Casting is one of the oldest manufacturing methods, with early processes dating back thousands of years and updated methods going back to about 1893. While casting techniques and technologies have vastly improved since then, the basic principles remain the same. In essence, melted material is poured into a pre-shaped cavity or mold, where it cools and solidifies into the desired shape.
Manufacturers employ different casting techniques depending on the part and production specifications. Two of the most common casting processes in modern operations are investment casting and die casting. The following blog aims to provide an overview of each process—including what each is, how they work, and their key advantages, disadvantages, and differences.
What Is Investment Casting?
Investment casting involves the creation of a wax pattern in the shape of the desired part. The pattern is coated with ceramic or another heat-resistant material to create a disposable cast. Once the outer material has hardened, heat is applied to melt the wax pattern, leaving a cavity in the shape of the component. Molten metal is poured into the mold and allowed to cool. The outer shell is then broken to reveal the cast part.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Investment Casting
Investment cast components are highly detailed, precise, and accurate. Once freed from the ceramic mold, they exhibit smooth finishes that generally require little to no finishing. Although a new wax pattern and ceramic mold must be created for each component, production costs for investment casting operations can be equal or less than those of other casting operations since minimal additional work is required beyond the casting process. Automating operations further reduces labor costs.
Common Investment Casting Applications
Investment casting is highly versatile, accommodating a wide range of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. As such, it is used to manufacture numerous high-precision, high-accuracy components, such as those for aircraft systems, automobile engines and brake systems, industrial assemblies, and dental and medical devices.
What Is Die Casting?
Die casting uses pre-made tool steel dies in the shape of the desired components. Molten material is forced into a die at high pressures and left to cool. Once solidified, the cast piece is ejected from the die using ejector pins.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Die Casting
Die casting presents several advantages over other manufacturing methods. For example, it accommodates a broader range of materials, allows for thinner part walls, achieves tighter dimensional tolerances, and produces finer surface finishes. Additionally, while its higher production costs are somewhat prohibitive for low-volume runs, it is a cost-effective option for high-volume runs.
Common Die Casting Applications
Die casting is often used for the production of small and thin metal components. These parts find application in many industrial and commercial products, such as automobiles and consumer electronics.
Differences Between Investment Casting & Die Casting
While investment casting and die casting employ similar manufacturing principles to produce parts and products, there are clear distinctions between the two processes. For example:
- Investment casting employs disposable molds for each new casting, while die casting uses reusable molds.
- Investment casting accommodates both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, while die casting is only suitable for non-ferrous casting metals.
- Investment casting is ideal for low and medium-volume production runs, while die casting is more appropriate for high-volume production runs.
- Investment cast parts generally require little to no secondary processing, while die cast parts may need post-processing to achieve the desired dimensions and finishes.
Investment casting and die casting have unique benefits and limitations that make them suitable for different manufacturing needs. For projects that involve small volumes of highly precise, intricate, or complex parts, investment casting serves as an ideal solution.
Investment Casting Services at Impro
At Impro, we are a premier provider of investment casting services. Equipped with years of industry experience and state-of-the-art production equipment, we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to produce quality cast parts and products suitable for use in even the most critical industrial applications.
To learn more about the differences between investment casting and die casting or our services and capabilities, reach out to us today.