Rapid investment casting, also known as rapid prototyping casting or 3D printing casting, is a manufacturing process that allows for the rapid production of prototype or low-volume metal parts using a 3D printing process. It is a form of investment casting, a traditional process for casting metal parts that involve creating a ceramic mold from a wax pattern. In rapid investment casting, the wax pattern is replaced with a 3D-printed pattern, which allows for more complex shapes and faster production times. The 3D printed pattern is then used to create a ceramic mold, which is then used to cast the metal part. This process is often used for prototyping and low-volume production runs, as it allows for rapidly producing complex metal parts without needing tooling.
Rapid Prototyping Types
- Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) or Sheet Lamination : LOM processes are less expensive and less advanced than SLM and SLS, but they do not require the same level of control or exactness as those processes. LOM manufactures a series of thin, precisely cut layers of laminates that are glued onto each other to create a CAD object design.
- Binder Jetting : Binder Jetting, a 3D printing technique, can print multiple parts simultaneously, although the resulting parts are less intense than those produced using Selective Laser Sintering. One of the more unusual techniques, binder jetting, binds powder particles together with a liquid binder to make parts. A part is built up layer by layer, with each layer being compacted with a roller before the next one is applied. When finished, the part can be dried in an oven to burn off the binder and make it into a solid object.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS is a process that can be used on both metal and plastic prototypes. A powder bed is used to build the prototype layer by layer. The material is heated and sintered by a laser. However, SLA (stereolithography) can produce more robust prototypes, and the surface of the final product is usually smoother.
- Stereolithography (SLA) or Vat Photopolymerization : Fast and inexpensive, this was the first commercially successful method of 3D printing. It uses a bath of a photosensitive liquid and computer-controlled UV light to cure each layer of an object one at a time.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Material Jetting : This inexpensive, easy-to-use process is found in many nonindustrial desktop 3D printers using thermoplastic filament. It deposits the melted plastic one layer at a time by following instructions from a computer program. In simple terms, the technique is fast and ideal for product development.
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion: Powder bed fusion is a process that fuses metal powders, which are then shaped into complex parts through selective laser melting. The aerospace, automotive, defense, and medical industries use this method. This technology is used to create prototypes or production parts. Metal powder layers are melted together using high-power lasers or electron beams to form a solid object. The most common metal powders used in RP are aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and cobalt-chromium alloys.
- Digital Light Processing (DLP) : Another 3D printing method is Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP), which uses a photoelectric sensor to change the shape of a laser beam that draws the part. In the CLIP method, a part is drawn out of a vat of liquid resin by a nozzle. The movement occurs under a patterned light source that shapes the cross-sectional profile of the part as it emerges from the resin.
Benefits Of Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping is a process in which a physical design model is created quickly using computer-aided design (CAD) software or 3D printing technology. Rapid prototyping aims to produce a prototype of a product or design in a short amount of time so that it can be tested and refined. There are several benefits to using rapid prototyping in product development:
- Speed: Rapid prototyping allows you to create a physical model of a design much faster than traditional manufacturing methods. This can be especially useful when working on a tight deadline or getting a product to market quickly.
- Cost: Rapid prototyping can be more cost-effective than traditional manufacturing methods, especially for small production runs or one-off prototypes.
- Accuracy: Rapid prototyping allows you to create a physical model of a design that is accurate within a few thousandths of an inch. This can be especially useful for testing the fit and function of a design.
- Flexibility: Rapid prototyping allows you to easily change a design and create multiple prototypes to test different ideas or concepts.
- Collaboration: Rapid prototyping allows multiple team members to view and interact with a physical design model, facilitating cooperation and decision-making.
Rapid Prototyping Applications
Product designers use the Rapid Prototype process to create quick three-dimensional models of their designs. It can help them visualize the object in three dimensions, design all its parts, and develop the production process before they go into mass production. Rapid prototyping was initially designed for the automotive industry but has since been adopted in various industries such as medical and aerospace. Rapid tooling is another RP application in which an injection-molded or ultrasonic sensor wedge part is used as a tool in another process.
Zetwerk is a full-service provider of prototype parts and has offered casting, fabricating, and manufacturing services to the industry. We produce hundreds of different prototype castings ranging from aluminum to nickel alloys. We have you covered if you need a unique prototype part quickly. All of our prototype castings are made using the same materials as our production products are made with. We can help you design, engineer, and produce prototypes quickly and affordably. We use various 3D printing methods, like stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS), to meet your needs. Contact us to discuss your rapid prototyping investment casting needs with our team.