Manufacturing packaging from scratch is an expensive endeavour, especially when that packaging needs to be a custom fit or form. As you scale the production of packaging it becomes economical, but short runs (for limited edition products, for example) always have a high cost. 80% of that cost is setup cost.
PlayDude, a London-based designer and manufacturer of limited edition toys and novelties, know this all too well. They collaborate on projects with major brands like Vans to create exhibitions and other interesting products. One of their recent projects was to create a limited edition production run of 50 toy figures. They wanted these to be as close to the look of a mass manufactured product as possible. However, given the small run, packaging factories didn’t want in on the project. This made the team look for a solution in-house.
Enter the FormBox
The Mayku FormBox is a desktop-size vacuum former which uses any household vacuum cleaner (yes, really!) to create the suction. Using a special attachment, your vacuum cleaner sucks the hot plastic down over the mould on the bed with the same performance as an industrial-grade machine. The result of which is the capability to produce packaging or indeed anything at home or in your workshop from plastic. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
The team at PlayDude love their FormBox. Their challenge was to make a short run of factory level packaging on time, within budget and that which would adhere to their high standards of products. They could easily have achieved that by paying a factory a lot of money. But why pay more for the same thing you can achieve for a fraction of the cost?
The team looked to bring in an industrial vacuum former at first but that didn’t work out. As owner Mike McCabe said, “Even gaining access to an industrial vacuum former was harder than expected so being able to produce everything ourselves from our studio with just a vacuum cleaner made the project extremely straight forward.”
Meeting the challenge
PlayDude used the FormBox to create the packaging for their toy figures, which were commissioned in collaboration with London based skate company Blast Skates and Vans shoe company. The process to manufacture the packaging involved more than just vacuum forming, but the vacuum forming was necessary to manufacture the transparent plastic mould the product would sit in on the shelf. This would then be backed by cardboard.
The process started by designing a master pattern of the toy figurine in CAD. This was then sliced for 3D printing. The team used an Ultimaker 3 to manufacture the master cast. This enabled them to achieve high accuracy in the part and create a master pattern that was true to form. It also enabled them to quickly test for positioning, fit and removability. The master pattern didn’t require any post-processing, just a clean to ensure a smooth surface.
With the master pattern ready, the team got to work manufacturing the packaging. They used Mayku Form Sheets in 0.5mm size. These sheets are completely transparent and look as good as anything you’ll find packed on the shelf at your local toy store. The team printed a few iterations of the master part on their 3D printer and went through the vacuum form cycle a few times until they were happy with the finished product. Once they were happy, they setup a pop-up desktop production line in their studio and formed away.
By using the FormBox to create both the prototypes for the packaging and the final run, PlayDude reduced their lead times, costs and number of prototypes.
Machines: 3D printer Ultimaker 3 – Mayku FormBox.
This case study was first published on the Mayku website. All images are credit to Mayku.