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What is INVESTMENT CASTING? What does INVESTMENT CASTING mean? INVESTMENT CASTING meaning – INVESTMENT CASTING definition – INVESTMENT CASTING explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.
Investment casting is an industrial process based on lost-wax casting, one of the oldest known metal-forming techniques. The term “lost-wax casting” can also refer to modern investment casting processes.
Investment casting has been used in various forms for the last 5,000 years. In its earliest forms, beeswax was used to form patterns necessary for the casting process. Today, more advanced waxes, refractory materials and specialist alloys are typically used for making patterns. Investment casting is valued for its ability to produce components with accuracy, repeatability, versatility and integrity in a variety of metals and high-performance alloys.
The fragile wax patterns must withstand forces encountered during the mold making. Much of the wax used in investment casting can be reclaimed and reused. Lost-foam casting is a modern form of investment casting that eliminates certain steps in the process.
Investment casting derives its name from the pattern being invested (surrounded) with a refractory material. Many materials are suitable for investment casting; examples are stainless steel alloys, brass, aluminium, carbon steel and glass. The material is poured into a cavity in a refractory material that is an exact duplicate of the desired part. Due to the hardness of refractory materials used, investment casting can produce products with exceptional surface qualities, which can reduce the need for secondary machine processes.
The process can be used for both small castings of a few ounces and large castings weighing several hundred pounds. It can be more expensive than die casting or sand casting, but per-unit costs decrease with large volumes. Investment casting can produce complicated shapes that would be difficult or impossible with other casting methods. It can also produce products with exceptional surface qualities and low tolerances with minimal surface finishing or machining required.
Castings can be made from an original wax model (the direct method) or from wax replicas of an original pattern that need not be made from wax (the indirect method). The following steps describe the indirect process, which can take two to seven days to complete.
1. Produce a master pattern: An artist or mould-maker creates an original pattern from wax, clay, wood, plastic, or another material.
2. Create a mould: A mould, known as the master die, is made to fit the master pattern. If the master pattern was made from steel, the master die can be cast directly from the pattern using metal with a lower melting point. Rubber moulds can also be cast directly from the master pattern. Alternatively, a master die can be machined independently—without creating a master pattern.
3. Produce wax patterns: Although called wax patterns, pattern materials may also include plastic and frozen mercury. Wax patterns can be produced in one of two ways. In one process, the wax is poured into the mold and swished around until an even coating, usually about 3 mm (0.12 in) thick, covers the inner surface of the mould. This is repeated until the desired pattern thickness is reached. Another method involves filling the entire mould with molten wax and letting it cool as a solid object.
If a core is required, there are two options: soluble wax or ceramic. Soluble wax cores are designed to melt out of the investment coating with the rest of the wax pattern; ceramic cores are removed after the product has hardened.