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Expert Article

 Andrej Wetzel

Andrej Wetzel

Manager Lean Management / Product & Process Engineering, Feinguss Blank GmbH

Investment Casting Digital Component and Process Development in Investment Casting

| Author / Editor: Andrej Wetzel / Nicole Kareta

Through the targeted use of simulation software in the product development process, significant potential for improvement and savings can be realized - even before the component is manufactured. In this way, the actual component is optimized in advance in terms of process capability and cost structure.

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With the help of simulations, material recommendations, feasibility analyses and part optimizations can be worked out.
With the help of simulations, material recommendations, feasibility analyses and part optimizations can be worked out.
(Source: gemeinfrei / Unsplash)

Investment casting is one of the oldest manufacturing processes in the world - and with good reason. Almost unlimited material variety and design freedom are key advantages of this process. Investment casting is the right choice especially when the component geometry or material is subject to high requirements. With the help of a "digital twin" it is possible to optimize an investment casting and significantly reduce its component weight before it is even manufactured. By using modern simulation methods such as those offered by Altair, it is possible to simulate the essential steps of the production process and thus to detect and eliminate possible weak points at an early stage.

Digital twin design process: Overview of the simulations.
Digital twin design process: Overview of the simulations.
(Source: Feinguss Blank GmbH)


















The following simulations are part of the component optimization:

  • Material simulation: What is the right material & the right heat treatment for the respective application?
  • Topology optimization: Can the geometry be adjusted according to the load and the casting process?
  • Casting and solidification simulation: Is the component easy and economical to cast?
  • FEM calculation: Will the component withstand the subsequent load?

With the help of these simulations, material recommendations, feasibility analyses and part optimizations can be worked out for the customer. Based on the knowledge gained from the Digital Twins, the following challenges can be efficiently realized in the investment casting process:

  • a safe, economical process by identifying and exploiting potential savings
  • complex geometries and materials that are difficult to process
  • reduction of machining costs through highest casting precision combined with intelligent lightweight construction
  • reduction and minimization of development times
  • weight optimization and reduction of material usage
  • reduction of development and series start-up costs

The open cooperation between customer and system supplier is indispensable here. The supplier is an expert in his process and the customer has the knowledge about his component. Only when both sides come together can all the advantages of digital component and process development be realized. The supplier needs information from the customer about the clamping, loads and forces acting on the component as well as the environmental conditions such as temperatures. On this basis, the component can be optimized and at the same time adapted to the manufacturing process. This is currently still a challenge in practice. Often components are optimized without sufficient knowledge about the manufacturing process. The better way is therefore to let the supplier, with his many years of process knowledge, carry out the component optimization in order to achieve maximum added value.

Within the framework of the Digital Twins, different variants can be tested digitally and the best possible one selected. The concept is underpinned by various methods of additive manufacturing. Once the design is fixed, the first hand samples and prototypes can be produced quickly using 3D printing. Cost-intensive tool production is not necessary. This combination of digital preparation and fast feasibility of first components makes the difference. This saves development time and costs and considerably reduces the time to market.

This picture shows the development of the wheel carrier from the original shape to the geometry optimized for casting.
This picture shows the development of the wheel carrier from the original shape to the geometry optimized for casting.
(Source: Feinguss Blank GmbH)

The wheel carrier from the development project within the scope of a manufacturing cooperation was previously produced by Feinguss Blank in fully-machined form. With the help of corresponding simulations, the new geometry was developed on the basis of the later loads on the part and optimized in further steps for the casting process. This allowed a weight saving of 35 % compared to the original mold.

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About the author

 Andrej Wetzel

Andrej Wetzel

Manager Lean Management / Product & Process Engineering, Feinguss Blank GmbH