3D scanning and printing can replace traditional patternmaking
Peter Smith is one of Laser Lines’ in-house experts with huge experience in the 3D printing and 3D scanning fields.
Patternmaking for metal casting is a trade that goes back hundreds of years and can be a very skilled job. The pattern is the representation of the finished metal part that is used to create the cavity in sand into which the metal is poured.
Wooden patterns have historically been produced by experienced carpenters, with the finished product having to be made to tight tolerances and include allowances for shrinkage, draft angles, sprues, risers and cores. The great benefit of this form of manufacture is that the complexity of parts can be very high, and it is repeatable without the cost and waste of expensive machining.
The patterns are usually used repeatedly during their lifetime and often have to be repaired or modified as designs change, which can mean that the original form is lost. The alternative is to produce a new design from scratch, which can be very expensive due to the skilled labour required, not to mention the time required to produce them.
Some patterns are very old, sometimes decades, so predate modern 3D CAD technologies. If you are lucky, there are still 2D drawings available, but often, due to time that has elapsed, these are lost. This necessitates the need for reverse engineering which can be challenging given complex geometries.
Historically, patterns are so valuable that they are not discarded once a production run is finished but are stored ready for the next run (which might never come). Being wood, storage needs to be indoors in the dry and the patterns protected from woodworm. Some patterns can be several meters in size so storage costs can be significant and the space they take up could be put to more productive use.
How we can help
With its expertise in 3D technologies, Laser Lines offers a complete, 21st century solution for this type of application.
Firstly, existing patterns can be scanned to very high levels of accuracy using the EviXscan range of 3D scanners so that exact digital, reverse engineered patterns can be generated in your CAD package.
These models can be easily digitally repaired or modified for any design changes. Data can then be sent to 3D printers for building, in a range of materials, in a matter of hours, compared to days or weeks for wooden equivalents. By capturing the form of existing patterns and storing them digitally, you remove the need to keep large patterns on the shelf and the associated storage costs. Your warehouse becomes “digital”.
EviXscan Heavy Duty Quadro scanners are built to IP62 standards, so are ideally suited for use in dusty environments that are typical of pattern shops and foundries.
New patterns can be designed in CAD, and this data sent directly to 3D printers for building in a matter of hours, speeding up the time to market for parts. Design it today, print it and cast it tomorrow. The range of FDM printers from Laser Lines can build parts up to 36 inches across, and bigger parts can easily be built in pieces and joined. Accuracy and repeatability will be far higher than using traditional techniques.
At the end of a casting run, the pattern can either be stored or disposed of, because you will still have your digital copy to fall back on should you need to run the part again.
Laser Lines can help take this traditional industry and incorporate it into your digital workflow, helping to improve efficiency, reduce cost and improve time to market.