How Does Additive Manufacturing Produce Metal Castings?
What is Investment Casting?
The process of Investment casting involves pouring molten metal into wax patterns which are then coated with ceramic slurry. The first part of this process is to make moulds into which wax gets poured to make wax patterns. This is a process that has been in existence for hundreds of years. Wax patterns are only useable once because the wax is melted out as part of the Investment process. However, the wax is created by manufacturing a die or tool which can be used on many occasions to recreate the same metal final part.
Investment casting, as a process, is one of extreme intricacy because the final metal casting can create thinner sections than other casting methods. Inevitably investment casting has a better tolerance and finish and therefore it is ideal for casting complex, intricate and fine metal components in uses in variety of fields and sectors.
Tooling costs are a an element of Investment Casting that add to the overall production costs of a product – these are used for pouring the wax into to create the wax patterns which are then coated with slurry once mounted on a ‘tree’. The slurry hardens and the wax is melted out which then creates a pattern for metal pouring – the next step in the process.
How Does Additive Manufacturing Work – The Benefits
3D printing, Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing are all terms used to describe the same process, all of which involve the creation of complex structures and components in metal formation by the layering of materials.
Additive manufacturing provides several advantages for the Investment Casting process, the most obvious one is that it eliminates the requirement for producing moulds and tools and jumps straight into the process of printing intricate patterns.
3D printed patterns assist the process flow of metal product manufacture by reducing the number of steps involved to produce the final items; thus reducing lead time, can be more complex than other procedures and reduces the need to pay for mould costs.
Additive Manufacturing – as the name suggests – is an additive method meaning that material is added to create the product directly from a CAD model. By using an additive method rather than subtractive, the process is far more financially affordable and eco-friendly than the traditional method of Investment Casting. It also allows for a little more scope and diversity in the designs.