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Plaster Casting How Prototype Castings Can Be Produced in a Short Time

Editor: Alexander Stark

In plaster casting 2.0, Formkon has combined the conventional casting process with 3D printing and can deliver aluminum and magnesium prototypes in one to two weeks.

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PMMA model (left) and the finished aluminum part (right)
PMMA model (left) and the finished aluminum part (right)
(Source: Formkon)

The Danish company Formkon A/S has invested around 1 million euros in a process called plaster casting 2.0. “The core of our big innovation is a 3D printer, one of the largest on the market," says production manager Martin Løgsted and adds: "We have also invested in several industrial furnaces, automatic plaster mixing plants and new types of plaster." Formkon specializes in the casting and finishing of aluminum and magnesium prototypes. “We are surprised at how few people are familiar with plaster casting and know that it is a fast and cost-effective solution for producing smaller numbers of prototypes," says Dan Nielsen, Sales Manager at Formkon A/S. “In the past, this process was most interesting for the production of very small numbers, i.e. 1-10 prototypes. Now plaster casting 2.0 can be used to produce a larger number of prototypes," he explains.

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The automotive industry is also slowly discovering its advantages. Among other things, Formkon supplies this industry with plaster cast prototypes made of aluminum or magnesium for new electric cars or hybrid vehicles. For the major automobile manufacturers, time is of the essence in the race to launch new models. Therefore, the prototypes must be produced quickly and precisely. The alternatives are sand casting or CNC machining from solid materials. However, these procedures are usually much more cumbersome and take more time. Formkon is therefore convinced that this new type of plaster casting will also find its way into other industries.

Next Generation Casting Process

Formkon calls the new process plaster casting 2.0 for a simple reason - the massive investment made in the last two years has rejuvenated the entire process by one generation. The process is automated to a higher degree, resulting in better and more homogeneous quality and faster turnaround times for a larger number of prototypes. Plaster casting is an old technology. But today, combined with state-of-the-art 3D printing and CNC machining, prototypes can be produced faster. Plaster casting 2.0 now produces first results. The complete process is handled in-house, and Formkon can deliver a larger number of cast prototypes in just 1 to 2 weeks, which is much faster than before. This is a crucial ability if you want to cooperate with the leading manufacturers in Europe.

New Technology Saves Time

The process is based on the Voxeljet VX800 3D printer, which can print parts with dimensions pf up to 850 x 450 x 500 mm based on digital 3D files. The finished plastic models consist of thin layers of glue and powder - each layer can be up to 150 µm thin. The plaster casting process makes few restrictions on the shape of the part, and the few time-consuming design rules also speed up the process. “In short, the process involves wrapping the plastic models in plaster and then burning the plastic at 700 °C," explains production manager Martin Løgsted. "This creates a cavity in the plaster that is filled with liquid aluminum or magnesium. Once the metal has solidified, we can break the plaster and obtain a metal component that can processed by our CNC department. Plaster casting 2.0 is therefore a combination of the latest and most modern technology and conventional plaster casting." Sales Manager Dan Nielsen from Formkon A/S summarizes "By refining and compressing the process, we can offer a much more attractive product in a competitive market. Since everything happens in-house, we have total control, which shortens the prototype process by several days,"

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

Original: Dorothee Quitter / Translation: Alexander Stark