Mar 21, 2016 | By Kira

For years, 3D printing has promised a manufacturing revolution, giving individuals the ability to produce custom goods and create entire businesses from their very homes. And while desktop 3D printing is indeed an amazing technology, for most makers, the reality of full-scale, desktop manufacturing has gone unrealized for one very important reason: time. Desktop FDM 3D printing is still an extremely time-consuming process, taking hours to days to 3D print parts, usually with a somewhat limited range of materials. Injection molding is the go-to method for scale production, but it can be prohibitively expensive, keeping individuals and small businesses out of the game.

A Florida-based startup called Allforge, however, is looking to change that, and has launched an ambitious yet still quite obscure campaign for their upcoming super-fast, super versatile 3D molding machines. The idea is simple: to bridge slow, low-cost 3D printing with fast, high-cost injection molding, all with a single, affordable, desktop machine. “If you want to make one of something, you 3D print it. If you want to make multiples of something, you 3D mold it,” explained the company.

Using 3D printed or other material molds, these machines claim to allow users to replicate plastic, candy, and even metal parts on a mass scale within seconds to minutes, all from their desktops.

In essence, these 3D molding machines are kind of like 3D copiers. Users begin by either 3D printing a mold of their desired object from plastic, or using other tools, such as a CNC machine. For users without access to a 3D printer, Allforge will be providing a library of pre-made molds has even partnered with 3D Hubs to allow people to simply order their 3D printed mold and get started with push-button manufacturing. With their 3D mold and 3D mold machine in hand, users load up their desired material, select the quantity of replicas that they want, and let the fully automated, app-controlled desktop manufacturing system take over.

“We believe you should be able to mass manufacture anything you want - at home. Plastic, metal, candy, and more - fast and cheap,” said the company.

Three models of the Allforge 3D molding machines have so far been announced: the Allforge Sweet, which molds low-temperature materials such as chocolate, hard candy, soap, and silicone; the Allforge Startup, which can mold numerous plastic and rubber materials; and finally, the Allforge Boss, which in addition to low-temperature and plastic materials, is capable of metal casting up to over 340°C.

In fact, Allforge has apparently even worked with metallurgists to develop a non-toxic metal alloy that can be used in 3D printed plastic (ABS) molds. This means that, out of the box, the Allforge Boss will allow users to work with bismuth, indium, tin, and pewter, and other metals, and can be configured to cast aluminium, magnesium, zinc, and more.

According to the company, maximum part volumes will differ based on the material--roughly 100 cubic centimeters (cc+) for plastic parts, 300 cc+ for low-temp materials, and 250 cc+ for metals. Standard molds can be as big as 200 x 200 x 50 mm in size, but advanced users could even achieve 200 x 200 x 200 mm with some configuration. And, since each material reaches the mold through separate channels, users can switch between materials on the fly, (though separate molds are recommended if users are working with different food materials) making production and cleaning even easier.

To prove just how fast these machines really work, Allforge produced several 77 x 60 x 42 mm models of its mascot, Arto. The metal part was finished in 5 minutes, 32 seconds; the plastic part in 5 minutes, 18 seconds, and the hard candy model was finished in just 2 minutes and 8 seconds. In fact, producing the parts only takes a few seconds, it's the cooling process that can add a few minutes, but even then, it's remarkably fast.

Allforge is the Florida-based daughter company of Finnish tech-startup Modti, founded by Shane Allen and Louri Kotorov and known for its patent-pending 3D shape programmable hardware technology (which it has promised to somehow integrate into the 3D mold machines sometime in the future). Not only is the company committed to kick starting desktop manufacturing, but it is also publicly committed to keeping the fully American-made machine as affordable as possible.

 “We believe that products should last you a lifetime,” said Allen. “Our machine is entirely custom made of custom CNC aluminum and stainless steel parts manufactured here in America. We believe there is a manufacturing shift that will take place soon, bringing jobs back to the US and Europe, and we aim to be at the forefront of that shift.”

Allforge Base Frame Platform

It all sounds very promising, however Allforge has remained quite tight-lipped regarding specific technologies, prices, or release dates. A Kickstarter campaign, with a $100,000 funding goal and 50% retail discounts, is set to launch May 1st, with additional information gradually coming to light via its community-oriented forum board.

If the entire process is as fast, easy, and cheap as suggested, then Allforge’s 3D molding machines could in fact represent the first true desktop factories, capable of mass-producing 3D printed parts that, even after time and material is factored in, might actually be profitable for makers. We’ll be following along to see just where this intriguing campaign goes.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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Vivek wrote at 3/26/2016 6:25:27 AM:

fantastic!



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