Say you’re a chocolatier who wants to make candies in the shape of dolphins, or unicorns, or a customer’s name. You’d have to get your hands on a foodsafe mold, which usually means you either have to choose from limited selection in stores or pay a boatload to have a custom mold made.
That’s exactly the sort of restrictive problem that the Mayku (pronunced ‘Make-you’) Formbox is trying to solve. The machine, which is about the same size and height of an open laptop, works by softening a thin sheet of food-safe material and forming it around any object up to 200 mm squared (7.8 inches squared). Once the sheet sets it can be removed and used as a mold for everything from plastic to molten sugar.
Mayku co-founders Benjamin Redford and Alex Smilansky both came from design backgrounds. “To make a product in the digital world you just have to press a few buttons. Comparatively, the barrier to entry in the physical world is so high,” Smilansky, who also functions as Mayku’s CEO, told me over the phone. With the FormBox, he hopes to democratize manufacturing and make it easier for small companies or even home enthusiasts to make short runs of products.
The Mayku FormBox costs $699 and comes with 40 food-safe moldable sheets. You can order additional sheets for $1.30 each. Seven hundred bucks is certainly not nothing, especially if you’re a small-scale producer just starting up. However, Smilansky assured me that it’s miles cheaper than buying custom silicone molds, which he said can cost hundreds of dollars each and sometimes require a customer orders many multiples per order.
Mayju first launched the FormBox on Kickstarter in 2016 with a goal of getting 100 preorders. Within a month they had 1,300. They began shipping the summer of 2018 and are now being used by roughly 4,000 makers.
According to Smilansky, a surprisingly large portion of their makers are in the food industry. “We initially had no idea that the food industry would be interested in this,” Smilansky told me. “But it’s actually our fast-growing segment.” But when you think about it for a second, this type of product seems perfect for artisan food and beverage companies. It allows them to experiment with new products with relatively little investment and risk, and can also help them stand out from the competition.
Beyond the FormBox, London-based Mayku has plans to expand to a suite of products. Smilansky said that they want to build a family of integrated machines, including a 3D printer, laser cutter, and more. They also want to create an online platform where their community of creators can share designs and videos of themselves showing off their techniques the Mayku FormBox.
“It’s really about small-scale manufacturing,” Smilansky said. “We wanted to give creative makers without massive budgets access to the same kinds of tools that giant companies have.”
That’s an ambitious goal, especially for a 12-person company that’s raised 2.6 million pounds(~$3.24 million) on top of the initial $600,000 they pulled in on Kickstarter.
However, the Mayku FormBox is coming about at a very opportune time. There’s currently a growing movement towards the democratization of previously difficult/expensive tasks — including in the kitchen. Small companies and even ambitious individuals can now do everything from roast their own coffee to make their own chocolate. And now with the Mayku FormBox, they can take that chocolate and shape it into whatever their heart desires.