The term “investment” refers to the ceramic materials that are used to build a hollow shell into which molten metal is poured to form the castings. The origin of the term investment comes from the solid mold process where a plaster type material is poured or “invested” into a container that holds a clustered tree of small plastic patterns that are identical to the casting being produced. After the investment material has set, the disposable patterns are burned out leaving a hollow cavity into which the metal is poured.
The same holds true for the investment or “lost wax” casting process. Wax is injected into an aluminum die to produce a pattern that is an exact replica of the part to be produced. For every casting, a wax pattern must be manufactured. The patterns are then clustered around a central sprue and repeatedly dipped into an agitated vat of ceramic and allowed to dry. After a shell thickness of approximately 3/8” has been built; the molds are dewaxed by either flash firing at high heat (1400 ºF) or autoclaving (pressure and steam). The hollow shells are then preheated to 800-2000 ºF depending on the alloy to be poured and the molten metal is cast into the hot shell. After cooling, the ceramic is vibrated and blasted off the metal parts and discarded. The balance of the cleaning operations (cut off, grind, heat treat, straightening, blast) are straight forward and quite similar to the other casting processes.
Since investment casting can produce parts which achieve or closely approximate finished dimensions, you can enjoy significant savings through elimination of machining operations, increased tool life and reduction of labor cost and parts scrap rate.
Investment castings can provide a one-piece configuration, which might have previously required several pieces to be made with different processes and materials.
Cost savings of 50% or more are common with castings versus other manufacturing processes. When dealing with expensive alloys, you don’t want waste in the form of metal chips, shavings, or cut off pieces. With investment castings “you get what you pour.”
If consistency has ever been a problem with other processes, investment casting is consistent from run to run within casting tolerance. Don’t worry about tooling wear, changes in dimensions, or other problems associated with alternate processes. With investment casting tooling you get the same dimensions next month, next year and up to ten years from now.
Castings & CNC Machining
The Investment casting process offers greater configuration, detail and the machining of critical areas only. This reduces the amount of machine operations, thereby reducing machine time and perishable tool costs.
CNC Machine Centers can remove stock easily. This allows casting suppliers and machine vendors to determine the proper machine stock requirements of critical areas of the castings. This will minimize chasing the stock during the machine operations and eliminate machine scrap due to casting tolerances and distortions.
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