If there is one thought every design entrepreneur shares, it is this: "I often find product categories where I can't find an offering that meets my standards for function/design/quality/cost." This then drives them to see if they can do better by producing and selling their own design.
In the case of Michigan-based inventor, Eric Steckling, who penned the sentence above, this had to do with cast-iron skillets. While they're a mainstay in many a kitchen, their production method is the same as that used in the 19th Century: Sand casting. This produces rough-surfaced, chunky objects that are heavy. Steckling and his company, Marquette Castings, reckoned they could get the weight down while maintaining iron's heat-retaining properties. "Reducing the weight of the cookware was one of our main design goals," they write. "Lighter cookware is easier to handle and clean."
Thus they turned to investment casting, using injection-molded wax blanks within ceramic shells to cast 8" and 10" pans.
Left: Cast handle detail. Middle: Injection molded wax pattern. Right: Aluminum mold to make pattern Ceramic shell around wax template Ceramic shell coming off new casting
With this production method, they're able to achieve both thinner wall thicknesses (3mm versus the typical 5mm) and a smoother finish that better accepts seasoning.
Left: Old-school. Right: New-school.
Investment casting a larger-diameter pan wasn't viable, however, so for their 12" model they stuck with sand casting but then milled the thicknesses down.
12" Skillet after milling
In order to bring these three pans to market, Marquette Castings launched a Kickstarter campaign:
At press time they were about 25% of the way there, with $7,352 pledged towards a $30,000 goal and 27 days left to pledge. Intriguingly, they're not only offering early bird specials at lower prices, but also "late bird" specials for even less, for buyers who are willing to wait for later production runs. For example:
- 8" Skillet - Early Bird - $98 - Ships Jan. 2017
- 8" Skillet - Standard - $90 - Ships Feb. 2017
- 8" Skillet - Late Bird - $80 - Ships Mar. 2017
You can learn more about the pans, and see videos on both their casting processes and pre-seasoning techniques, at their campaign page.