The desktop manufacturing revolution is only just beginning, and it certainly isn’t limited to 3D printing technology. Low-cost CNC machines and laser cutters will play their part, and brands like
have demonstrated that hybrid manufacturing is possible even for independent DIY enthusiasts. Launching almost simultaneously with the recently announced
from Mayku is the
, a 3D molding platform designed for rapidly casting 3D objects on one’s desktop.
Raw material is fed into an injection system. (Image courtesy of Allforge.)
The Allforge is capable of casting batches of objects, feeding a hopper worth of material into a heating mechanism, melting it down and sending it into a mold. Once the material has cooled into the desired shape, the finished object is dropped into a holding area, allowing the Allforge machine to get to work on the next batch. While unable to achieve the geometrical complexity of 3D printing, the system does have the advantage of automated, short-run manufacturing over 3D printing. Using a CNC-milled or 3D-printed mold, users are able to create custom objects on their desktops, telling Allforge the desired number of batches to produce via a smartphone app.
3D-printed molds can be ordered through Allforge partner 3D Hubs. (Image courtesy of Allforge.)
Offering preorders for the machines on the Allforge website, the Allforge system is available in three models: the Sweet, Startup and Boss. The names are roughly associated with the materials that each model can handle. The Sweet, for instance, is designed for molding soft materials, like chocolate, soap or wax. The Startup kicks this up a notch with the ability to, in addition to the aforementioned soft materials, work with plastics, such as polylactic acid and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Finally, the Boss is capable of heating metals with a melting point below 650 °F, such as pewter, tin, lead, bismuth, cadmium and indium. Much of this is demonstrated in the Allforge video below.
Many of the specifications of the systems depend both on the materials used and the experience level of the user. According to Allforge, the resolution of the parts produced with the platform are roughly 90 percent of that of the mold used. The suggested size of the mold is about 200 mm x 200 mm x 50 mm (7.9 in x 7.9 in x 2.0 in), with the production volume of the Allforge limited to 100 mL (3.4 oz) of plastic materials, 250 mL (8.5 oz) of metal materials and 300 mL (10 oz) of low-temperature materials. The time it takes to produce a single part is estimated to be about five minutes and 32 seconds for metal, five minutes and 18 seconds for plastics and two minutes and eight seconds for hard candy.
Once an item is complete, it is dropped into a collection area, allowing the next item to be produced. (Image courtesy of Allforge.)
Foregoing Kickstarter, Allforge has opened up preorders on its own website, selling the Sweet, Startup and Boss at various discounts as low as 50 percent off of the original prices: $5,000 for the Sweet, $6,500 for the Startup and $8,000 for the Boss. As with all crowdfunding campaigns, particularly one that is hosted on an independent website, buyer beware; not all crowdfunding campaigns deliver on their promises. If Allforge does deliver, however, this system does seem like an efficient, low-cost solution for batch production.