We interview Peter Marigold, creator of FORMcard, the UK-made instant mouldable fixing product.
FORMcard is a recent Kickstarter Campaign that we spotted that we thought was well worth a mention. Peter Marigold, the products creator, got in touch with us to tell us about the troubles he’d had getting his new invention made abroad. And we were very pleased to here that he eventually managed to achieve a better, and more economical way of making FORMcard in the UK. Below is the interview that we did with him.
Peter, tell us a bit about you and what inspired you to create FORMcard?
FORMcard emerged out of a series of public workshops that I held working with thermoplastics. I had run some with young people for the Sorrell Foundation (National Saturday Club) and for fashion students, and then also a week long project at the well known Boisbuchet estate in France. During these I quickly began to appreciate that the incredible potential of these thermoplastics was held back by the form in which they were supplied. You have to mash them together and then reheat them, which is (literally) a pain to do, I found it also very wasteful and would result in bulky stodgy solutions when only quick simple fixes were needed. We worked through a number of possible forms that the material could be moulded into, including some tapes, ribbons and patches, and I found that I would always keep a small piece in my wallet for fixes whenever, wherever. The credit card shape emerged out of this.
How does FORMcard differ from Sugru, the other great UK-made mouldable fixing product?
I love Sugru! It’s a brilliant product for fixing things in a particular way – particularly when you need to bond on to things. But FORMcard is fundamentally different as it mostly does not stick to anything – this makes it great for removable fixes (covers for blades for example) and moulding around things. However when it’s VERY hot (when it comes straight out of boiled water) it WILL stick to plastics – this is then great for fixing things like broken plastic toys that just can’t be fixed conveniently and quickly by other glues / materials. I really like this aspect of it. I actually fixed a bunch of broken plastic shovels in Coram’s fields playground in London once…. just sitting in the cafe asking for cups of boiled water! So nice to do!
Another big difference is it’s instant use. There’s no waiting around for it to dry, it just needs to cool down, so you can work with it around a campfire and instantly fix something… I even fixed a hole in my shoe once! It’s also reusable, so if you don’t get it right first time you can just reheat and go for it again. Or when you’ve finished with the fix you can melt it back down and do something different next time.
When you first decided to create the product which countries did you look to for production first?
India and China. We took two routes, using Alibaba and using a contact we already had over there.
I have to be honest, using Alibaba was nothing short of terrifying. The level of interaction with factories over there ranged from the surreal to the alarming. Firstly they would just generally ignore the specifics of the messages I would send e.g. just substituting their own material instead of mine when replying, this does not instil confidence! Then after actually establishing some contact with possible manufacturers and developing a real conversation with them we received emails from ‘CEOs’ warning us that their email accounts had been hacked and that we should not send any money to the people we had been speaking to! The whole interaction with all the different companies there just sent alarm bells ringing.
We also tried to involve a contact we had over there, a good friend who has worked in China for many years in this field, and although he was interested he gave a very clear warning that if we did actually find someone to work with and they realise that production is going well, they will soon after rip off the product and start using the mould for their own production. Everything was quite depressingly predictable really!
We contacted more than 100 companies internationally to try and get prices and it was a real eye open!
How did you find the chemical company and injection moulders that are making the plastic in the UK?
As I say I had already been working with the thermoplastic distributor previously which are U.K. produced, so this was simply a matter of negotiating an agreeable supply chain with them. They’ve been very supportive and we’re now working with them on the logistics side of things.
For the moulding, this was going on at the same time as looking to the Far East production and we just trawled many sites. A key thing was that we didn’t know what kind of volumes we could go for, and many companies just didn’t bother to respond. In the end we found a great company who could handle small runs or also scale it up if needed – they’ve been incredibly friendly and helpful, and I’m very happy that we chose them. It wasn’t just a question of the initial costs (the tooling is very expensive) but a balance between the tooling and the parts cost. The moulders are Travin products who also, interestingly produce their own DIY injection moulding machines! I can recommend them for any budding low volume inventors out there.
Why did you finally decide to manufacture the FORMcard in the UK?
It was really a balance of costs and fears! But costs much more than anything. It seems illogical to have a plastic product made over here as it’s more expensive. But I had a very accurate spreadsheet that tipped us in the right direction. The companies that I finally found in China who could handle the job were cheaper – but not convincingly so – and on top of this we had a double payment of shipping and import / export costs to take into account (as the material would have to be sent over). These costs are never totally clear, and once I added in the worst case scenario costs it just didn’t make sense to have it happen over there. Having everything produced over here has been brilliant. We had an instant success with our Kickstarter campaign and I was able to ask the moulders to produce a further 15,000 FORMcards which can be shipped locally in a very short space of time. It still is slightly more expensive to do it over here, but the amount of control we now have over things is just so much better (I heard so many horror stories about shipments just going missing….)
Once your Kickstarter campaign is over how to you plan to sell FORMcard?
Luckily we have some really great options open already. As well as selling directly ourselves we’ve had contact already from buyers and distributors all over the world already! Some key big chain stores have requested them and they are in a very broad range of fields : crafts / arts, DIY, boating! I really like that the product can cross fields so well – it’s very versatile.
A really funny thing is that a big distributor in the Far East has also requested it… it would be hilarious to sell things in reverse order coming from us to over there…. but with the feeling of rip offs ever present, I’m not doing anything with naivety.
With some great offers from Japan and Europe it looks like FORMcard are going to be a great success.
Catch the last few hours of the Kickstarter Campaign for FORMcard here
See a great video of how FORMcard works below: