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Low cost, all electric, benchtop injection molding machine (apsx.com)
112 points by doodah 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

OP here. As someone who launched and fulfilled a small plastic gizmo on Kickstarter and then sold them on Amazon and at local Makerfaires, this equipment really spoke to me. Hence the submission. I 3D printed my product initially and found market fit at $5/piece, which didn't leave me with a lot of options to go into production and build a profitable business off it. 3D printing them was unsustainable. Which is why I'm not currently selling them.

In order to produce them cost effectively, I'd need molds that cost several times what this entire system cost. And after that I'd have to order thousands at a time to bring my cost down to say $1. I passed on that at the time and considered producing them myself but this machine didn't exist at the time. If it had, I might be making them now! There are other benchtop/low volume molding systems but nothing comes as close to automatic production as this one.

As for the company's site, this is fairly typical, but I'm sorry I didn't link to a better page. It certainly didn't get my blood boiling though. Them showing their price brings lots of good will. The CNC mill is also very interesting, with 4 motors driving the Z axis simultaneously.

Not sure who you were talking to or how big your widget is, but if it's a single piece that fits in a 15cm cube and doesn't use expensive tolerances or shapes you're probably looking at somewhere between $4-$15k for a Chinese injection mold. My company makes a few of these each month.

It would fit into that size cube and the part doesn't have crazy tolerances. The shape complicates the mold significantly. Even after redesigning for moldability, there would be pretty complicated parting lines and shut offs.

Your situation was pretty different... Your company buys them, I was buying as an individual. You likely have a proven source, I didn't. It just wasn't a risk I was willing to take at that point in my life.

Actually, we're a contract manufacturer based in Shenzhen and that's what we sell them for.

You probably made the right call, though, even if you had found a perfect supplier. Hardware projects funded by individuals almost always end in heartache if they try to go big.

Cool! I'll keep you and your company in mind in the future.

At the time, I think I made the right call. Now with this machine being available I'm reconsidering. The mold bases are pretty inexpensive too. I could make the same investment I was going to make several years ago, but have a machine if it doesn't work out rather than a hunk of precisely machined, rather useless, steel on the other side of the world.

Send an email to the address in your profile.

Not to mention that you could be looking at multiple iterations of the mold. If you're selling a low-volume product, 4 molds @ 15k each could be your entire expected lifetime revenue.

> In order to produce them cost effectively, I'd need molds that cost several times what this entire system cost.

Was that price from China or the U.S. (or somewhere else)?

> I passed on that at the time and considered producing them myself but this machine didn't exist at the time. If it had, I might be making them now!

Does this mean you stopped making your product after fulfilling the Kickstarter orders?

Chinese molds would have been 2x. Plus all that goes into working with China (as a very small fish at that) I was pretty concerned with paying $20k for what wouldn't amount to much more than a boat anchor.

After fulfilling around 700 units on Kickstarter, I sold another 300 at local Makerfaires and around 100 on Amazon (using Vendor Express.)

What was the part you designed? Do you have a link to the Kickstarter?

Sure. The product was a new type of tube squeezer called Squizmo (Squeezing Gizmo.) I know I'm biased, but I think it is the best tube squeezer ever made.


I have seen devices like this several times, and what I honestly don’t get is why not just press the tube against the edge of a counter and squeeze that way?

I didn't sell many Squizmo's to people like you. There are a number of people who bought them without even being "pitched." I did witness several awkward disagreements between significant others who had different tube squeezing habits. Different strokes for different folks.

Using the edge of the counter is certainly one way to get the contents of the tube toward the opening. The Squizmo stays in position so the toothpaste stays in the same place. I think you'd be surpised at how flat the tube is after a Squizmo has been run up it!

Not OP but I agree with you regarding tube squeezers. Just lean it up against the counter and pull down.

However, I guess this one has the unique feature of letting you reuse smaller tubes by cutting off the end and refilling from a larger tube.

I get the convenience of using a smaller tube, so refilling it would be nice, but doesn’t convenience go away when you have this big plastic squeezer thing at the end of it?

What's wrong with just folding the end of the tube and rolling it in (like a squeezing spiral)? I grew up in Easter Europe, we were always squeezing the toothpaste to the last drop.

It seems like I was spite down-voted for mentioning a hack that removes need to create an ever more plasticky device that is useless IMO and pollutes the environment and kills animals. Until we find a way to recycle plastic properly we should think twice about the lifetime of every plastic item we create or bring into this environment. Thanks for reading this.

As sibling comment says, I'm not sure I see the value over a counter edge (though clearly refilling tubes is one point)

But I want to say WOW to your kickstarter video!! I was not expecting that level of testing and engineering to go into this, kudos to you for taking it next level.

Do you think you recouped the costs of those testing jigs or was it all good fun?

I absolutely did not recoup the cost of the testing jigs. Though I put a joy stick on the one jig that squeezed one tube into the other. At the makerfaires, people had much more fun with it than I would have ever anticipated.

That's incredible, thank you for sharing and making a quality kickstarter and apparently a quality product!

Honestly if you showed me your product in CAD or injection molded and asked if it could be useful 3D printed I would have guessed "no". You've opened my vision up!

Small nitpick but if you want to save money, stop using so much toothpaste. All you need is a pea sized amount. You're putting 3 times what's needed in your videos.

That was more showmanship than a demonstration of my personal teeth cleaning routine!

Either way, however much toothpaste you use, this could potentially help you get more out of the tube. The payback would be longer, but that's not really why most people buy stuff like this.

Regarding "HeyLaughingBoy"'s comment - that market would be tubes of caulk and glue/epoxy.

While in the industrial space most use the common "gun" style applicator with the large tubes of product, and certain other manufacturers (3M in particular) sell custom applicators for industrial use for certain products (oftentimes at an insane markup) - there is the space for both the DIY'er and "handyman" (as well as commercial maintenance).

They will typically use regular squeeze tubes, especially on smaller projects where the larger gun-style tubes are too much or wasteful (because they may only use a small amount, and even when capped off, the tubes will dry out/cure relatively rapidly, especially at the nozzle end - making them useless and wasting product/money).

There also might be a market for automotive window glass installers for the sealants they use (and a/c repairmen?); actually tons of markets like this when you stop to think about it!

When in doubt, don't sell to consumers, sell to businesses.

Find a business that buys product in tubes (protip: find industrial product in tubes and figure out who buys it!) and sell your product to them at a 10x markup as a cost-saving device.

I’m often appalled at the lack of decent information on a company’s product page. This is a serious one. In case you’re wondering, the price is $12,500. I still can’t find any info on how it works using 3D-printed molds, aren’t they going to melt? How are they shaped under pressure?

I'm a mechanical engineer who has been involved in the purchase of some industrial machinery. This is typical. You call the company, they will usually have a regional salesman come to your place of business to talk about it and bring literature. It's a very old way of doing business, but also effective. If there is a place to order from the website, it is usually for only after you have talked to their sales staff. This is actually a good website for me, because it shows a price. You would usually have to call to figure out if a machine costs $50k or $250k.

Here's an overview of 3D printed molds for injection molding.[1] These aren't the first people to do this. The mold has to have a much higher melting point than the material being molded, of course.

Formlabs has a "high temp resin", melting point around 289C.[2] US$200/liter. This is for their stereolithography machine. Filament-based 3D printers, not going to work for this.

This makes sense for production shops that need to make a few hundred of something.

[1] https://www.3dhubs.com/knowledge-base/3d-printing-low-run-in...

[2] https://archive-media.formlabs.com/upload/HighTemp-DataSheet...

I couldn't imagine forking over $12k to a website that looks like a poorly constructed phishing attempt

Web site looks fine, probably done by an engineer. Rather that than some slicked up bullshit from some “startup”.

This is an interesting comment; first, we have something akin to

> Web site looks fine, probably done by an engineer..."that looks like a poorly constructed phishing attempt"

...an amalgam of your's and parent's (to your's) posts, and then your's:

> Rather that than some slicked up bullshit from some “startup”

So the question on my mind is, "What does a ecommerce website look like that would satisfy both of your outlooks?"

That is, how does a designer/web developer create a website that won't look too "slick startup BS", but yet won't look like "non-designer engineering garbage"?

I'm not asking you for an answer, but posing this question for others to possibly think about what that answer might be, because too often we encounter one or the other option, and both turn potential customers away...

The other comment below yours does illustrate it a bit better, I don't think a sales site needs to be of a 'slick startup' style to provide a little more trust about their product and service, rather just take some care and attention with their presentation.

Things like the lackluster approach to their imagery or the lack of thought behind layout of elements in the footer/header etc to me doesn't instill the notion that this company has taken any care or thought to their own presentation, and because of that I wouldn't trust them to also take care with their card processing or other infrastructure related to taking my payment. You don't need a design degree or a deep understanding of the arts to make something which doesn't look like a dog's breakfast :)

Like these (no BS like stock photos of models around conference tables, just the products):



Of course this is not marketing to the general public. The site in question is a injection molding machine, so should follow the same no-BS guidelines.

What’s wrong with static pages and at most 2 frames? Man I sometimes I wish the internet would revert 25 years.

I'm pretty sure I would never pay $12k to a site, I would call the company.

on edit: but perhaps I am not the target demographic for things that are 'Low Cost'

It looks like you make only a small part of the mold with a high temperature plastic that the UV cure (formlabs, objet) 3D printers can do. The rest of the mold is metal. I suspect that they do not last long (<100 cycles).

During my time in engineering, the majority of my large purchases were made after exhibitions, often ordered on the phone with an email invoice. I can understand why websites are not a priority.

Interesting, but it seems quite expensive for the hobby market-- particularly since you also need the tooling to make the molds (or the cash to buy them).

If you're like me and that's too rich for your blood, you might look at the Gingery-style injection molding machines: https://makezine.com/projects/make-41-tinkering-toys/diy-inj.... They can be made quickly, work well, and are about 2% of the price, but of course are much more limited.

A lot of Gingery's stuff is obsolete in terms of not being 'expensive'. The books were based around the fact that scrap/metal were pretty cheap around that time.

Nowadays you're better of surfing Craiglist or buying an Import machine for most of his builds.

Metal is still cheap compared to new equipment, though not by the same margin. Much of Gingery's machines use cast aluminum, which is something that can often be found for free with enough patience - melt down soda cans, broken transmission housings if you have a mechanic friend, old furniture if you can find an office going out of business, etc.

Even at the time, you were probably better off buying a machine if you wanted one. However the learning experience of making your own is very valuable. The deep understanding of how the machines work, combined with practice means you are more likely to be able to use them correctly once you have one. (if you finish of course, most people don't)

While I wouldn't recommend a gingery lathe, I don't see any reason to ignore an injection molding machine design that is small, known working, and simple to the point of being obvious. You can certainly build one faster than you could find a castoff on Craigslist, and unless your shop is quite large you may wish you'd built the smaller machine even once you got your used industrial one working.

But would you want one as a hobbyist? Injection molding shines when it comes to mass production. For hobbyist purposes 3D printing seems a much better alternative. There are numerous companies out there offering this in a higher quality than FDM.

It really depends how you define “hobbyist.” I’m a designer by training and I (mostly) always designed purely digital products, but after moving to PM and consulting for a couple IoT companies I’ve become very interested in industrial design and design for manufacturing.

I’m especially intrigued by next-gen manufacturing (automated/lights out, 3D metal, etc.), and would absolutely love to have a small 5-axis CNC mill and some kind of injection molding facility alongside the 3D printing capability I already have for prototyping. Each tool enables a different range of options for design and material.

This isn’t now and likely won’t be my profession any time soon, so I would very much consider myself a hobbyist in this space.

Check out https://www.pocketnc.com/ - desktop 5-axis CNC mills.

I've looked at these, but if I went down this road it would take a fairly large commitment to begin with (I'd have to rent a separate shop) so I'd rather have something I could grow into, maybe a Datron C5 or similar.

3D printing is slow and parts can be hard to produce due to support needs and warp. A low volume injection molding machine would definitely be useful, especially if the molds would last 10's to 100's of pieces.

Sure, for the same reason that I have a vertical mill in my basement. It'll never break even, but it'll always be fun to hold up a part and know that I, and I alone, made it.

I have a mill and a lathe. These are wonderful for one-offs. With an injection mold I first need to create a mold and then the object. I just don't see the point (apart form maki9ng hundreds of the same object). Why not create the object directly? Afaik injection molding has even more restrictions compared to subtractive shaping (I've seen amazing things done with the latter).

Making dozens or hundreds of the same object is the point. The example army men from my linked article is a good one-- I could probably make hundreds of them on my creality, but it would take less time and the end product would be smoother injection molding them.

Perhaps as a rapid prototyping machine, this might work. As a hobbyist, I am not so sure.

The mill needed to create the mold exceeds your 2% pricetag.

Also found a basic info video on the machine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_l6PvF2Ju8

Great music. I want one.

There is a deep rabbit hole to go down once you start watching shiny videos of industrial machines. Once you watched one, your recommendations will be full of them, including gems such as automatic boiled sausage unwrappers and slicers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNRfVfm8eFw

If I understand the horribly-organized website and YouTube video correctly, you spend $12,500 for the machine, which can be plugged into a standard outlet, and which creates plastic parts up to 6 inches in diameter. In order to make the molds, you must also buy a CNC machine; theirs is $7000 (any CNC would work). The plastics cost about $25 a pound.

The work envelope is 4.8" x 6.0" so realistically you'd only get a ~4.375" diameter part geometry in there. You can't have hot plastic right up to the edge, the pressure would blow out the mold wall. This is assuming steel or aluminium molds. 3d printed molds would likely need even thicker walls to account for the voids in printing.

The one benefit would be if you were using or developing generative design in 3d printed molds, this would be a great test bed.

source - I work in the injection molding, 3dp, and CNC industry.

Man, this is why I love HN. One paragraph and you clarified questions raised by the last 10 injection molding articles I’ve read. Thank you.

Maybe instead of buying the $7,000 CNC machine you send the design off to a machine shop? Or use the CNC at a local makerspace?

I do agree that the low volume and small build area will pigeonhole the product, but it does fill a niche between 3D printing and big boy injection molding.

> In order to make the molds, you must also buy a CNC machine.

Manually controlled machines also exist.

Surprised and excited to see this on HN! I've been eyeing this machine for work but the tough part is designing a good mold. A simple two part mold is relatively easy with today CAD tools but it still takes some time to design if you are printing multiple pieces in one shot. If you want something for home, you're probably better off with a "drill press" injection molding machine [1]. It will run you less than $1K but you will need to do some post processing work.

[1] https://www.techkits.com/products/model-20a/

Nice. That machine looks pretty easy to DIY with an arbor press and a temperature controlled melter for the plastic.

I was considering this one, but I'm just starting down this particular rabbit hole.

Weird economics for this one. They claim to produce one piece of plastic every 60 seconds. Probably with post-processing, this translates to a part per 2 minutes, or 240 per day at most. In this low volume, you'd need to be selling high-value products to make economic sense. But then, if you have the budget for more than a few dollars per plastic, why wouldn't you go for a 3D printing service like Shapeways, or low volume molds, like ProtoMold ?

> Probably with post-processing, this translates to a part per 2 minutes

Is this not something which can happen in parallel on a production line?

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