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The path from prototyping to vacuum casting of plastics

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In practice, 3D printing is more suitable for domestic needs, but is practically not used for the production of industrial goods. Indeed, in the manufacture of, for example, 5-100 parts, 3D printing cannot surpass casting in silicone molds by any criteria.

For example, for the manufacture of products for industry, the customer's requirements for such material properties as rigidity, hardness, strength, elasticity and flexibility come to the fore. Unfortunately, 3D printing cannot provide the desired color, transparency, elasticity, high quality surface treatment, such as grinding, polishing, matte, gloss, high-quality logo, small text.

Choosing a manufacturing method

Also in this case, the productivity of the technological process becomes very important. To solve this problem, 3D printing firms install dozens of printers, usually not expensive and not with the best print quality. Therefore, to fulfill the wishes of customers, after printing a prototype on a 3D printer, it is necessary to use other technologies as well.

In 2009, having familiarized ourselves with the work of such an additive printer, we realized that it is possible to grow a part, but the cost of this process is very high, and the quality of materials not very good. At that time, one gram of material on a good 3D printer cost more than 2 euros. Therefore, for ourselves, we concluded that we need to learn how to make high quality and less expensive copies from the finished prototype.

So we came up with the idea of using vacuum casting in silicone molds to make exact replicas of prototypes. This unique technology was able to meet all customer wishes.

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How we developed the casting technology

First of all, we had to buy materials from abroad ourselves. For two and a half years, we have been creating casting technology, experimenting with combinations of components, additives, types of polyurethane and silicone. We independently developed a formulas to achieve the desired mechanical properties of products, compensating, among other things, shrinkage, excluding air bubbles in the finished product.

The most difficult stage is the creation of the master model. After the prototype is printed, its appearance must be brought to the level of industrial production, and the shape and texture of the final product must be reproduced with high accuracy.

In this case, the cost and time of molding products are minimized, while the quality is maximized. As a result, further molding of products is much cheaper than printing them on a 3D printer.

Why is a 3D printer worse than vacuum casting?

If a 3D printer is used as an alternative to plastic injection, then it will always be a loss. The trick of printers is not to produce a series of products cheaply and with high quality, but quickly make one or two prototypes. In this case, the sample, most likely, will not meet all consumer requirements (surface quality, material, strength, hardness, color, etc.).

As a result, thanks to hard work and years of experimentation, the Marabu company managed to achieve industrial quality, high production speed and affordable cost of vacuum casting. And this gives grounds for choosing this particular technology before traditional 3D printing, in the manufacture of small-scale products for industry.