A $1,500 hand-operated, bench-model plastic injection machine funded via Kickstarter can be used to mold small, quality, plastic parts inexpensively, on demand. Shown here is the prototype with the basic manual (screw tightening) mold vise that comes standard with the machine, for prototyping or lower-volume production. (Source: LNS Technologies)
Do you remember when you were a kid; there were two examples of modern industry at the Zoo? One was the little coining press that took your copper penny and rolled it into a coined medallion; the other was micro injection press that molded a little bear as a souvenir in front of the Polar Bear house. For a Quarter, you watched a little mold-press produce your bear. I still remember the smell of molten polycarbonate I smelled for the very first time.
Isn't it funny that these micro-industrial processes were commonly showcased at the Zoo, of all places-? That's where my memory pulled that ancient recollection, and now you have the same memory -- I'm now curious if it was the same Zoo-? For me, it was the Detroit Zoo, circa 1965.
You have to see the reply from YALC, dated 6/7/2013 - 3:09:02 PM (just a bit below) . YALC posted the link to the original machine, exactly as I remember it as 5 year old boy! From that link, hit "Vintage-Mold-A-Rama" in the left margin. Thank You, YALC !
My favorite toy as a kid was the Kenner Mold Master. You put in plastic pellets into the tower to melt them, insert a mold in the base, and press a plunger to inject the plastic.
I had the army toy set that could make tanks, jeeps, trailers, rocket launchers and army men.
Some of the molds were multipart, like for the tank, that would make the side tread impressions that you would pull out of the main mold with the tank and then remove the side pieces.
I loved the toy because as the parts becaume scuffed or broken, I just crushed up the part and tossed it back into the melter to be reused.
As an adult, I tracked down a few on eBay and purchased them with the idea of using my wood CompuCarver to create new molds.
I'll let you know if I ever get that far, but this product is a grownup version of the toy I had in the 60's.
I tried to get a similar toy for my stepson, but it had been dumbed down to be safer (no learning to avoid hot plastic being dripped on you) to the point of being useless (no multipart molds, just poured like a cake, no injection).
BrainiacV – I don't remember that Kenner toy; I wish I had one! I did have Mattel's 'Thing-Maker' & Creepy-Crawlers; and then later, the Incredible-Edibles version of the same. Both were poured in a cavity only (no core) and baked like an Easy-bake oven.
TV commercial -1964 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS07TPPu0SE
Wow, what a blast from the past. And what a testimony to the difference between the Obama administration and the Johnson administration. How times have changed!
Great commercial and 1 minute long instead of the current 15 seconds! I had friends who had Creeple People molds. Feet, hands, a head you fold over and hold with a neck ring onto a pencil to make a doll (of sorts). We used to fill syringes with denatured alcohol and shoot through a candle to flame thrower them.
(ahem) Maybe I just dreamed that last part :-)
Google "kenner mold master" and you'll find photos of the product that don't do it justice.
Like the old Vac-u-forms, a toy that could really raise a blister, toys of the 60's were scaled down industrial processes instead of the nerfballs we have today.
Lego Mindstorms and Vex Robotics are about the only useful toys out there today. Unfortunately after the industrial controls I used to do, it has too few I/O's to interest me. Vex has enough I/O for my interest, just too pricey for my budget.
Ah, yes, the Mattel Vac-u-Form! I didn't have one of those, but a friend across the street did, and I thought it was very hot (literally). I had a Mattel Power Shop, which had a combination wood lathe, disc sander, jig saw and drill press, all-in-one. You couldn't cut hardwood with it, but it was great for balsa wood projects. I guess a lot of us got our start in making things as kids with toys that would be banned as too dangerous today, but the concept of making the tools cheaper so you can use them at home lives on!
A local Medical products company uses a slightly larger version (with an air cylinder to provide the "PUSH" for injecting the molten plastic). With quality molds and medical grade plastic, they made very high quality parts.
On the slide show, slide 7 (I think) is a golf tee not a screw. Not a big deal, but putting the matching threads on a 2 piece mold is not a trivial task.
In all seriousness, what does Obama have to do with it? The erosion of the education value of toys started long before he got into office. Why not blame Mao or Angela Merkel? it's almost as relevant. I do agree with your sentiment on the dumbing down of toys, and surface mount components and boxed PC's have also put an end to what was for many a stepping stone into computers. Again not by presidental decree, but in these cases market forces.
Thanks, Al. This made me think of a Gadget Freak article in reverse: what would happen if one of our many innovative, creative Gadget Freak inventors had gone ahead and commercialized his/her invention and sold it? I've noticed reader requests for exactly that on some Gadget Freak comment boards.
Since 1968 Morgan Plastic has made handy little presses for engineers and small manufacturers. See: http://www.morganindustriesinc.com/ You can buy them on the used market for little money. For years we used parts from these presses when large production was impossible.
Thanks for letting us know about your products, Eric. From the photos on your site, these look like more professional, much higher-priced machines. The point of the Kickstarter project was to create a smaller, simpler DIY machine that costs less than what's available. Can you tell us what your prices are?
As an injection molding professional, the idea that this makes quality parts is subjective. If you mean swizzle sticks and screw driver handles, then yes it is probably good. But if you think that this could mold a complex, thin-walled device with tight tolerances, good luck.
The idea of process control for this press is entirely operator dependant. Can you imagine a small framed person trying to push plastic into a mold quickly to try and fill thin walled part. Or having some large framed person standing on the plunger (for the pack and hold pressure phase of the molding process) making thick parts that are larger and more dense than the previous (pack and hold pressure being one of many variables controlling part quality)?
Not to bash this in totality, it is cool and I want one for myself. But it is a nitch machine for a nitch market. Recognize what it can and cannot do!
By the way, I remember in high school shop many, many years ago having a similar type plunger machine. The instructor had two molds, one a screwdriver handle and one an army guy. We were able to turn it on, put our choice of colored plastic into the hopper, wait for the charge to melt, and then ram the handle to push the plastic into the mold. Everyone got a screwdriver and an army guy! The teaching was that plastic can be melted and pushed into another form. I guess that was the point of the machine and shop experience.
Nice article Ann. It's interesting that while this isn't really a new idea (ref. many of the examples cited in the other comments), this product may have legs because of the success of the 3D printers. 3D printers are reawakening the do-it-yourself spirit that seem to have waned in last 20-30 years and a DIY injection molding machine has a place in that resurgence. Timing is everything...
And while I expected GTO's reaction from someone, I don't think anyone is suggesting that this machine is going to replace industrial injection molders or injection molding professionals. That isn't the target market and isn't the correct application.
However, if some small-framed DIYer did try to mold a thin-walled part and couldn't do it because they couldn't exert enough pressure, that DIYer would probably dive in to create a fix, either by learning about flow channels, making a longer lever arm or hooking a motor up to assist in actuating it. And if this then leads to blowing the mold apart, it opens the door to more learning and more solutions.
Anything that inspires more people to do for themselves and get their hands dirty is a good thing.
Clinton, I agree this isn't a new idea, but an example of what an inventive engineer or technically-minded hands-on person can do. I think your point is well-taken--that 3D printing has helped inspire a DIY trend. This machine is DYI on two counts--one the inventor/builder building it, and two, what it enables other DIY-ers to do, as it enabled his electronic kit business. I like your hypothetical situation of others tweaking or reinventing these machines for their own needs. That's part of the whole spirit.
I really love this idea! Low cost, but functional within reasonable limits. There is a healthy market for hobbyists in the USA wanting to make things right in their own garage.
I see a larger positive trend with these machines and others like it. By having affordable 3-D printing (and now injection molding!) tools made local used by locals, you have a more vibrant economy. At the very least, its more options for the designer to get their product either made by their own hands or by their neighbor down the street.
I do not see injection molding as a desktop item. It just requires heavy duty equipment for any meaningful size. Yes 3D printers can accomplish more for the same size machine. No offense but what are you going to construct with 0.4in cube? Plastic stand offs is about it? There is only so many ways you can design stand offs then what next? Purchase a larger injection molding machine? Other than educating people about injection molding I do not believe this item has any other use.
Droid, actually, it might not be as big a deal as you might think. There are lots of small shops that have CNC machines. Some do that for living (I had a uncle who did that). Others would probably do it for a fee. As long as you have the file, you should be able to do it.
Right, Droid - This IS the key issue being missed: CNC cutting, even in low cost aluminum, is beyond the budget of most DIY'ers. ProtoMold.com is one of the best, fastest, and least expensive On-Line CNC shops today. Just this week, a little ~2" custom designed plastic enclosure was quoted at $3,500 for the bottom, and $2,800 for the mating half. About $6,000 for a tiny housing set. Cheap for a corporate entity, but beyond reach for the hobbyist.
The idea with a small machine like this is that you can also afford to buy some of the other components of the process. FOr the cost of having a mold made you could pay for a small "bench to" cnc machine and move the process into your own shop rather than having to depend on others to produce things for you. Benchtop CNC machines start out around $5000 US and that would cover the cost of having an outside vendor make just your first part.
You need to take a look at programs like Mach3 (http://machsupport.com/) which allow an older PC to make a very good CNC control for a machine of your own design, or a retrofit to an existing machine.
These 2 machines in combination woud allow one to try out ideas wtih a very quick turn around time as compared to having an outside vendor do the work for you. There are some skills that would need to be learned, but we tend t o be the "geeks and freaks" types so none of these skills would be much of a challenge for our abilities. Imagine - less than 24 hour turn around time on an idea. Need a change, you pop a pice of aluminum in the machine and an hour later you have a new mold.
This is interestingand encouraging. BUt no matter what there still needs to be a die created and then put in a machine and used. And there is still a lot of effort needed in creating and implementing that die. Yes, lower pressure dies can be made and used but a die is still the expensive part.
The die is less expensive than you might think, Vincent R. Gingery covers plaster molds in his very informative book "Build a Plastic Injection Molding Machine" ISBN 1-878087-19-3. For the home hobbyist, if you can make a plaser negitive of a part you want, you shouldn't have any trouble making limited number of plastic positives without breaking the bank.
From what I have learned about injection molding, the design and production of the die are expensive along woth the die materials. A plaster die is an interesting concept, indeed. But it would not survive even one shot in any of the systems that I am aware of. So this must be a quite different kind of injection molding. Good, I need to learn new things every day.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.