Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Admatec and Aristo-Cast Directly 3D Printing Investment Casting Shells

ST Medical Devices

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Dutch company Admatec (Additive Manufacturing Technologies) has been manufacturing its ADMAFLEX ceramic 3D printers since 2014, and released its first metal 3D printer in 2017. That same year, investment casting company Aristo-Cast, which has producing 3D printed wax patterns since 1993, began working with one of the company’s ceramic systems in order to create a new pattern-less process that could completely overhaul the traditional process of investment casting.

“We’ve been working with Admaflex 130+ Ceramic 3d printer for approximately 18 months,” said Jack Ziemba, the CEO at Aristo-Cast. “During this time we have developed a process allowing us to revolutionize the investment casting process.”

Conventional investment casting is lengthy and labor-intensive. It involves injecting, or 3D printing, a pattern, which is then invested (dipped) in a ceramic slurry multiple times to make the coating for a shell. Each coat has to dry before adding the next, and while the first is the most important in terms of surface finish and fine detailing, it can take up to eight coats to finish the shell. Later, the pattern is burned out from the coating, which leaves behind a cavity that is filled with an alloy in order to create a close tolerance casting.

The most difficult investment patterns are those with complex passages or cores, as it’s difficult to verify the coat’s integrity and when it’s dry enough to apply the next coat. But with the new process that Aristo-Cast developed with the ADMAFLEX 130, it’s possible to directly 3D print the shell, which reduces the steps involved in the traditional process and the need for an expensive injection mold or 3D printed pattern. In addition, when the shell is 3D printed from a CAD file, you no longer have to worry about what the surface detail looks like, the time can be reduced by up to 75% since you don’t have to wait for multiple coats to dry, and it’s possible to inspect intricate core passages before you pour the alloy to create the cast.

Ziemba said, “We’re only scratching the surface on the advantages that shell printing can bring.”

Admatec and Aristo-Cast have been working together to develop a ceramic formula that matches the required shell formulation, which led to Admatec’s creation of an investment casting material that’s also suitable for 3D printing and compatible with the 3D printed shell process.

“The Admatec 3d printer has taken the investment casting prototype manufacturing to the next level,” Ziemba stated. “Its simplicity and ease of operation are unmatched compared to traditional pattern 3d printing.”

By combining this new material with Admatec’s DLP technology, Aristo-Cast is now able to 3D print highly accurate, intrinsic geometries and very thin walls.

“The reduction in material used, allowed a more consistent isotropic shrinkage of the final part and the ability to print a perfect hollow surface from the inside of the Shell allowing easier removal of the core,” Ziemba said.

“With the Admatec technology, anybody that is able to melt metal could become an investment caster.”

While the cost savings will vary, as the price depends on how complex the part itself is, customers could save up to 50% using this new process. Admatec’s investment casting solutions are now available for customers on the market.

“Here at Admatec we strive to assist customers with custom made solutions through our expertise in material and machine development,” said Admatec COO Jaco Saurwalt. “If you’re looking for a partner to improve or develop new solutions with ceramic and metal additive manufacturing we’d like to hear from you!”

Next week at the AMUG Conference in Chicago, Aristo-Cast will present the new 3D printed investment casting approach it developed with Admatec. Stop into Room PDR2 at the conference on Tuesday, April 2nd between 1:30 and 2:30 to discuss the approach with local sales director John Koch and CCO Sandeep Rana.

Discuss this news, and other 3D printing topics, at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Images provided by Admatec]

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