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turn metal castings for applications ranging from proof-of-concept proto- types to high quality preliminary runs and into full production. Once an experimental field, with


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some players excelling while others succumbed to economic pressures, rapid manufacturing is hitting its stride. And as engineers and other metalcasting professionals from mod- ern industrial programs move up the ranks, they are bringing their ability to implement these technologies to the forefront.


Competitive Advantage


With an ever growing interest in lean manufacturing practices across all industries, technologies that enable just-in-time supply chain management are gaining traction. “Tere’s a point at which produc-


tion tooling makes sense, but rapid prototyping allows you to ramp up to production quantities and processes as demand for the product increases,” said Reg Gustafson, vice president of business development for Clinken- beard, an M2M Group company in Rockford, Ill., with 17 vertical milling machines for subtractive mold and coremaking. “Te rate of change on this ramp is not always easy to forecast,” he said. “Rapid prototyp- ing allows flexibility and forgiveness to the process. It also allows design changes on the fly.” Decisions made during the casting


design process have far-reaching con- sequences. “Many manufacturing and performance issues created at this stage have long-term impact on product cost,” said Tom Prucha, vice president, techical services, American Foundry Society, Schaumburg, Ill. Rapid manu- facturing technology enables designers and metalcasters to evaluate samples ahead of full production as well as make adjustments as needed.


variety of additive and subtractive methods exist to produce quick-


“You’re losing market share if you


can’t bring [a casting] to market when the customer demands it,” said Steve Murray, a consultant with Hoosier Pattern Co., Decatur, Ind., which uses additive sand printing (binder-jetting) equipment for rapid manufacturing. “Metalcasting is competition on price: What is the cheapest way to produce the foundry tooling necessary to get the job done? So, we don’t use a pro- cess to make a casting cost more. We use a process or a technology to make it cost less.”


Determining the Right Method Te right process to use, whether


traditional patternmaking or rapid, is specific to each job. “Te typical use of additive manu-


facturing creates a one-off object that can only be used one time, while other rapid prototyping techniques can create either one-off objects, like an expandable pattern for lost foam or investment casting, or tooling that can be used multiple times for low volume runs,” Prucha explained.


While rapid manufacturing usu-


ally bears a price premium versus traditional tooling methods, it offers benefits that offset the cost. “Tere is no cost in additive manu-


facturing for complexity,” Murray said. “In a way, the more complex the casting, the cheaper it is.” He offers the example of a casting with 20 or more cores that have to be assembled, whereas with 3D sand printing, they can be produced all at once without concern about whether the pieces are then put together correctly. Additive manufacturing options


involving 3D metal printing are lacking in scope for metalcasting patterns, core- boxes and tooling, according to Prucha. “Efforts are underway to create smaller pieces, but print size, part density and the types of metal that can be deposited currently limit its use,” he said. Rapid methods for lost foam casting


can be additive or subtractive, by print- ing a foam block or CNC machining pieces to be assembled into a pattern. Prucha offered the example of an assem- bly consisting of eight fabricated parts,


At Ford Motor Co., additive manufacturing technology assists in part design and development. April 2014 MODERN CASTING | 27


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