well while working at the product development studio Mint Digital. At Goldsmiths, Redford’s final project had incorporated vacuums and washing machines into small-scale manufacturing processes; at Mint, his work showed him even more about how massive production tools could be miniaturized.
Redford’s early ideas intrigued the people at Makerversity in central London, where Mayku is now based. (At Makerversity, the Mayku guys sit within shouting distance of the team from Sensible Object, which we profiled a few months ago.) Mayku went on to win backing from the Spark innovation fund of Britain’s Design Council as well as Makerversity Works.
Fusing Digital and Physical Design Principles
Both founders are used to putting out a product and then adapting it, which is standard practice in the software business. But they also both love to work back and forth between physical and digital projects, which makes that process more challenging.
Quickly iterating designs is still a good way to go, Smilansky says. However, he adds, “It’s quite interesting to think about how that applies to making physical products.” For example, when you produce a physical object, you can’t immediately amend it as you would with a buggy piece of software. And because slower production cycles imply bigger risks at each step, you need to be a little more careful about which feedback you decide to incorporate.
When it came to the FormBox, the pair wanted to make something that could be made in small or large batches. They started with a “beast” of a design made from sheet steel, then went through four more iterations — each one smaller than the last — to create an inexpensive, simple-to-use product that looked great and worked right out of the box. They’ve benefited along the way from working with a factory in Wales that’s been making vacuum formers used in industry for many years.
A User-Friendly Product and Service for Producing Physical Goods
The co-founders knew that it wouldn’t be enough to create a great device without supporting materials. That’s why they’ve worked hard on the Mayku Library, which allows users to download step-by-step instructions, buy templates and materials, and see designs that the Mayku team has curated from both professional designers and the maker community. “Without that,” Smilansky explains, “it’s like having a phone without any apps on it.”
The entire setup is geared so that new users will learn by using it, rather than reading a manual or learning software. “You can just play with it,” Smilansky says. “We’re excited to see what happens when you completely remove any barrier for anybody to start doing [trial-&-error learning].”
Fusion 360 has worked in a similar way for Redford and Smilansky as they’ve designed all of the FormBox models. Smilansky says that “It’s one of those few pieces of software I’ve used where it’s very evident how to do the thing you want to do, even if you don’t [fully] understand how the software works.”
Using Fusion 360 has allowed them to develop the universal vacuum adapter that makes the FormBox compatible with any household vacuum cleaner, and to develop 3D-printed molds in the prototyping process. “It’s been a really good experience for us,” Smilansky adds. “We found it really liberating.”
Kickstarter and Beyond
For now, the team’s focus is on making a success out of their Kickstarter campaign. “After that,” Smilansky says, “it’s really going to be about responding to what happens.”
They want to get an early community going with the FormBox, which will help them find out what kind of people use it and what they make with it. As the entrepreneurs help those users advance their use of the machine, they’ll also look for more formal investment funding, build out the Mayku team, and create more tabletop machines.
While there’s no timeline for creating the RotoBox, InjectoBox, CarvBox, and other ideas still on the drawing board, Smilansky’s gut feeling is that Mayku might introduce one new machine per year.
At each step along the path, they’ll be focused on empowering makers to create things never before invented. “We think that it’s really important that the maker is part of the process,” Smilansky says.
“We think that what’s possible is so vast.”