Jan 26, 2016 | By Benedict
Everyone is talking about whether The Revenant can scoop Best Picture at the Oscars next month, but UK-based Precision Casting Centre has just bagged a similarly coveted prize—within its own field. The “Component of the Year” flagship award, handed out by the British Cast Metals Federation (CMF), is something like the “Best Picture” of the UK’s cast metal industry, reserved for the most remarkable feats of metal engineering. With the help of 3D printing, Precision Casting Centre foundry and its partner voxeljet wowed the jury with their aluminum wheel upright, made using 3D printed cast parts.
According to Precision Casting Centre and voxeljet, the secret to the knockout wheel upright was a thorough topology optimization process, in which designers were able to sketch a concept part five times stiffer than existing models, but with no additional weight. This topology optimization was supplemented with a thorough life cycle analysis and a precise casting simulation prior to production, so the companies knew exactly what kind of component they would be manufacturing.
The goal of the project was to significantly increase the rigidity of the metal component without changing its weight or the materials used. To achieve this goal, Precision Casting Centre, a foundry from the south-coast English city of Portsmouth, had to radically optimize the structure of the wheel upright, a task made simpler thanks to cutting-edge simulation tools and voxeljet’s 3D printing technology. The award-winning wheel upright started with a 3D printed model of the component, made from PMMA, a transparent thermoplastic. This 3D printed model was then surrounded by metal to form a mold, before L169 aluminum alloy was used to create the final component.
"The design freedom of additive manufacturing processes, combined with simulation, allows us to come up with a new generation of designs that overcome the earlier conventional design limitations,” explained Kevin Smith, Sales Director at voxeljet UK, whose 3D printing process made it possible to implement incredibly complex cast part geometries. "Because of this, the CMF jurors had a hard time at first believing that this complex Wheel Upright was an aluminum investment-cast part.”
In the end, the seamless combination of 3D printing techniques and investment casting turned out to be a major factor in the CMF judges’ decision to award the glistening “Component of the Year” statuette to the Portsmouth-based foundry. The jury saw a spark of revolution in the aluminum wheel upright—a revolution in cast part design which could offer benefits to manufacturers and customers alike.
“The Cast Metals Industry Awards are an opportunity for us to recognize the many remarkable developments that are happening throughout our industry, and to show the world the imagination, problem solving and innovation that is happening in foundries every day of the year,” said Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of the Cast Metals Federation during the awards ceremony. “I am delighted by both the number of entries and the quality in all categories.”
Precision Casting Centre’s wheel upright required the services of Altair, Click2Cast and HBM nCode, as well as voxeljet. voxeljet has been particularly busy with its UK projects of late, with the company recently launching an on-demand service center for industrial 3D printing applications in the UK. "Our 3D printing systems are the biggest and fastest available today for investment casting,” said James Reeves, Managing Director of voxeljet UK. “They enable us to respond quickly, implement short processing times and still remain cost-efficient."
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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