3D Printing and Sand Molds

Posted Sep 28th, 2017 in news

No longer limited to traditional techniques and processes, innovative foundries such as the Peninsula Alloy & the PAX Foundry & Machining Group are helping to revolutionize the mold production process. The driving force behind this revolution in mold making is the development of 3D printed sand molds, which eliminate the costly and time consuming aspects of the pattern making production process. Once detached from the drawbacks of traditional mold production, these revolutionary techniques enable one-off castings and prototypes to be produced cheaper and faster than ever before.

The Evolution of 3D Printed Sand Molds

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process that builds 3-dimensional objects one layer at a time using a CAD or AMF file as a digital blueprint. Originally limited to smaller objects printed in layers of extruded plastic, advances in 3D printing technology have expanded the potential applications to include particulates held together by a resin or binder.  Within metal castings and foundry applications, for instance, the ability of 3D printers to apply particulate materials such as sand presents immense advantages in mold production. Utilizing an inkjet 3D printing system, 3D printed molds are created by applying sand in layers and selectively hardening it by applying a binder where adhesion is necessary. In this way, 3D printing offers quick and efficient production capabilities which have expanded beyond the limitations encountered when the technology first arose to prominence.

Advantages of 3D Printed Sand Molds

While 3D printed molds provide a number of advantages vs more traditional molding methods for one-off castings and prototype production, the most important advantages relate to the reduced time and costs associated with their production. Specifically, a 3D printed mold can be produced in a matter of days in comparison to the weeks or months required for more traditional sand molding processes. With such a dramatic reduction in production time, 3D printed sand molds are inherently more cost effective with shorter lead times than traditional methods for one-off requirements.

Generally speaking, the time advantages provided by 3D printing arise from the elimination of entire steps in the production process which dramatically reduces the labor costs associated with mold production. Since there are no limits on the complexity of a 3D printed sand mold, for example, unique geometries and undercuts can be implemented in the mold’s design. As a result, complex cores (such as an impeller for a pump) can be molded as a single piece, eliminating the need for component molding and assembly.

Further labor-related savings result from the high degree of accuracy and precision with 3D printed molds. Here, high surface quality and smooth finishing eliminates the need for a lot of the machining and finishing required in traditional molding methods. What’s more, 3D printed molds also eliminate the need for expensive patterns and tools, further reducing the production costs.

All told, 3D printed sand molds offer a number of advantages over other production methods.  This is particularly the case with one-off castings and prototype production, where 3D printing technologies dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with production while creating high quality, accurate molds.  

At Peninsula Alloy and the PAX Foundry & Machining Group, we can produce high quality, 3rd party 3D printed sand molds created precisely to our customers’ specifications for a number of materials including iron, stainless steel, high & low alloys.  Contact us today for more information on how we can help you produce cost-effective one-off and prototype productions with our 3D printed sand molds.

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