Ceramic Shell Metalcasting and 3D printing

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One of the very first things I have tried regarding metal casting and the 3D printers is to invest the prints into ceramic shell for metal casting.  I am a metal caster by nature and so much of my journey with these materials has been in discovering uses for rapid prototyping technology as they apply to metal casting.  One of the earliest infiltrates for the material was wax.  Without an infiltrate, the materials tend to be very unstable and fragile (note that this changed with the work Mark Ganter and I have done with the cement based formula and hydroperm).  The standard powders also dissolve fairly easily in water, as do most plaster based materials.

This lead to first a proof of concept experiment where I invested one of my wax infused prints into ceramic shell (a very high temperature mold material that has almost no thermal shock).  I then burned it out and as expected the wax melted but the plaster remained.  The next step was to soak the mold in water overnight.  Between rinsing the mold in running water and a little assistance from a small wire, I was able to get all the plaster pattern out of the mold.  I got a casting that had a very high level of detail, which is to be expected from ceramic shell.

Since this point, I have experimented with various infiltrates.  Wax seems to work the best as it leaves a bit of a gap after burnout.  I have also worked with a few other powders in this process.  University of Washington’s VP2 works extremely well as the sugars dissolve quiet easily.

The series of photographs are primarily from student projects in various states of finish.  They were assigned to create a key chain on the computer using Solidworks.  Then we used the 3D printer to build the patterns and gated them up for investment in ceramic shell.  We followed this up the “lost powder” method of cleaning out the molds and poured bronze and aluminum into them.  There is a shot of our burn-0ut kiln as well as a shot of pouring.  I have also included a shot of one of the sculptures that I tested this process with.

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One Response to “Ceramic Shell Metalcasting and 3D printing”

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