An exciting new way of using 3D printing we encountered recently is its use in investment casting. Anyone who has been following 3D printing related posts on Twitter must have encountered Jerry LePore’s work on the Spectra3D account and his daily updates on the work he is doing with his printers. Never too shy to share his workplace (of which many reader of this article will be extremely jealous) he summed up the printers he has: “Makerbot Rep 2’s – MB 5th Gen- MB plus- Craftbots- Creatorbot 3D pro- Fuusion F306- Uprint Plus & and our pride and joy Stacker.”
More recently Jerry has been posting a lot about prints which are used for investment casting. Before we delve into that further, we want to give Jerry the chance to introduce himself: “I started in 3d printing 3 years ago Jan 2014 with a MB Rep 2 with the purpose of making things that people needed. In the years since we now have 15 printers of various capabilities.”
He continues: “I started using colorfabb filament early 2015 and havent turned back since. We believe in using high quality filament for our clients needs. We have used all of colorFabb’s filaments across the board. I joined Spectra3D Technologies (website) located in Asheville, NC in January of this year and took the role of CEO. We started and are a reseller of various 3D printer lines and this past June we decided to offer 3D printing services. We print various Cosplay props, pinball game themed parts among other things.”
Last summer, Spectra3D was contacted by Marshall Miller from Flowserve to print patterns for investment casting. Flowserve is a worldwide supplier of pumps, valves and engineering solutions. It’s a global player and a publicly traded company which is active in 55 countries and with over 18,000 employees.
Spectra3D now prints Valve Bodies, Ball Valves, Pump Housing and Impellers, etc. for Flowserve. As per Jerry’s words: “We chose Colorafab natural PLA because it contains no color pigments, prints great and burns out really clean from the mold. Currently we are going through 25 +/- rolls a month of Colorfabb Natural.” Spectra3D is supplied with our filaments by our distributor Printed Solid, based in Newark, Delaware. Jerry, as well as many more customers of Printed Solid, call his customer service top notch. Matthew Gorton, Printed Solid’s owner, has been working with us for over 3 years now and has been using colorFabb’s filaments even longer. His knowledge, passion for 3D printing and high service level are well-known in the 3D printing community. And, of course, Printed Solid’s signature gummy bears that ship with all orders…
Flowserve then pours the castings in various metals, like titanium and CF8M stainless.
Taking a step back: What is investment casting? Investment casting, the basics of it, is already an ancient manufacturing technique sometimes described as lost-wax casting.
Using 3D printing in investment casting reduces cost and adds flexibility to the process. PLA is a natural choice for this process where the entire print is burned out. As said by Jerry, his preference goes out to the colorFabb signature PLA/PHA natural due to its ease of use and its functionality for this application.
What started thousands of years ago with beeswax has now evolved to patterns made with 3D printing. The printed pattern is coated with ceramic, then the printed pattern is burned or melted out and the metal poured into remaining shell leaving a complete casting.
Below are a few examples of the prints made by Spectra3D for investment casting.
Jerry uses the Stacker printer for the big prints, a very versatile printer for small series production and large prototyping. As he says, it’s his “pride and joy.” This US made printer the only truly industrial grade 3D printer that’s affordable. The printer, made with industrial components, the PLA/PHA filament and the age-old application make this a perfect case for 3D printing in the real world, where it adds value in the chain of production.
Below you can see the result, courtesy of Marshall Miller at Flowserve:
This is once more an example of FDM 3D printing evolving from a hobby market to practical, functional and real life applications where hardware, software and materials matter to bring a product to the customer or, in this case, use 3D printing as a valuable additional to the chain of production. In this case, the material is our very own PLA/PHA which has been a hit in its natural, colorless form ever since its launch 4 years ago, allowing for flawless prints and
Follow Jerry’s work and the Spectra3D account on Twitter.
You can find more about Flowserve on their highly informative website or contact Marshall Miller, supplier development manager for the Americas at Flowserve, directly for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 214 808 4823
This is the second part in what we hope will be an ongoing series of blogs about companies using colorFabb filaments in unique and exciting ways. Last week we published about AKLIH, the Slovenian design company who use our woodFill filaments for their products. If you are interested in being part of this feature, or know a company who would be suitable, please contact us at email@example.com