Turning Plastic Into Metal
Here at printedsolid.com, through the use of a mix of dark magic and science, we have discovered the secret to turn plastic into metal. That’s right. We’re modern day alchemists.
Alright, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
We have been experimenting with using 3D printed parts for investment casting. Investment casting is not new. It is a manufacturing process where a part or artistic piece is made in a soft/low melting temperature (wax and foam are commonly used). That piece is then coated in a ceramic slurry (kind of like plaster of paris but with other stuff added in to make it stronger and more heat resistant). The slurry is cured until it is hard and strong. The original part is then burned out or melted out. Now there is a hollow cavity in the shape of the part. Molten metal is poured in and you ‘magically’ have a copy of your part in metal. This process allows for reproduction of very fine detail.
So, the process is not new. However, 3D printing is (relatively) new. It turns out that some common 3D printing materials (PLA in particular) also work really well as originals for investment casting.
We have partnered with a local casting guru with the goal of eventually offering lost PLA casting as a service. We will offer three different options.
1) Send us your idea and we design, print, and cast
2) Send us your stl file and we print and cast.
3) Send us your 3D printed PLA part and we cast. The ‘Maker’s Special’.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking, ‘why would I have someone cast for me when I can do all this myself’. For you makers that are not afraid of molten metal (I have to admit that I am) we will be starting up a blog with the lessons we learn as we perfect this art.
Within the next few weeks, I hope to have some really exciting pictures of cast parts posted so check back. In the meantime, here is a video that my partner shot of a first experiment with the process. Watch carefully. At one point you get to see a little fireworks preview as a blob of molten cast iron goes flying over his shoulder.