Going back to the past decades or so, we can witness the evolution of industries and production processes with the help of 3D Printing. Some may consider this upsurge in the interest towards processes incorporating 3D Printing as the transition of several industries while it is, in fact, the increase in knowledge about an advanced industrial process that is quite convenient, faster, and easier to deal with.
The very possibility of creating a model, the concept design, and finally obtaining objects from the computer systems have made this scientific innovation a huge success. The additive manufacturing processes such as SLA and Laser Sintering are actually a constituent of the complete prototyping process. So, it can be wisely said that 3D Printing is one of the many steps included in the whole production process and cannot be referred to as the production itself.
However, when we make use of 3D Printing technology along with vacuum casting in the prototyping processes the scenario is completely transformational. Especially in the low volume production activities, the amalgamation of 3D Printing technology and Vacuum Casting has outstanding effects. We understand that these terms might seem confusing to you and thus, we have come up with a detailed description of each of the processes to make your understanding relatively easier. Firstly, let us look into what is low volume production that is regarded as an emerging production trend.
Low Volume Production
Low Volume Production Runs
As was the flow with earlier manufacturing processes, a skilled and experienced manufacturer produced goods individually. But with the increase in demand for cheaper and quicker manufacturing, mass production concept was introduced.
However, what will be the production scenario if you wanted to manufacture, say 1,000 items or 10 items in a year?
This particular production process of a small number of products is referred to as low volume production and is specially incorporated in conceptualizing and generating prototypes. This practice of low volume production of manufacturing items helps you save time along with offering you the chance to generate a highly precise of the new object to be manufactured.
Considering the manufacturing activities, it is quite obvious that the cost per unit of the production processes is incidental to the materials that are incorporated. Thus, it will be highly economical to achieve low volume production such as 1000 or 10,000 pieces that do not require any type of huge investment.
Let us take a situation wherein the final item to be produced doesn’t require the necessity to handle high stress. Then, it will be beneficial to make use of a less reliable steel material
and then encourage a low-volume manufacturer to subject it to heat treatment and machining.
Thus, you can still manufacture a product of better quality while saving up a comparatively large amount of money.
Even when some of the tools start wearing out, you can easily replace it at a
cheaper quality. You can also avail the benefit of incorporating flexibility during low volume production using faster prototyping and 3D Printing. Since the manufacturing of items is done in a minimal amount any modification to be done in the products won’t adversely affect the overall items ordered.
In addition to this, the manufacturing processes, support systems, and the respective
supply chains are highly augmented for low volume production, thus requiring reduced lead times.
In turn, the manufactured products are able to reach the markets days faster than the time taken in conventional manufacturing methods.
Now, that we have understood low volume production and its benefits we will now move ahead with the comprehension of the use of 3D Printing and vacuum casting for effective low volume production.
3D Printing and Vacuum Casting in low volume production
In low volume production, 3D Printing is merely just the initial step of the prototyping process. In addition to the injection molding and stereolithography processes included in 3D Printing Technology, vacuum casting proves its efficiency regarding the low volume production of several parts.
Variation in the specific necessity of materials, use of transparent materials and strong and flexible pieces, need for over-molding in prototyping, and other specific requirements are all possible through vacuum casting. So, let us dig into the processes included in vacuum casting.
Vacuum casting and its processes
Vacuum casting or vacuum mold casting or the V Process used in manufacturing industry incorporates a sand mold that is devoid of any moisture content or any binders. In vacuum casting, the mold’s internal cavity is capable of sustaining the casting structure as a result of the forces expended by the vacuum’s pressure.
Moving on to the processes included in vacuum casting the primary step is to generate a master model by making use of Stereolithography, Injection Molding, or some other 3D Printing process. This master is a blend of the 3D Printing process and a specific overflow system.
This master is then cast into a silicone mold by partially using vacuum conditions so as to get rid of any air bubbles. After this master starts hardening, the mold is separated and master is dismissed simultaneously. The internal parts of the mold are subjected to silicon spray so as to eliminate the chances of prototypes getting stuck to the mold. Afterward, the mold is sealed and positioned in the lowest section of the casting machine.
Along with this, the two raisin elements are eliminated in the upper chamber. With the dismissal of the two components, the combination and casting of the mold are performed. Thus, the part achieves completion manually as a result of which the need for surface treatment and professional coloring can be adhered to. Moreover, the segregation of silicone mold to clear distinguishing planes and the evacuation of the master helps you to generate copies from the cavity created.
Materials used in vacuum casting:
Vacuum casting process incorporated in low volume production make use of polyurethane materials that have thermoplastic properties and are identical to rubber, ABS, and others, polyurea materials that have properties similar to elastomers, wax, and silicon. With the help of these materials, you can have access to a wide range of properties and get opportunities to confirm colors and cast several transparent components.
Benefits of vacuum casting
Vacuum casting also referred to as silicone molding helps you create parts of excellent quality as compared to components generated from injection molding. This is evident from numerous factors that are an integral part of vacuum casting.
There is the absence of any particular molding sand or binders in vacuum casting, thus eliminating the need for sand restoration and reconditioning. In addition to this, the occurrence of any metal casting defects is removed due to the absence of water content in the sand molds used in vacuum casting of parts.
This vacuum casting technique can be used for design, market research, functional testing, for concept prototypes and relevant models, and others. With vacuum casting, the lead time to generate 10 copies is a span of just 10 working days with an accuracy of ±0.3%.
A minimum wall thickness of 0.75mm is required for suitable filling of the mold. With these features, through vacuum casting technique you can generate nearly 25 copies for each mold.
So, it can be concluded that the current advancements in 3D Printing are a part of the developed industrial technology that can be accentuated by the application of Vacuum Casting. Also, the need for producing a small number of products for effective prototyping and conceptualization processes has been the need of the hour so as to create the final product without any variations.
Therefore, collaborating 3D Printing and vacuum casting for efficient low volume production will result in remarkable outcomes. In addition to its notable specifications, with vacuum casting the lead times and overall cost are also hugely reduced. You can also easily experiment with the design and characteristics of the parts generated. Lastly, the top-notch quality of the silicon or polyurethane parts is excellent for consumer testing, user study, and concept-based models.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to use a combination of 3D Printing and vacuum casting for generating prototypes and undergoing low volume production.