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Rapid Prototyping - Wax Printing, Wax Patterns, Wax Models, Rapid Investment Casting
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Wax printing goes by a variety of names, such as rapid wax patterns, thermo wax printing, wax modeling or is sometimes called stereolithography using wax as the medium.
Wax printing was originally developed for the jewelry industry for quick production of finely detailed wax patterns or wax models for the investment casting of jewelry items. Wax printing is also widely used for the production of custom dental implants. As a result, this process generally has some size limitations in comparison to other rapid prototype production processes. However, excellent detail and accuracy are achievable. Wax patterns can also be easily joined to produce larger units.
The wax printing process continuously lays down layers of wax and a support material until the 3D shape is built up. At completion the support material is removed usually by dissolving in kerosene, leaving the final shape ready to use.
The completed model is strong enough to be used as a visual representative model for presentation purposes. However, a wax printed models main use is as a wax pattern for investment casting using the lost wax process. Combining wax printing with investment casting allows designers to rapidly go from 3D CAD data to the final metal casting quickly and easily. The wax pattern is produced by wax printing including the runners and risers for metal pouring. The pattern is continuously dipped in a ceramic slurry until a thick enough shell is formed. The ceramic is fired to cure the shape and melt the wax which is poured out leaving the casting cavity. The molten metal is poured in, solidified and cooled before the ceramic is broken away to leave the final casting. The casting is fettled and cleaned up for final use.
The final investment casting can have great detail and accuracy and the production of cavities and undercuts is easily possible.
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