Metal parts now 5x cheaper thanks to new development in 3D printing plastics
Traditionally, the investment casting process uses a machined die to produce wax patterns for casting. 3D Hubs becomes the first company to use FDM castable plastic (PolyCast by Polymaker) to create these patterns. The benefits, besides its low cost, is that FDM printing allows for the production of large, complex patterns that traditional manufacturing techniques would have difficulty producing.
“Our customers have expressed a strong interest in large metal parts, so we’re excited to launch this innovative service on three continents and to provide them the solution they’re looking for.”
With material costs for the patterns being low, the metal parts become particularly price competitive as part sizes increase. A useful rule of thumb is that if a design is approaching the size of a basketball, FDM printed patterns become the most cost effective method for producing custom metal parts with complex geometries.
A cost comparison for producing metal parts. 3 different parts were compared, each with varying geometries. All quotes are for parts made from stainless steel. All parts are approximately 150mm x 130mm x 55mm in size.
A great example of 3D printing being used in combination with investment casting was featured by Autodesk’s generatively designed plane cabin seat, which resulted in significant weight reduction.
The journey of the metal part begins with the pattern being 3D printed on an FDM machine by a 3D Hubs printing service. The 3D printed pattern is then polished using Polymaker's Isopropanol micro droplet technology ensuring clean surface molds ready for casting. This process stops small air bubbles getting trapped on the surface of the ceramic mold which will transfer to the metal parts. The pattern is then sent to a local foundry for investment casting. After casting, parts with critical tolerances are then machined before being sent out out to the end user.
“Most polymers leave residues when they decompose during the pattern burnout process. We have engineered the material to ensure that it decomposes completely at T > 600 ºC, leaving a clean mold ready for casting.”
The process from order to finished part is managed end-to-end by the 3D Hubs team of in-house 3D printing experts, so customers only need to provide their 3D files and material choice. Materials available are; stainless steel, brass, copper, aluminum and bronze with more to follow.
Large metal parts are now available through 3D Hubs Managed Services.
To learn more about the process: https://www.3dhubs.com/knowledge-base/producing-large-cast-metal-parts-using-3d-printing
Or simply upload a file to get a free quote: https://form.jotformpro.com/70443722074956
Dan Grigoras, Director of Business Development at 3D Hubs is at Rapid+TCT. Find him at Stand number 1017, and catch his talk on the Novice Stage, on Thursday 11th May from 10.30am-10.40am.
Visuals provided by Polymaker.
About 3D Hubs
3D Hubs is the fastest 3D print solution for product designers and engineers that do prototyping and short production runs. With service providers connected in over 160 countries, 3D Hubs is the world’s largest network of 3D printing services. 3D Hubs was founded in April 2013 in Amsterdam.