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Vacuum pressure casting

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Vacuum pressure casting

Vacuum pressure casting (VPC) uses gas pressure and a vacuum to improve the quality of the casting and minimize porosity. Typically VPC casting machines consist of an upper and a lower chamber. The upper chamber or melting chamber housing the crucible, and the lower casting chamber housing the investment mould. Both chambers are connected via a small hole containing a stopper. A vacuum is pulled in the lower chamber, while pressure is applied in the upper, and then the stopper is removed. This creates the greatest pressure differential to fill the molds. [ 14 ]

Details

Investment casting is used with almost any castable metal, however aluminium alloys, copper alloys, and steel are the most common. In industrial usage the size limits are 3 g (0.1 oz) to about 5 kg (11 lb). The cross-sectional limits are 0.6 mm (0.024 in) to 75 mm (3.0 in). Typical tolerances are 0.1 mm for the first 25 mm (0.005 in for the first inch) and 0.02 mm for the each additional centimeter (0.002 in for each additional inch). A standard surface finish is 1.3–4 micrometres (50–125 μin) RMS. [ 15 ]

The advantages of investment casting are: [ 15 ]

  • Excellent surface finish
  • High dimensional accuracy
  • Extremely intricate parts are castable
  • Almost any metal can be cast
  • No flash or parting lines

The main disadvantage is the overall cost. [ 15 ] Some of the reasons for the high cost include specialized equipment, costly refractories and binders, many operations to make a mould, a lot of labor is needed and occasional minute defects. However, the cost is still less than producing the same part by machining from bar stock; for example, gun manufacturing has moved to investment casting to lower costs of producing pistols.

History

The history of lost-wax casting dates back thousands of years. Its earliest use was for idols, ornaments and jewellery, using natural beeswax for patterns, clay for the moulds and manually operated bellows for stoking furnaces. Examples have been found across the world, such as in the Harappan Civilisation (2500–2000 BC) idols, Egypt's tombs of Tutankhamun (1333–1324 BC), Mesopotamia, Aztec and Mayan Mexico, and the Benin civilization in Africa where the process produced detailed artwork of copper, bronze and gold.

The earliest known text that describes the investment casting process (Schedula Diversarum Artium) was written around 1100 A.D. by Theophilus Presbyter, a monk who described various manufacturing processes, including the recipe for parchment. This book was used by sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571), who detailed in his autobiography the investment casting process he used for the Perseus with the Head of Medusa sculpture that stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy.

Investment casting came into use as a modern industrial process in the late 19th century, when dentists began using it to make crowns and inlays, as described by Barnabas Frederick Philbrook of Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1897,. [ 16 ] Its use was accelerated by William H. Taggart of Chicago, whose 1907 paper described his development of a technique[ citation needed ]. He also formulated a wax pattern compound of excellent properties, developed an investment material, and invented an air-pressure casting machine.

In the 1940s, World War II increased the demand for precision net shape manufacturing and specialized alloys that could not be shaped by traditional methods, or that required too much machining. Industry turned to investment casting. After the war, its use spread to many commercial and industrial applications that used complex metal parts.

Applications

 
Unveiling the titanium integral space bus satellite by Planetary Resources in February 2014. The sacrificial mold for the investment casting was 3D-printed with integral cable routing and toroidal propellant tank. From left: Peter Diamandis, Chris Lewicki, and Steve Jurvetson.

Investment casting is used in the aerospace and power generation industries to produce turbine blades with complex shapes or cooling systems. [ 15 ] Blades produced by investment casting can include single-crystal (SX), directionally solidified (DS), or conventional equiaxed blades. Investment casting is also widely used by firearms manufacturers to fabricate firearm receivers, triggers, hammers, and other precision parts at low cost. Other industries that use standard investment-cast parts include military, medical, commercial and automotive.

With the increased availability of higher-resolution 3D printers, 3D printing has begun to be used to make much larger sacrificial molds used in investment casting. Planetary Resources has used the technique to print the mold for a new small satellite, which is then dipped in ceramic to form the investment cast for a titanium space bus with integral propellant tank and embedded cable routing.

See also

References

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