Casting Metal Parts and Silicone Molds from 3D Prints

The invention of the relatively affordable 3D printer for home use has helped bring methods used to produce parts for prototypes, samples, and even manufacturing, closer to designers. This tutorial on how to cast metal parts from 3D printed silicone molds is a perfect example of how useful a 3D printer can be when you are looking to make a custom and durable metal part at home.

After 3D printing a mold design using an Ultimaker 2 [Matt Borgatti] casts the mold using Smooth-On Mold Star 15 that can withstand heat up to 450 °F (232 °C), which he points out is ideal for the low-temp metal casting alloy tin-bismuth comprised of 58% Bismuth and 42% Tin with a melting point of 281 °F.

You may have heard of molds created from 3D printed parts before, but what makes this tutorial great is that the author, [Matt Borgatti], really sets you up to be successful. He offers up plenty of insights including mold-making techniques and terminology like why you would need a well and runners designed as part of your mold when casting with metal.

You can either reproduce his designs or use the tutorial to create your own which makes it a good start for beginners as well as another method to file away for people who already have experience 3D printing molds. This post is also really a twofer. Not only do you get detailed instructions for the method but [Matt Borgatti] uses his casted metal part for a flat-pack camera arm he designed to document projects with which you can also build using his files found on Thingiverse.

To create molds for precision parts and to learn more about using a 3D printer as a tool in the casting process, check out this method for creating higher resolution molds with a resin printer.

Continue reading “Casting Metal Parts and Silicone Molds from 3D Prints”

Making Rubber Stamps with OpenSCAD

There’s an old saying that goes “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, but around these parts a better version might be “If you can’t buy ’em, make ’em”. A rather large portion of the projects that have graced these pages have been the product of a hacker or maker not being able to find a commercial product to fit their needs. Or at the very least, not being able to find one that fit their budget.

GitHub user [harout] was in the market for some rubber stamps to help children learn the Armenian alphabet, but couldn’t track down a commercially available set. With a 3D printer and some OpenSCAD code, [harout] was able to turn this commercial shortcoming into a DIY success story.

Filling the molds with urethane rubber.

Rather than having to manually render each stamp, he was able to come up with a simple Bash script that calls OpenSCAD with the “-D” option. When this option is passed to OpenSCAD, it allows you to override a particular variable in the .scad file. A single OpenSCAD file is therefore able to create a stamp of any letter passed to it on the command line. The Bash script uses this option to change the variable holding the letter, renders the STL to a unique file name, and then moves on to the next letter and repeats the process.

This procedural generation of STLs is a fantastic use of OpenSCAD, and is certainly not limited to simple children’s stamps. With some improvements to the code, the script could take any given string and font and spit out a ready to print mold.

With a full set of letter molds generated, they could then be printed out and sealed with a spray acrylic lacquer. A mold release was applied to each sealed mold, and finally they were filled with approximately 200ml of Simpact urethane rubber from Smooth-On. Once the rubber cures, he popped them out of the molds and glued them onto wooden blocks. The end result looks just as good as anything you’d get from an arts and crafts store.

The process used here is very similar to the 3D printed cookie molds we’ve covered recently, though we have to assume these little morsels would not be nearly as tasty. Of course, if you had access to a small CNC machine you could cut the stamps out of the rubber directly and skip the mold step entirely.

The Fine Art of Heating And Cooling Your Beans

They say that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Those are good words to live by, but here at Hackaday we occasionally like to adhere to a slight variation of that saying: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”. So when we saw the incredible amount of work and careful research [Rob Linnaeus] was doing just to roast coffee beans, we knew he was onto something.

The heart of his coffee roaster is a vortex chamber with an opening on the side for a standard heat gun, and an aperture in the top where an eight cup flour sifter is to be placed. [Rob] modeled the chamber in Fusion 360 and verified its characteristics using RealFlow’s fluid simulation. He then created a negative of the chamber and printed it out on his Monoprice Maker Select 3D printer.

He filled the mold with a 1:1 mix of refractory cement and perlite, and used the back of a reciprocating saw to vibrate the mold as it set so any air bubbles would rise up to the surface. After curing for a day, [Rob] then removed the mold by heating it and peeling it away. Over the next several hours, the cast piece was fired in the oven at increasingly higher temperatures, from 200 °F all the way up to 500 °F. This part is critical, as trapped water could otherwise turn to steam and cause an explosion if the part was immediately subjected to high temperatures. If this sounds a lot like the process for making a small forge, that’s because it basically is. Continue reading “The Fine Art of Heating And Cooling Your Beans”

Polyurethane, Meet 3D Printing

3D printing makes prototyping wonderful. But what do you do when your plastics of choice just aren’t strong enough? For [Michael Memeteau], the answer was to combine the strength of a vacuum-poured polyurethane part with the ease of 3D-printed molds. The write-up is a fantastic walk through of a particular problem and all of the false steps along the way to a solution.

The prototype is a connected scale for LPG canisters, so the frame would have to support 80 kg and survive an outdoor environment. Lego or MDF lattice were considered and abandoned as options early on. 3D printing at 100% infill might have worked, but because of the frame’s size, it would have to be assembled in pieces and took far too long anyway.

The next approach was to make a mold with the 3D printer and pour the chosen polyurethane resin in, but a simple hollow mold didn’t work because the polyurethane heats as it cures. The combined weight and heat deformed the PLA mold. Worse, their polyurethane of choice was viscous and cured too quickly.

The solution, in the end, was a PET filament that deforms less with heat, clever choice of internal support structures to hold the stress in while being permeable, and finally pouring the polyurethane in a vacuum bag to help it fill and degas. The 3D-printed hull is part of the final product, but the strength comes from the polyurethane.

Mold-making is one of the killer apps of 3D printing. We’ve seen 3D prints used as molds for spin-casting hollow parts, and used as a sacrificial shell for otherwise epoxy parts. But for really complex shapes, strength, and ease of fabrication, we have to say that [Michael]’s approach looks promising.

Collider Prints Hollow Shells, Fills Them

3D printing is full of innovations made by small firms who’ve tweaked the same basic ideas just a little bit, but come up with radically different outcomes. Collider, a small startup based in Chattanooga TN, is producing a DLP resin printer that prints hollow molds and then fills them.

colliderThat’s really all there is to it. The Orchid machine prints a thin shell using a photocuring resin, and uses this shell as the mold for various two-part thermoset materials: think epoxies, urethanes, and silicones. The part cures and the shell is dissolved away, leaving a solid molded part with the material properties that you chose.

This is a great idea for a couple of reasons. DLP-based resin printers can have very fine features, but they’re slow as dirt when a lot of surface area needs to be cured. By making thin-walled molds, this stage can go faster. The types of UV-curing resins out there for use in resin printers is limited by the need to photo-cure, while the spectrum of two-part plastic materials is much broader. Finally, resin printers are great for printing single topologically-simple objects, and molds are essentially just vases.

Continue reading “Collider Prints Hollow Shells, Fills Them”

3D Printed Molds and Silicone Caulking

Have you ever had a pair of ear buds fit perfectly out of the package? Probably not. Well, [Joe] decided to take matters into his own hands and cast his own silicone ear bud covers custom made for him.

The traditional route would have been to make an ear bud model, make a mold from it, cast a copy from it… etc, etc. But [Joe] wanted to try something else — he designed and 3D printed the two-part mold, and used plain old silicone caulking to fill it.

First he 3D modeled the ear bud covers in SolidWorks, then he had to learn how to design the mold for it, but luckily, there’s a handy tutorial. After printing the mold he opted to use 100% silicone caulking in order to make the part since he had some lying around the house. The problem is, this stuff can take days to cure — unless you mix in some cornstarch.

3d printed ear buds

The golden ratio [Joe] found was about 5:1 silicone to cornstarch, which resulted in a cure time of about 20 minutes.

After curing you just need to trim off the excess silicone. In the molding process this is known as “flash”.

Since this is caulking he’s using, you’re going to want to wash off the part a few times because this type of silicone produces acetic acid as it cures.

The ear buds fit great and inspired [Joe] to try molding even more things, like a custom sleeping mask using the 3D scan of your own face!