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Metal Prototypes, Metal Rapid Prototyping



Aluminum fan blade prototypeProtoCAM offers quick turnaround metal prototypes and rapid prototyping for metal parts.  Depending on material, timing requirements, critical dimensions and post-machining operations, there are several different methods that can be used to satisfy your metal prototyping requirements.  Selective laser sintering (SLS), investment castings, plaster castings, sand castings and CNC machining are the most common methods to manufacture rapid metal prototypes.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS is an additive rapid prototyping process that utilizes an A6 metal to build the rapid metal prototype up in very thin layers.  Minimum wall thickness is .040”.  A6 is also referred to as tool steel or high carbon steel.

Investment Casting

Investment casting is a metal casting process that uses a master pattern to create a ceramic mold.  Typical metals used are carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and bronze alloys.

One type of master pattern used in an SLA Quick Cast pattern.  Using the Quick Cast pattern eliminates the need of tooling to create the wax pattern.  Not only is cost greatly reduced, so is the lead time to produce the metal prototype.  The SLA Quick Cast investment casting method is great for a some metal prototypes; contact ProtoCAM for details.  Using the quick cast method, metal prototypes can be produce in as little as 2 weeks.

Wax patterns are also used when creating the ceramic mold for the investment casting method.  Wax patterns offer superior surface finish, and work well for rapid metal prototyping applications that require a higher quantity (hundreds or more).  Wax patterns can be quickly produced using silicone rubber molds. 

Plaster Cast Metal Parts

Plaster casting is typically the best way to produce metal prototypes that will be die cast production parts.  An SLA master pattern is used to create the plaster cast mold.  Plaster cast metal prototypes offer improved surface finish when compared to the sand casting method.  Aluminum and zinc alloy plaster cast metal parts can be produced in about 2 weeks.

Sand Castings

Sand casting is an economical way to produce metal prototypes.  The process is similar to the plaster cast method, but surface finish is rough.  Typical metals used in sand casting are iron, aluminum and zinc alloys.

Rapid Prototype Aluminum Castings, Steel Castings, and Stainless Steel Castings

The most common type of metal prototyping is aluminum casting.  Rapid prototype aluminum castings can be created using investment casting, sand casting or plaster casting.  ProtoCAM also does many steel and stainless steel rapid prototypes in addition to rapid aluminum prototyping.

Metal Coated Prototypes

ProtoCAM does metal coating on plastic prototypes created from other rapid prototyping techniques such as SLA, urethane casting, and injection molding.  Typical metal coated prototypes are plated with nickel, copper, and chrome.

Benefits of Creating Metal Prototypes

  • Quickly evaluate metal part design
  • Produce metal prototypes in almost any metal material
  • Allow testing of the part in the actual production materials
  • Produce metal parts without expensive tooling

Contact ProtoCAM for Metal Prototypes

Please contact us to discuss your rapid metal prototype or to request a quote.