With the advent of 3D printing becoming more accessible and more affordable, many foundries are already leveraging on this technology to overcome challenges such as high lead time, high cost or labor intensiveness.
The two methods being adopted by foundries are fused filament fabrication (FFF) and stereolithography apparatus (SLA).
FFF is an additive manufacturing method where layers of materials are fused together in a pattern to create an object. It is currently the most widely used 3D printing application around the world, including in fields of automotive, medical, aerospace and consumer goods.
SLA is another popular additive manufacturing techniques. It converts the photosensitive liquid into 3D solid plastics in a layer-by-layer. This is presently one of the most precise 3D printing techniques used by various industries including jewelry, dental, design and arts as well as consumer goods.
Here are three ways that the leading manufacturers and foundries can harness the 3D printing technology to innovate the conventional casting process:
Investment casting uses smeltable material patterns and ceramic shells to create complex and detailed part designs. Traditionally, these patterns are injection molded and are costly along with production lead times of the molds ranging from one to four weeks. This makes creating a mold economically unviable for small series production or one-off products.
This is where 3D printing, SLA can be used to create patterns using a UV laser that cures thin layers of resin. Among the benefits include reduced lead times from weeks to days, eliminate high tooling costs and it also gives designers more freedom when creating highly complex patterns.
Sand casting is another metal-forming technique being transformed by the presence of 3D printing. A sand-casting process involves creating an object from molten metal using sand as a mold. The mold cavities are created by hand-packing sand around a design pattern. The casting design often requires sand cores to be placed into the mold to create the interior contours of the casting.
Picture source: BigRep
A good example of 3D printing’s application is in the jewelry making industry. The benefits of 3D printing here include fast build times for sample products, production on smooth surfaces and extremely high accuracy of output.
Jewelers have noted that the 3D printing technology has helped them to accelerate production times from two hours per ring to 40 minutes. They were also able to easily fulfill customized and delicate designs requests by customers.
Presently, foundry businesses are mainly using 3D printing for prototypes and production of small batches of products. However, as the technology develops further and becomes more accessible and affordable, production quantities will increasingly shift toward bigger volumes and wider adoption across the industry.
DKSH held a seminar earlier this year and invited customers to our 3D printing showroom for live demonstrations of the technology. Our customers were excited to learn about the many applications and possibilities that 3D printing can potentially offer them. Drop me your thoughts on how 3D printing could be the key to keeping your foundry business competitive.
Roman Ratayczak joined DKSH in March, 2015 as General Manager, Business Line Precision Machinery, Business Unit Technology. He oversees global business development and has spent the last 13 years developing and growing business in different markets in Korea and Thailand. Roman has vast experiences in the automotive business in Europe including leading several projects for direct suppliers. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Bangkok.