Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
There's nothing new about using wax as a material for 3D printing. It's been a concept material for years now. But what is new about 3D Systems Corporation’s just-announced ProJet CPX 3000 digital printing system is that it is built for creating wax patterns for investment castings. This is interesting on a number of levels, in particular its accuracy and stacking capabilities, the latter said to be a first for all-wax 3D printers. Now, join that with 3D printing's ability to build multiple parts on the same build platform simultaneously, and you're talking high efficiency. And that's what the ProJet CPX 3000 is about.
Good old wax patterns are terrific for the fine details and excellent surface qualities that precision investment casting requires. The advantage of using 3D printing for wax patterns has been the ability to design in runners and risers, even cooling channels, thus eliminating lots of tooling. Another often-overlooked advantage is that you no longer have to play with a thermometer to make sure you have the wax at the right temperature for melting, conditioning, and injection as if you were some machining Goldilocks. The machine handles that for you.
But it was still low-volume wax patterns for investment casting. The ProJet CPX 3000 is designed to be both detail-oriented and fast. Its high-definition mode prints 40-micron layers at high-speed, giving you detailed small to large parts with excellent surface finish. The ProJet CPX 3000's "extreme" high-definition mode prints 16-micron layers for production parts with the detailed features common in many micro-casting applications. Accuracy detail ranges from between 0.001 to 0.002 in. per inch of part dimension. The ProJet CPX 3000 provides for part nesting and stacking, while making use of its entire build volume, which, depending on your operating mode, can be as large as 11.75 x 7.3 x 8 inches. It can build multiple parts at the same time, and the ProJet CPX 3000 operates without attendants.
Foundries are starting to win a line of business back from overseas with their low-volume, precise investment castings. Rapid manufacturing systems have been key to this because they let you create a mold quickly from digital data. But the problem with this has been that you're going direct from digital to sand or metal, which, although they produce good details, have rough surfaces. The ProJet CPX 3000 gives you the fine details that you can only get from lost-wax investment casting with the speed and productivity that you can only get with rapid manufacturing. Check out today's Pick of the Week write-up for more details and links to additional information.
Thanks, pal. — Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering Magazine