Casting Metal into Printed Molds

Molds ready to pour

For three weeks in May/June, I was the first visiting artist at Solheim Rapid Prototyping Lab (actually I was the first visiting artist in the history of the engineering college). I am a sculptor who is a tenured faculty member at Fresno City College in California.

I traveled to the University of Washington to study the development of the powders and their application in metal casting – I am known for my metal casting skills – esp. with iron casting. Prior to coming here, I was investing Z-corps standard powders in a ceramic shell lost “powder” process for pouring bronze, aluminum and iron.

While at Solheim Lab, I took a different strategy – I adapted one of UW’s base recipes to print cementenous material molds.

Instead of printing a pattern to make a mold around, I printed the mold to pour metal directly. When the saturation level was adjusted correctly, the printed molds turned out beautiful, crisp and clean. The molds were lightly sprayed with rubbing alcohol then cured for 24 hours to allow moisture to evaporate (both by air and kiln) and then some were painted with a mold wash (zircon flour, graphite and alcohol). Both open face and two part closed molds were tested with bronze and aluminum, with great success. The surface of the cement printed molds held up well to the molten metal with very little burn-in (similar to that of a resin bonded sand mold). The resulting castings had a good detail level.

The cementenous mix also produced very good results for printing of sculpture and other designs. The surface is very hard without the use of an infiltrate. When the surface is sprayed with rubbing alcohol, the strength of the patterns is amazing – I used the test bars as a nail file. This is a great example of how the arts and sciences can come together to produce some very exciting results!

I promise to post more information as we refine this process

Just after pouring

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3 Responses to “Casting Metal into Printed Molds”

  1. Yo L, when are you going to put up another post? …M

  2. Hello.

    I would love to get more information on this process. I have been looking in to using standard z-corp powders for metal casting.

    THANKS

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