Prototyping from Investacast - Investacast

Prototyping from Investacast

Published - 28th Nov 2022

Refine and test your products quickly and cost-effectively.

Prototyping allows you to turn innovative product design ideas into successful, working end products quickly and efficiently. In this blog we explain how Investacast’s prototyping service delivers a range of benefits to our customers. 

What is prototyping in casting? 

Prototyping is a method of manufacturing limited quantities of product before committing to full production. In the prototyping investment casting process, we use a different process than we use for high production manufacturing.  

Typically, in casting, the longest part of the process for producing first off samples is the tooling manufacture. At Investacast we can reduce this timeframe dramatically by using modern 3D printing techniques, rather than tooling, to produce the sacrificial pattern around which the casting mould is formed. 

A production tool machined from aluminium and brass or steel could take anywhere from four to ten weeks to be ready for use, whereas printing 3D sacrificial patterns for the same product will take just two to four weeks. 

How does Investacast make a prototype quickly? 

Investment casting requires the production of tooled patterns, which carry a high price tag and are time consuming to manufacture. 3D printing technology allows us, instead, to print accurate patterns, dramatically reducing production time and cost.  

Manufactured directly from your product design CAD models, these sacrificial patterns are built on in-house printing machines. Layer by layer the printed product is built in a material suitable for direct ceramic coating and casting through our normal investment casting process. 

Printing of the patterns is undertaken during normal working shifts and during ‘lights out’ periods, which minimises the time it takes to produce your first off sample products. 

What is the production process for a prototype? 

Once the pattern has been 3D printed for your prototype, the manufacturing process for investment castings continues as normal. This means that any of our vast range of alloys can be cast via this method, including Steels, Nickel-based, Copper-based and Aluminium-based alloys. 

We are continually improving our prototyping capabilities and can now produce parts with an envelope size of 400mm³ with a weight in Steel of up to 45kg. 

Prototypes using rapid hard manufactured tooling  

Although 3D printed direct sacrificial pattern prototyping reduces the lead time for first off samples, there are some occasions when rapid hard manufactured tooling can still be the best option. 

If your product design is simple, it can be more commercially viable to manufacture a rapid hard machined tool, especially when there is a demand for a higher than normal quantity of metal samples.  

Expert support and guidance from Investacast 

We work with our customers throughout the manufacturing process to identify the optimal production method for your prototypes and end products: 

  • Our experienced engineers will engage with your product designers at the earliest concept stages of product development to ensure that your product is Designed For Manufacture.  
  • Using CAD software such as Solidworks, and casting simulation software such as Solidcast, we will ensure that prototypes will be manufactured to meet your requirements. 
  • We can supply costings for both tooled and 3D printed pattern manufacturing routes so that you can evaluate the commercial costs. 

Contact Investacast for advice and to find out more about our prototyping capabilities on +44 (0) 1271 866200 or email info@investacast.com for more information.

If you have a project, talk to our experienced sales team

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