Printed investment casting patterns have been almost universally adopted as the preferred means of creating prototype investment castings. Eliminating the need to first create tooling has enabled manufacturers to make prototypes faster and at lower cost and allowed the evaluation of multiple alternative designs before making the large investment in tooling. In addition, by using printed patterns, investment casting can be a cost-effective means for producing low numbers of metal parts. Previously, the cost of tooling prevented investment casting from being a viable option.
However, for most types of printed patterns, modifications to the normal casting process are required — which increase both the cost and time required to create castings and make it difficult to run both molded wax and printed patterns at the same time.
The recent development of AM materials with both high heat deflection temperatures and high strength has made it possible to print wax pattern tooling. The printed mold can be used to mold wax patterns, eliminating the need for variations in the casting process and potentially reducing the cost and time required to create patterns. The lower thermal conductivity of AM materials means cycle times may be longer compared to conventional aluminum tooling, but the difference may be offset by using conformal cooling channels in the printed tool.
This paper presents the results of a case study to evaluate the potential for printed wax pattern molds.
- Recognize opportunities to save cost and time by using printed wax pattern molds to create investment casting patterns.
- Raise awareness of another alternative manufacturing process.
- Understand the potential applications of additive manufacturing in investment casting.