Using Paper 3D Printing for Casting Applications – Part I of 2
Traditional methods of producing castings with patterns that are CNC machined, hand sculpted and/or silicon molded are expensive, time consuming, labour intensive and sometimes geometry prohibitive. These constraints can greatly inhibit the production of metal prototypes during the product development stage and small-batch or one-off part manufacture.
3D printing moulds for casting has been considered an alternative, but foundries haven’t generally gravitated to 3D printers as a popular alternative to conventional casting methods because most 3D printers are limited to just one type of casting solution and, even more importantly, producing castings using 3D printed moulds is still typically cost prohibitive, due to the large amount of print material needed to produce a mould and the large print size required (since moulds are much bigger than the cast part needed). Even 3D printing patterns is usually cost prohibitive due to expensive print material costs and the fact that a lot of 3D print materials don’t successfully burn out from investment cast shells; they expand and crack the mould.
Mcor uniquely uses paper as the build material for our Matrix 300+ and IRIS lines of 3D printers. As such, Mcor’s paper 3D printing technology provides a distinctive versatility in the industry to produce both investment and sand casting patterns, and at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods and other 3D printing technologies. Specific cost savings will vary according to the size and complexity of the part geometry, but can be substantial.
The process still maintains the traditional casting method of pouring metals into moulds created using patterns normally made from wood, metal, plastics or other materials. Using Mcor technology, the casting pattern is 3D printed out of paper directly from a PC on an Mcor 3D printer, and enables you to directly print complex casting patterns very affordably and much faster than conventional complex methods. The 3D printed parts closely resemble wood, feel very smooth and are surprisingly robust.
Using traditional casting methods, moulds would need to be created by first producing a pattern, or pattern set, which would then be used to produce the moulds. In the case of sanding casting, a set of patterns would be used to create the impressions in the sand, and for investment casting, wax patterns would be used to subsequently create a ceramic or Plaster of Paris mould. Mcor makes the patterns for sand castings and investment castings in the form of 3D printed parts.
The patterns produced on an Mcor 3D printer are made of standard business letter or office A4 paper that can be purchased inexpensively from any office supply store around the world. As such, they are suitable for casting low temperature metals, such as gold, silver, zinc and magnesium, to very high temperature metals, such as aluminum and steel. Any metal traditionally cast can be used because the mould is still a traditional casting mould; it’s the pattern making that is optimized using Mcor 3D printing.
In next week’s blog, learn how you can produce castings with paper 3D printing.