It's the inverse of our national motto; Aut Ex Uno Plures, or "Out of one, many," and it may well be the spur which bridges the world of 3D printing and small-scale part production.
If you do a lot of DIY 3D printing, you know the limitations of what is an amazing technology: limited printing speed, some less than ideal surface finishes and just a few materials from which to select. Even relatively small production runs of parts via 3D printing can take hours to complete.
But an Indiana man, Mark VanDiepenbos, has designed a rotocasting machine for the Maker community which promises to provide a link to production capability from a 3D printed original. VanDiepenbos' RotoMAAK is designed to allow the production of hollow cast parts via an old-school process known as rotational casting, or rotocasting. It's a molding process used to create items, generally hollow items, from plastics, but it's not hard to imagine that the processes could be tuned for a variety of other casting materials as well.
It works when a hollow mold is filled with air-cure resin and then the entire mold is rotated around in the RotoMAAK along two perpendicular axes. The soft material is pressed by centrifugal forces to the inside perimeter of the mold as it rotates constantly until the resin is sufficiently cured.
Using parts laser-cut from melamine in its construction, the RotoMAAK rotational casting machine is a low cost method by which Makers can reproduce identical parts from a single printed object.
The RotoMAAK has been launched on Kickstarter. You could get a complete kit for $699 now.
Mark VanDiepenbos says rotocasting was initially applied to plastics part production in the 1940s, but since a slow adoption period, improvements in process control and the development of better air cure resins have made it a viable process once more.
"The RotoMAAK rotational casting machine allows the hobbyist to experiment with different casting materials and mold creation for production scale-up of parts to meet customer needs," VanDiepenbos says. "With the popularity of DIY 3D printing, you now have the ability to create a 3D object in a relatively short amount of time compared to the traditional prototyping or one-off manufacturing processes. 3D Printing allows you to create one part faster than traditional processes, but not reproduce it as quickly as mass manufacturing technologies. With rotational casting, you have more options to reproduce many identical parts from a successful print."
He adds that the process isn't limited to 3D printed molds, and that molds can be created from nearly any part and reproduced in multiples.
The idea came about when VanDiepenbos was looking for ways to increase the speed of reproducing 3D printed parts, either by using a mold that was 3D printed and cast directly, or by 3D printing your part and creating a silicon mold. He said lots of discussions at Maker Faires and with other Makers and hobbyists helped him identify a number of likely niches and applications for the RotoMAAK.
VanDiepenbos envisions that the RotoMAAK will be used by doll makers, artists, model makers and action figure enthusiasts. He also says candy makers can "make custom and personalized hollow chocolate figures."
The RotoMAAK uses a variable speed motor which runs up to 14 rpm, a 12v DC gear drive motor with planetary gear reduction, 608 bearings at all pivot points and axes, precision laser cut parts for the frame and has a maximum mold size capacity of 10" x 10" x 10".
The first laser cut parts kit, available at a pledge level of $150, are set to ship in June 2014. The complete kit - $550 and $699 – will be ready to ship in August 2014, and a fully assembled kit (priced at $1399) is expected to ship in September 2014.