Unmade meets Mayku

  • Jess Fawcett
(Originally published on the UMd Journal, 24th May 2016)
Mayku have been smashing it on Kickstarter. At the time of writing, their FormBox, ‘a desktop vacuum former that makes beautiful things’, has raised over ten times their $50,000 goal, receiving support from over 1,500 backers - and with still over a week to go! Luckily for us, Mayku are based in Makerversity in Somerset House, so we took a trip to the vaults to meet Alex Smilansky and Ben Redford, the fellas behind the FormBox.
The FormBox is a table-top vacuum-former which, powered by your humble domestic vacuum cleaner, creates plastic molds in mere seconds. Far faster and far cheaper than digital printing, with the FormBox, the world is your oyster. Or your beeswax banana chandelier, as produced by one participant in a recent Maykuthon.
The FormBox started life as Ben’s graduation project. Inspired by the idea of being able to liberate your domestic objects and use them to produce new things, he built a basic vacuum former and a set of tools, all from objects found around the home - drills, vacuum cleaners, washing machines. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when he was working for Mint Digital in China, that Ben had his ‘eureka’ moment. Seeing the huge vacuum formers used in the factories, he was reminded of his student project.
Enter Alex. The pair, who had worked together at Mint, joined forces at Makerversity and with funding from Design Council Spark [a product innovation fund and programme designed to fast-track products to market], work on the prototype FormBox began.
It's been amazing to go from a route of engineering, design and product into a digital world where things are done completely differently, and then to go back into the world of making things, and making things that make things - Alex
The prototype was, in their own words, ‘a big beast’ of a machine, so the next challenge was to make something that could be brought to market. It had to be small enough that someone could imagine taking it out of a cupboard and using it like a traditional domestic appliance. Slowly, they slimmed it down, changing the way the heaters work, reducing the number of components. The resulting FormBox was launched on Kickstarter at the start of May, and Mayku hit their funding goal within days. Although they’d already done a fair amount of user testing, Kickstarter has been great way to test the market and gain feedback.
Under-construction, and one of the elements that the pair are most excited about, is a Mayku library featuring tools that people can use to customise designs that have been created by the Mayku community. They'll be able to access templates and all the materials they’ll need to make their object. 
Going forward, the core of Mayku is going to be the online community and Kickstarter has given us the chance to build a very excited group of people. There's a whole parametric design world evolving and we want to enable people to be part of it - Alex
You can pre-order your FormBox via Mayku's Kickstarter campaign until 2nd June - the first two batches have already gone! - or pledge your support for the project via other rewards, including a DIY Cactus Pot Kit. And if you want to give the gift of making, there's also the option to donate a FormBox to a school of your choice or a maker space in Ghana. 
Go forth and Mayku!
There's a lot of cool stuff happening out there in terms of innovation, so we asked Mayku to nominate three people or companies that are inspiring them right now. Over to Alex:
Dominic Wilcox - for being a genius and always making me laugh.
Magic Leap - for letting us peer into the future with such clarity.
Tesla - for making incredible products and helping save the world.

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