A lot of customers have approached us in the past looking for advice when it comes to prototyping their ideas or servicing their initial demand quantities. Most people will immediately suggest 3D printers or CNC machining, but die casting is typically the best option in metal-based units where a larger quantity of parts may be required.
If this was surprising to you, then we have good news for you: in this guide, we’ll explain how you can get prototypes using die casting. This manufacturing method is fast, low-cost, and allows you to get solid metal parts.
What Is Die Casting?
Die casting is when you push molten metal into a recessed cavity, called a mold or die. The metal will fill up the recessed area and then start to cool. Once it’s cool enough, it will harden.
The die is then separated, and the cooled part is removed before closing the die again. From there, the process can repeat and make a number of identical parts from the same die.
This works a lot like injection molding with a large caveat: instead of using plastic like injection molding, a die casting operation uses metal.
The final part that you get is made out of pure metal and it’s a solid piece.
Die casting is typically used for larger volumes of products, but with Rapid Axis it’s a viable option for prototyping and test components. During mass production, die casting offers fast turnarounds, affordable per-unit costs, and nearly identical units. Rapid Axis supports expedited die casting requirements with simple tooling so you can have several hundred parts on hand in a matter of weeks; not months like traditional die casting.
People choose Rapid Axis for die cast prototyping so they can get solid metal pieces that all look and perform the same as their production runs. They can take those parts and test them to failure, showcase the design to stakeholders, or use it for fitments and operational viability studies. The application also works very well in short-run production.
Prototyping Requires the Right Die Casting Choice
This process is used by some companies to prototype their ideas. There’s a big pitfall that you need to avoid if you’re considering doing the same: You need to pick the right die casting operation.
Although the definition we gave is very simple, there are a number of varying options within the world of die casting. As a result, you need to pick the right one, or else your project and parts will suffer.
Let’s review some of the major die-casting options that you should think about.
The Single-Cavity Prototype Die
For most users, we start by suggesting a single-cavity prototype die. This is a straightforward option that involves making a single cavity in a die, then making one unit at a time.
The benefit of this is that it’s easier and faster to make, less expensive, and has the ability to change. Once the cavity is made and a test unit is manufactured, you can decide if you need minor tweaks to the design.
The mold maker can then make corrections in the actual die and then make some more units for your approval. If there were any more than one cavity, this wouldn’t be possible to the same level.
The other upside of this technology is that it can be converted to a full-scale die without any major alterations. When you’re happy with the design, just let the die casters know and they’ll ramp up production using the same master mold.
Using Gravity Casting
Alternatively you’re looking for a low-cost way to make low-volume units, then we might suggest using gravity casting. Gravity casting doesn’t use any pressure or vacuum to draw the metal in. Instead, the molten metal will drip into a cavity that’s sitting underneath.
Gravity will pull the molten metal into the cavity and it will cool.
The mold is a lot less expensive to make, since it won’t seal with another plate or be used on a die casting machine.
The downside is that gravity casting doesn’t offer the same level of precision or tolerances. Since gravity is doing all the work, it’s possible that metal won’t make it to tight corners or different crevasses while the pouring is done.
Often, machinists will have to go through after removing the gravity-cast part and do minor touch-ups.
Still, it’s faster and less expensive for you if you just want a few dozen parts.
Now that you know how die casting can be used in a prototyping project, you are probably thinking about which of your parts can be die-cast. If you want some help through the process, reach out to our team at Rapid Axis. We have a die casting operation that will take you through prototyping and all the way to mass production. Reach out for a free quote or chat with our team to see how we can help.