“Even gaining access to an industrial vacuum former was harder than expected, so being able to produce everything ourselves from our studio with just a vacuum cleaner made the project extremely straight-forward.” - Mike McCabe
Who Are PlayDude
PlayDude is an independent London based brand run by designer and illustrator, Mike McCabe. It creates limited editions of toy figures, accessories and apparel with a loyal following of online fans. PlayDude often collaborates on projects with major brands like Vans shoes to create exhibitions, projects and accompanying projects. Due to the short turnaround times involved in many of their creations, they often require the means to create short runs of products, reliably, with a tight deadline.
Playdude used the FormBox to create the packaging for a short run of designer toy figures made in collaboration with London based skate company Blast Skates and Vans shoe company.
PlayDude aimed to create a limited edition of 50 toy figures. They wanted these figures to look as close to a mass manufactured product as possible. This meant blister packing the finished figures. However, due to the number of figures they were intending to produce, packaging factories would not want to do the work and quotes they were receiving were prohibitively expensive. The challenge was to make a short run of factory level packaging on time, within budget and that would adhere to their high standards of products.
“We looked into having a factory produce the blister packaging, but finding somewhere that would take on such a small run of only 100 pieces was basically impossible and the setup costs were very expensive.” - Mike McCabe
By using the FormBox to create both the prototypes for the packaging and the final run, PlayDude were able to significantly reduce their lead times, costs and number of prototypes.
They implemented a 3D printer to FormBox workflow, using an Ultimaker 3 to create a master pattern that could then be vacuum formed in the FormBox. This enabled them to quickly test for positioning, fit and removability. It also enable PlayDude to get physical prototypes into their hands for inspection extremely quickly, rather than waiting for slow deliveries, massively reducing their product development time.
After a few more iterations of 3D print + vacuum form cycle, they perfected the final form of the required shape. A high definition master 3D print was created, the inner void of which was filled with Mayku pour, a pro-grade plaster that ships with the FormBox. The plaster, once set, makes for a solid core, enabling the 3D printed plastic part to be vacuum formed multiple times over in quick succession without deforming. This inexpensive and rapidly created tooling can be kept for re-use at a later date.
PlayDude then set up a pop-up desktop production line in their studio and vacuum formed 50 factory grade packaging pieces. Once the pieces were formed, they were cut, the toys were placed snugly inside, all of the pieces were assembled into their final form and a short run of 50 products were made in less than a day.
- Set up cost - £599
- Part cost - £1
- Prototyping time - 18 Hours of 3D Printing
- Production time - 1 day
- Set up cost - £2500
- Part cost - £3
- Prototyping time - 2-3 weeks
- Production time - 1 week
Tangible, single prototypes on the day
Using the FormBox, PlayDude were able to go from CAD to accurate physical prototype in just one day, enabling to quickly analyse where modifications were needed and make the necessary adjustments.
Significant time savings
By bringing prototyping and production in-house, there was no time wasted waiting for prototypes to arrive, fitting into an external suppliers schedule or trying to explain modifications over the phone.
Massively reduced costs
The quotes PlayDude were receiving from the factory were an impediment to making the project happen. Purchasing a FormBox was just 20% of the setup cost of going to an external supplier and the final part costs were 60% cheaper.