Dan Z. Sokol, Managing Partner, Renaissance Services Inc
Ben Rampulla, Senior Engineer, PCC Structurals
The idea of “on-demand” components for aerospace and automotive applications is both intriguing and challenging. Additive manufacturing (AM) offers the promise of affordable, one-off, components in a fraction of the time. While the use of AM for metal components is certainly progressing, the ability to replace sophisticated castings with AM-produced metal parts is still in the future.
An alternative approach is to leverage AM to create tooling for rapid production of precision castings. While AM for wax patterns has been used for many years, the production of complex investment castings requires the use of sophisticated ceramic cores and molds. The tooling for these ‘process aids’ is expensive and takes months to design, produce, and qualify.
Leveraging DoD R&D contracts, Renaissance Services has successfully applied AM to rapidly produce ceramic cores and molds for the production of castings. With this AM technique for ceramic materials, digital data replaces conventional hard tooling and direct ceramic molds with integral cores are produced. This results in dramatic reductions in lead time and cost, effectively providing nearly on-demand precision castings.