Casting and Molding are manufacturing processes that have been around for 6000 years. Generally, the process involves pouring a liquid material into a mold, or hollow cavity, of the desired shape and allowing that material to solidify. The solidified part, known as the casting, is then ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process. Casting materials are usually metals or various cold setting materials that cure from a mixture of multiple elements (e.g. epoxy, concrete, plaster, and clay). These casts and molds traditionally take a relatively long time to create and have a very high cost. One would think that after 6000 years of practicing a trade, it would be perfected, but the reality is that the process had not changed much; until now. Recent 3d printing technologies have vastly improved the speed, cost and accuracy of the casting process.
Many of the 3d printing technologies offered today allow companies to take advantage of these great improvements and integrate them into their processes. This integration is allowing companies to do custom and short order casting and molding in extremely short time frames and at very low costs. These companies were previously unable to cater to smaller, custom jobs because they were not cost-effective. Nowadays, to be a competitive foundry, caster or molder, you must have a solution to the smaller custom jobs and be able to have fast turnaround times. The ability to rapidly print extremely precise parts that normally would take weeks to complete, allows these companies to focus their attention elsewhere. This allows for skilled users to move onto the next job quickly, without sacrificing quality. There are also ways to print forms for injection molding and vacuum forming. Again, these processes traditionally require a long and expensive wait time to get the forms completed. Now we can print these forms and create product in a matter of hours. Time to market and cost of creation are two very big factors that win jobs. Businesses are expecting faster and cheaper every day and rapid casting is the key to success in this business.
Rapid casting is still in its relative infancy. I would expect to see most, if not all, form-making and casting projects to be created by 3d printers in the future. 3d printing is going to revolutionize the industry. More precise, less expensive and faster creation is what we will come to expect. Manufacturing in the United States will be centralized around additive manufacturing and I believe it will push us into a new industrial revolution, a revolution started by 3d printing.
By: Jack Wolf – Imaging Support Specialist – MasterGraphics