That the impressions are key
How are impressions made w/other methods ? I assume there is a roller I could buy to press honeycomb design in wax ? Also saw foundation machine on other site that looks as if it could be approximated with honeycomb mold and foam insulation, making sheets like waffles ? In any case, I'll try a bunch of things and report results.
Yes, there are basically two methods.
1) take a sheet of wax and run it through a mill that pressed the cell pattern into the wax. This requires much less wax as it produces a thinner foundation and it tends to be more consistent. It is also the most costly as mills typically run over $1000.
2) Molds tend to be less exact and require 2x or more wax to make. I have tried making molds out of concrete, water putty, and silicone caulking. Creating a mold can be challenging as it needs to hinge and if you look at natural comb (or foundation) you will notice that cells are offset from side to side. I tried creating them with both 4.9 wax foundation and 4.9 plastic foundation. It is difficult to get all the air bubbles out and wax foundation can easily be marred and/or damaged which is then reproduced on every sheet. Also pouring liquid wax into the mold and squeezing the excess out is messy and can be difficult if wax temperature is too low. Also getting the foundation to release both in making the mold and in manufacturing sheets can be challenging. I have seen new silicone molds available for sale that look nice, but even with a good mold, you still have all the issues when pouring/squeezing/releasing.
Ultimately it became apparent to me that foundationless, although it has it's own issues, is much easier if you want to get away from commercial foundation and is more natural for the bees. Most of my experimenting was done when I was trying to regress to small cell. Since then I have been able to go chemical free with large bees and have gone back to commercial foundation for it's ease