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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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1911 Frame Highlights Avalon’s Responsiveness to Customer Needs

1911 Press Release shadow

We’re excited to once again exhibit our 1911 frame at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show). Set for Jan. 21-24 in Las Vegas, the show is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and is one of the sector’s preeminent events.

Although designed specifically for the firearms market, the 1911 frame is a good example of how Avalon responds to customer needs, regardless of industry. The frame provides the basic outline of a handgun, which original equipment manufacturers can finish to their own specifications. It’s also quite popular with the hundreds of boutique handgun shops that specialize in highly customizable guns. 

 Traditionally, the 1911 frame is cut and milled from bar stock or forgings, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. The integrity of our casting provides the same frame geometry at a fraction of the cost. It is designed with machine stock in all of the necessary areas but has been optimized to reduce machining cycle times.

To make cast 1911 frames available to a wider number of OEMs and custom shops, Avalon decided in 2015 to invest in tooling, allowing our customers to access the frames at a much more attractive cost.

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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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Aluminum Casting that Counts

Aluminum and the thousands of aluminum castings that make up our everyday lives are often taken for granted. After all, aluminum is just one of many materials available today and is sometimes eclipsed by newer, flashier materials.

But such wasn’t always the case.  For years after its discovery in the 1800s, aluminum was rare and often considered more valuable than silver or gold. Its rarity was due to the difficulties in refining aluminum, which truly weren’t overcome until the Great Depression. That’s when hydroelectric power projects provided enough electrical capacity for the energy-intensive methods of refining aluminum.

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What is Investment Casting?

Investment casting, also known as the lost-wax process, is one of the oldest metal-forming techniques, spanning the last 5,000 years. The investment casting process begins with injecting engineered wax into high precision dies or with printed rapid prototypes. The wax patterns that are produced through either method are then assembled onto a sprue along with a ceramic pour cup.

These wax setups are then invested, or surrounded, with a silica slurry mixture and refractory zircon sand. Many coats are applied until a hard shell covers the assembled wax patterns. This is generally the longest stage in the investment casting process since the shell must dry completely before applying additional coats. Humidity and circulation play large factors in the successful execution of this stage.

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