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Brass and Bronze: Staples in Investment Casting

Brass and bronze are similar materials with similarly beneficial characteristics. Both materials exhibit excellent machinability and corrosion resistance, are non-sparking, lack magnetism, and provide unique wear characteristics and aesthetics.

Brass and bronze are a common investment casting material, used in a variety of industries and applications. Some of these include metering, fluid power, hardware and locks, power generation, art, along with many others.

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The Versatility of Aluminum Castings

Aluminum castings play an important role in products for a wide range of industries. These include aerospace, military, electronics, medical and dental instruments and food and dairy applications, to name just a few.

It is a material well-known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, which makes aluminum an ideal material for countless casting applications. Heat treating can be employed to give it greater strength, ductility, corrosion resistance, and machinability.

Aluminum Grades Used in Investment Casting

Aluminum Alloy 319 -- 319 contains around 6% Si and 3.5% copper and is often used for general low cost uses because of its excellent casting and machining characteristics.

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Investment Castings for the Win

Investment castings provide a wide range of benefits compared to other castings, and the investment casting process is the key.

To create investment castings, wax is injected into an aluminum die to produce a pattern, and then the patterns are affixed to a wax runner bar to create an assembly called a tree. In the next step, the tree is dipped into a slurry to create a ceramic shell. The wax is melted out of the shell, which is then fired in a kiln. Metal is poured into the fired shell. In the last step, the ceramic shell is knocked off the casting.

By using a ceramic shell, we’re able to pour more than 200 different alloys, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, to create a broad range of investment castings for our customers.

Another advantage is that our aluminum tooling is less expensive than tool steel, and we’re able to run lower volumes of parts. Avalon can also cast parts weighing from a few ounces to 100 pounds, providing a wide array of options for customers.

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Avalon Facility in Wisconsin Expands Investment Casting Capabilities

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added to the capabilities at our Markesan, WI, investment casting plant.

The addition of four presses gives us more capacity for conventional trees and filled wax casting. Compared to unfilled wax, filled wax requires fewer tooling modifications, generates less sink and can be somewhat more stable.

The new capabilities at Markesan provide several benefits. We’ll be able to run more castings overall and will also be able to shorten lead times because we’ll be able to run different parts on multiple different presses. They also allow us to run larger dies to create larger parts.

In addition to the new capabilities, our Markesan facility also runs vacuum assist and gravity power investment casting and uses the invest process.

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Investment Casting 411

Most of our customers know something about investment casting when they contact us, but they still have a wide variety of questions for us to answer.

Check out the most common queries and our responses below.

Does Avalon have a minimum investment casting order?

In general, chances are that you’ll hit the minimum with whatever order you place, whether for prototypes or production.

What is your most economical order quantity?

That depends on the part, design, and approximately the number of parts cast per mold.

What’s an average investment casting order?

An average order is generally between 250 and 500 parts, although we process orders for as many as 50,000 pieces or more per year.

What alloys do you pour?

We pour the most requested alloys; 17-4PH, 304 and 316 stainless steel as well as aluminum. We also pour more than 200 other different materials, including specialized “exotic” alloys like Inconel and Nickel X. See our full list of alloys.

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Metal Casting to Meet Your Needs

Avalon has always invested in our customers’ long-term needs. Rather than function as simple order-takers, we invest time in understanding the customer’s process and part.

We gather information on part volumes and requirements like surface finish, end market and necessary secondary processes. We stay engaged with the customer through production to find potential areas of cost and time savings.

Avalon Precision Metalsmiths was previously limited to our U.S-based investment casting capabilities. But now, thanks to our association with Sigma Electric, Avalon can support any casting needs our customers might have outside of the investment casting process.

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What is a Full-Service Investment Casting Company?

At its core, a full-service investment casting company is a manufacturer that meets its customers’ needs with high-quality cast parts & is vertically integrated.

As a full-service investment casting company, Avalon provides Design for Manufacturing (DFM) services to improve the manufacturability of our customers’ parts. We look for opportunities to reduce weight, while adding features that lessen or diminish machining and other secondary operations.

Avalon also provides rapid prototype response to reduce your time to market for new products.

Casting designs are then simulated prior to prototyping or tooling, to help reduce the effect of internal shrinkage.

Avalon pours a wide range of alloys. We can also formulate specialized alloys, or make recommendations, based on our customer’s requirements.

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Finding the Right Casting Company

avalon pmi tradeshow board

Selecting the right casting company to partner with can be a difficult task.  There are a few factors to take into consideration in selecting the right casting company.

Start by finding a full-service turnkey casting company that provides one-stop shopping for all your casting-related needs, including:

Expertise and Experience

You want a casting company dedicated to being a long-term partner committed to building relationships, not just filling orders. A company that understands the importance of adding value to your product line and can assist with your new product development to not only produce a functional part but a part that processes more efficiently at less cost.  We can suggest changes that could reduce part weight, while adding features that eliminate machining and / or other secondary operations.

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Lowering the Overall Cost of Ownership with Investment Casting

Precision investment casting is a refined manufacturing process that provides numerous advantages.

The process consists of several steps – creating an injected wax replica of the part, mounting the parts onto a sprue / tree and then forming a ceramic mold around the wax pattern. The wax is then melted out with steam and pressure and molten metal is poured into the heated ceramic shell.   The result is sacrificial tooling that allows for high part definition, both in ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

The aluminum wax dies offer substantially longer life than a high pressure die cast die or a plastic mold. Investment casting is a process that holds tighter tolerances than sand casting or the permanent mold process, while allowing for internal passages / undercuts to be cast in place along with superior surface finishes.  Overall, a process that affords many opportunities to reduce the overall cost of ownership.

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Investment Casting Quotes with an Edge

Avalon takes a different approach to quoting investment casting projects than most other manufacturers. Every quoting process answers the question “what will it cost?”.  But we at Avalon take it a step farther by helping the customer answer the question “what will increase the part’s competitive advantage?”.

Our ultimate goal is to provide economical castings that meet or exceed our customers’ expectations.   We look deep into our customer’s requirements including understanding their problems and or processing issues.

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Precision Casting for Precisely the Right Results

Precision casting is another term for investment casting, but in many ways, it means so much more.

In its most basic sense, precision casting creates precisely controlled parts with near-net shape, to within plus/minus 0.005” tolerances. This reduces or eliminates the need for machining, which helps control the customer’s final cost.

To achieve the greatest level of part integrity and avoid cavity shrinkage, simulations are used to verify each customer’s project. In addition, vacuum dipping and vacuum pouring is available for parts requiring greater cavity detail and thinner walls.  Vacuum dipping is a precision cast process Avalon developed to help eliminate any air bubbles which lead to the creation of excess metal.

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