Additive manufacturing integration–positioning the PA investment casting industry for sustainability & growth (AMI-4PAIC)

Principal investigator: Paul Lynch, Guha Manogharan

University: The Pennsylvania State University, Behrend

Industry partners: Tech Cast, LLC

Metalcasting facilities exist in all 50 states and the metalcasting industry is one of the most important sectors of the manufacturing economy and supply chain in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania ranks second with 131 metalcasting facilities only to Ohio, which has 157 facilities. The traditional investment casting (IC) process commonly referred to as “lost-wax” casting is burdened by high tooling cost and long lead-times to produce wax parts, ceramic shells, and finally castings. The industry is slowly moving away from hard tooling and into direct 3D printing (additive manufacturing-AM) of plastic/ wax parts without the need for expensive tooling. By directly printing wax patterns, investment casters can take on more highly complex jobs while becoming cost-efficient for low volume production. Integrating additive manufacturing into the PA investment casting industry will open up casting job opportunities that were once thought to be impossible for the traditional PA investment caster. Unlimited opportunities in the cast part design and the ability for companies to use advanced design tools will push the PA investment casting industry forward while opening up opportunities for the companies to take on highly complex jobs that command a higher profit margin. This specific study will bring together engineers and technicians from Tech Cast Inc. in Myerstown, PA with manufacturing engineering faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from Penn State University to: (1) develop the tool kit for designing investment cast components using AM; (2) optimization of the AM printed surface to minimize infiltration upon coating of the printed pattern and pouring of the shell; (3) train the next generation of technicians and engineers to work in the PA metalcasting industry; (4) disseminate new knowledge through PA metalcasting trade organizations and industrial resource centers.