Can Investment Casting Process Be a Substitute for Metal 3D Printing?

Metal casting has been a part of the industry since a very long time, but in recent times it has progressed through multiple cycles of innovation to grow into a reliable and modern process.

FREMONT, CA: Since plastics hold a considerable percentage of the parts in products, companies need to interact with them every day to figure out several applications that can help in resolving the ones that still demand strength and durability of metals. Direct 3D printing of metal is considered as a higher method to quickly create the near net shape parts with the help of durable materials such as titanium. Besides, they also bring high equipment costs, the requirement of specially trained technicians, and a restricted selection of alloys, meaning the limited use of the technology for all but the high-value applications.

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers are usually known to be the primary tools for building plastic parts. The high accuracy of them, along with the broad material library is well-suited for casting workflows that fabricate metal parts at a lower expense, with better designing freedom, and in a shorter time.

Casting continues to be a cost-effective and highly able manufacturing process that produces critical components for automotive, aerospace, and medical applications, for the applications that demand exceptional features. In the present day, industrial metal casting methods are used to make different things, starting from knee implants to tractor parts. 

On the other hand, the direct investment casting method goes through straight from making a pattern to revolving around it with investment materials. Unlike the wax injection process of building a design that needs to undergo multiple steps, this method is considered to be indirect. Direct investment casting is ideal for short runs or initial testing of parts, as each printed part will need a few finishing steps. The process is also a perfect choice for large or thick cross-sections that might be tough to mold properly in wax because of warping and contraction.

The process of direct investment casting is precious for producing parts with geometries that are complicated to be molded or where molding is easily but carries high tooling expenses. Conventionally, direct investment casting patterns are carved by hand or carried out by machines, if the part is expected to be a handful of units.

With the introduction of 3D printing, engineers can start implementing more with directly printing patterns to gain shorter lead times and geometric liberty that goes beyond the design for manufacturability limitations of molding methods.

See also: Top Metals and Mining Technology Solution Companies​