3D printed sand moulds reinvigorate the casting industry by combining traditional manufacturing techniques with cutting edge technology.
Developing higher value castings in a high-wage economy
Traditional castings can be cheaply mass-produced in lower wage countries. It's a labour intensive process which involves making separate moulds for each casting, which is removed from the mould after solidification by destroying the mould.
Foundries in Australia needed a point of difference for survival against global competition: the ability to create complex and high value castings with advanced performance and assured quality.
Partnering with Swinburne University of Technology
CSIRO's Voxeljet 3D sand printer offers exactly the sort of flexibility required to develop high value castings. It's the only 3D sand printer presently available in Australia and uses additive manufacturing techniques that build complex structures, layer by layer.
The Voxeljet can print moulds that support geometrical forms such as undercuts and reverse-tapers, which cannot be designed with traditionally made sand moulds. As a result, complex castings can be poured from these moulds to create one unified casting. Instead of having to make several castings and join them manually, we can do it all in the one step and without the need for welding or bolts to combine parts. This saves money, reduces weight and lowers transportation costs.
Our partnership with Swinburne University of Technology brings fresh perspectives to the development of innovative products and processes, while providing 3rd year Industrial Design students industry-based learning opportunities.
Swinburne student Hasitha Bandara, for instance, recently developed a structure that cannot be made by traditional manufacturing methods alone.
Introducing the CSIRO Ball.
Traditional casting methods meet 3D sand printing
The CSIRO Ball is about the size of a cricket ball with two aluminium hemispheres that were cast together and rotate on each other, but do not come apart.
Hasitha designed a unified cast part that behaves as an assembly, despite being poured as a single casting. This process brings together the traditional manufacturing process (casting) with the new 3D sand printing process.
A sand mould was first printed on the Voxeljet. Then once fully hardened, aluminium at 700°C was poured into the mould. It was allowed to cool and the outer sand mould was broken away (the sand is recyclable). Once dusted away, all that was left was the aluminium globe.
The CSIRO/Swinburne partnership is great for students who can think conceptually, but need to understand the boundaries of the manufacturing process and be creative.
— Hasitha Bandara, 3rd year Industrial Design Student from Swinburne University of Technology
A previous Swinburne industrial design student, Justin Yuan, also developed a lamp and stool with the Voxeljet.
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