Breaking the Mold with Cross-Technologies

At Stratasys Direct Manufacturing we have the unique ability to use additive manufacturing methods and cross-technologies to streamline conventional manufacturing processes. With our wide range of product offerings, we can use the best of both worlds to efficiently and cost-effectively shorten the product development cycle and bring your product to market faster.

Urethane Casting is a comparable process to injection molding – the process where a hard tool is machined, with a cavity and a core, and the cavity is injected with molten thermoplastics. The difference is that Urethane Casting uses a soft tool made with a platinum-based silicone and two-part urethane to fill the cavity. Molds are produced using platinum silicone to encapsulate a master pattern that is built with 3D printing or CNC technologies. The master pattern can be post-processed to achieve the desired surface finish. The mold is then cast with Advanced Formulated Polymer (AFP) urethanes, resulting in strong production-like parts.
casting

By using 3D printed master patterns and quick curing silicone molds, cast parts can be delivered within 7-10 business days – allowing a company to receive aesthetically and mechanically comparable parts earlier than traditional injection molding can deliver.

Casting Products

Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has four casting options available using advanced formula polymers for a variety of applications:

QuantumCast™ applies vacuum, heat and pressure to process Advanced Formula Polymers (AFP’s) to yield void-free, strong preproduction and short-run production components. Our QuantumCast™ Urethane Casting process maximizes the mechanical properties of the Advanced Formula Polymers (AFPs) and Shore A flexible materials with heat and vacuum to ensure void-free, strong and stable products. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has a large collection of materials to meet your production needs. These materials can meet requirements for UL94-V0, FAR 25.853, high temperature, clear and medical imaging materials. There is also a family of foam materials available with variable densities ranging from 3 to 32 lbs.

CompressionCast™ is a compression molding process from a rigid CNC acrylic mold that uses production grade silicone material.

CompositeCast™ uses the QuantumCast™ process, but it adds composite sheet material (fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar, etc.) into the cavity of platinum silicone molds. The result is a tough and stiff composite reinforced cast urethane part. This process also enhances other mechanical properties of the part like impact strength.

RotationCast™ uses a multi-axis casting platform to process materials in a premium silicone mold. This process expends parts that are production quality and can be highly cosmetic.

Key Advantages

These four casting processes have key advantages for bringing your product to market.

Urethane Casting is the answer to less expensive, low volume production. Soft tooling is cheaper and less timely than hard tooling. This translates to a much lower overhead tooling cost, making it affordable to produce at low volumes. Our platinum reinforced silicone molds afford about 15-25 shots.

Injection molding tools can take weeks to months to build, delaying production. Using additive manufactured parts allows companies to bring products to market faster and create revenue while waiting for injection molding tools to be completed. With short lead times, our Urethane Casting can produce significant time savings.

Prototyping with Urethane Casting can provide an accurate idea of how parts will assemble and what a final injection molded part will look like. Because of the similarities to a simulated injection molded plastic feel, prototypes of a part may aid in product launch.

With the use of our platinum-based silicone material we can make complex molds where no lifters or slides are necessary and most undercuts are acceptable. Draft is not a requirement because the tool is a soft silicone. Other benefits include the ability to have thin and thick walls sections in the design of the part. Differential shrink from various wall thickness is not an issue in the QuantumCast™ process.

Production with Cross-Technologies

The 3D printed master patterns are typically produced with Stereolithography (SL), a photocure technology that builds using a UV laser to cure and solidify thin layers of resin. A SL master pattern is typically built much quicker than a CNC master pattern. When higher quantity of parts are needed we can produce a permanent master pattern with CNC or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) processes.

Materials can be cast in color and textured to achieve the look you need or painted and textured to provide UV stability. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing can also offer graphics like lettering and logos and other molded-in hardware, over-molding, Mold-Tech surface texture, color matching and EMI/RFI shielding to complete your design needs.

We also offer additional features like threaded inserts and snap fit details to fit your product design requirements. The threaded inserts are micro-welded into place with precision using proprietary methods to ensure consistency. The resulting torque and pull out strength are far superior to conventional heat staking or bonding of threaded fasteners.

Applications

With full in-house production, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing can use Urethane Casting to produce parts for a variety of use cases and applications.

One application in the automotive industry can be seen with Equus Automotive’s prototype and pre-production BASS770. Urethane castings were used for multiple interior and exterior components including the instrument panel, headlights and taillight bezels, HVAC ducting, glass trim panel fender, console covers, seat belt covers, under hood components and more. Several of the interior pieces produced with urethane casting were leather wrapped to add elements of luxury to the iconic muscle car.
Another application is seen with The Quest, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) designed by Alstom Schuilling Robotics for underwater construction, inspection and maintenance tasks. Alstom Schilling Robotics received a cost-effective prototype of the ROV’s propulsion system with urethane castings. Alstom Schilling realized the urethane castings could meet its specifications for the final parts by co-molding the urethane castings with stainless steel. The co-molding significantly reduced the tooling costs that would have been a result of injection molding, and the final parts were much lighter and more corrosion resistant.

Urethane casting is also frequently utilized for medical device applications, specifically device casings and housings. The Millipore Muse Cell Analyzer is a desktop cell analyzer with a tablet-like interface that used Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s Urethane Casting process during initial production launch. The casted housing around the medical device proved well matched during earlier prototyping market analysis and functionality. Millipore than used Stratasys Direct Manufacturing when venturing into larger volume production via injection molding.

Get to Market Quickly

The combination of conventional and additive manufacturing processes gives you a first-to-market advantage. Using our cross-technology Urethane Casting process, we can typically ship your parts before the hard tooling step in conventional injection molding is finished.

 

Urethane Casting Resources

emd millipore

Medical Production: EMD Millipore’s Muse Cell Analyzer

EMD Millipore utilized urethane casting for initial product launch.

EMD Millipore utilized urethane casting for initial product launch.

Read the Case Study
breaking the mold with cross technologies

Breaking the Mold with Cross Technologies

Benefit from the best of both worlds, 3D printing used with conventional manufacturing methods.

Read the Article
Urethane Casting
Urethane Casting: Prototype to Production

“It’s a great way to get parts to market without having to wait or spend the capital investing in injection molding or hard tooling.”