Online manufacturing platform 3D Hubs is now offering metal casting using FDM patterns as part of its services. The global 3D printing network, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, is adding the service as a response to customer demand for large metal parts.

By using FDM 3D printing, 3D Hubs produce parts “5 times cheaper than existing methods.”

A metal part and its FDM 3D printed equivalents. Photo via 3D Hubs.

A metal part and its FDM 3D printed equivalents. Photo via 3D Hubs.

Casting a metal part with Polymaker

The service offered by 3D Hubs is similar to the traditional lost wax method casting where a sacrificial material is burned out by liquid metal.

 

The process to create a metal cast part. Image via 3D Hubs.

The process to create a cast metal part. Image via 3D Hubs.

The sacrificial material in use by the platform is PolyCast, recently released as part of an update to Polymaker’s product line. This product expansion, called ‘Polymaker Industrial’ was released only weeks after the company raised $5 million in equity funding.

Polymaker’s secret ingredient

3D Hubs manages every step of production: from the initial order, to 3D printing, and the final casting in metal by a local foundry. A crucial step in-between 3D printing and casting the part is in polishing with Polymaker’s Isopropanol technology. This step ensures a smooth finish reducing the risk of air bubbles appearing in the cast metal part.

The metal parts cast in a furnace. Image via 3D Hubs.

The metal parts cast in a furnace. Image via 3D Hubs.

According to Polymaker’s President Xiaofan Luo, the secret to the process is in the material,

Most polymers leave residues when they decompose during the pattern burnout process. We have engineered the material to ensure that it decomposes completely at temperatures less than 600ºC, leaving a clean mold ready for casting.

Materials and availability

The service is now available via the 3D Hubs website where it is integrated into the price comparison  system for different manufacturing techniques. According to the company, “if a design is approaching the size of a basketball, FDM printed patterns become the most cost effective method for producing custom metal parts with complex geometries.

The company currently offers several materials for casting including stainless steel, brass, copper, aluminium and bronze. The company has suggested that more material options may be added in the future.

3D Hubs gives a price comparison for different manufacturing techniques, all parts made in stainless steel at roughly 150mm x 130mm x 55mm in size. Image via 3D Hubs.

3D Hubs gives a price comparison for different manufacturing techniques, all parts made in stainless steel at roughly 150mm x 130mm x 55mm in size. Image via 3D Hubs.

3D Hubs’ casting service was announced at RAPID + TCT 2017. 3D Printing Industry are reporting live from the event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For our updates direct to your inbox subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter and, for a to-the-minute feed follow us on twitter.

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Featured image: A metal part and its FDM 3D printed equivalents. Photo via 3D Hubs. 

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