Fourth largest sector in the country, the Indian Automotive Industry is on the upswing and all big producers are relocating their manufacturing in India to be near the upcoming biggest consumer markets. Currently, India is the world’s third-largest Casting producer. This will further open more opportunities for castings and forging industries both for domestic production and for exports.
No industrial product can be considered complete without the processes of Casting. Casting is a key engineering segments supplying various components to end-user industries such as Railways, Automobile, Defense, Aerospace, Material handling, Construction equipment, and Mines. The ‘Make in India’ program aims to raise the contribution of the manufacturing sector to 25% of the Gross Domestic Product by 2025.
Foundries rely on several metal casting processes, with die casting, sand casting and investment casting being the most commonly used. However, while metal casting is a time-tested manufacturing method, there are still certain limitations, including:
• High costs: Creating casting tools can be incredibly expensive. This means that for small and medium production runs, high tooling costs often cannot easily be amortised.
• Labour-intensive: Since tools are typically produced manually, the labour-intensive process can easily result in long lead times of up to several months. To overcome these challenges and maintain a competitive edge, foundries must look for innovative ways to produce tooling for metal casting — which is where 3D printing comes into play. While 3D printing will by no means signal the end of traditional foundry methods, the technology can help to bypass the costly and time-consuming aspects of creating patterns, cores and moulds, enabling greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness for low-volume, highly complex castings and prototypes.
3D printing for investment casting patterns
Investment casting uses expendable wax patterns and ceramic shells to create complex and detailed part designs. Traditionally, these patterns are injection moulded. However, the cost of injection moulds can range from $3,000 to $30,00, with lead times from one to four weeks. This makes creating a mould economically unviable for small series production or one-off products.
For this reason, foundry and pattern-making companies can choose to 3D print patterns in a material suited for investment casting.
Projet 2500IC MJP technology is developed by 3dsystems just for this application.
It produces 100% wax patterns which just melt away and hence can be used in autoclaving and normal casting procedures.
Using 3D printing for investment casting can help to:
- Reduce lead times from weeks to days
- Eliminate high tooling costs
- Give designers more freedom when creating highly complex patterns
Contrary to the belief that 3D printing can replace casting processes, it is more realistic to see it as a powerful addition to existing methods, ranging from die casting to investment casting and sand casting. The advantages are clear – no need for CNC milling or other tooling which can increase costs. 3D printing is ideal for highly complex, low-volume casting jobs, facilitating greater design freedom and cost-effectiveness in pattern and mould production.
With that said, it’s important to note that while 3D printing is not the answer to every casting tooling problem, it does enable challenging tasks to be undertaken that would not have been possible before.
With 3D printing – and particularly metal 3D printing – facing rapid growth, it’s vital that foundries continue to modernise with 3D printing. This will help to overcome the limitations of existing methods and to remain competitive in the ever-changing manufacturing landscape.