Lost Wax casting for other metals

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Layton, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. Layton
    Layton New Member
    Hi, I've been looking at the quality of the final printed models and it appears that silver glossy gives the best results.

    I'm wondering if Shapeways could offer the lost wax casting method for other metals.

    Wouldn't it be great to achieve the same exceptional detail and smooth, high-gloss finish that is possible with this method, but using cheaper metals like bronze or steel?

    If Shapeways cannot do the casting in-house, why not allow users to print their models in wax and we can then contact a local foundry to do the casting in whatever metal we please?

    Personally, I don't like the print lines that can be seen using the current method on stainless steel, but printing in silver is simply too expensive for larger sculptural models.
  2. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    (hint) Someone mentioned titanium on the Shapeways Live conference call today (/hint)

    The problem with wax is being able to deliver it safely. Last summer in Texas, we had 90 days over 100 degrees. If a wax model had been placed on my doorstep, even in 6" of packing, it would have been nothing more than a puddle before I got home.

    You also have to consider the force applied to the wax models when the friendly UPS driver tosses the box 20' into a shipping container ... and misses.

    Yes, such details CAN be worked out, but they do have to be WORKed out... Give Shapeways some time.. they'll get this done.
  3. stannum
    stannum Well-Known Member
    The smooth finish of the glossy silver is performed on the casted part and only smooths the raised areas, leaving hard to reach zones rough. So glossy silver isn't a good hint of how the raw wax looks.
  4. Layton
    Layton New Member

    Titanium is more expensive than steel, isn't it? My desire is to print larger sculptures in metal without the high costs associated with silver yet still have a smooth finish. I concede that shipping finely-detailed wax models probably isn't such a great idea.

    One of the issues I have with Shapeways is that none of the materials seem to provide the kind of surface smoothness I desire. When I look at high-resolution photos of models printed by other printing service bureaus they appear smoother and don't have that sandy texture.


    Even the non-glossy silver is much smoother than results in steel by quite a bit. I'd be happy with that surface quality in other metals.

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  5. Tamert
    Tamert New Member
    Hello Layton,

    All metal printing processes that I know of are rather grainy. However, a good high resolution process for you maybe metal plating of rapid prototypes plastics. I have used this service:


    It's substantially less expensive than any of the metal printing options.

    Basically, you order your print from shapeways. Receive it, polish it to whatever level you desire, and then send it to 3DDC for metal plating. They offer many types of metal finishes that can be customized to suite your desire.

    From a mechanical stand point the metal finishes also add substantial strength to the model.
  6. Layton
    Layton New Member

    Thanks for pointing me to that, it might prove to be the solution for me. Can you share any images of the final product? There aren't too many examples on their site.

    I'd still be interested in Shapeways offering a lost wax casting method for other metals, though, simply to have a 100% metallic piece.
  7. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member
    Layton i share your desire to see a smooth surfaced metal offering alternative to silver as well. I really like the finish of the silver items i have seen in photos and would be ecstatic (and ordering far more) if stainless steel or some other type of metal was offered with surface detail / finish that rivaled a non glossy silver let alone a glossy silver.

  8. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
  9. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member

    Done and Done! Please vote!

    http://feedback.shapeways.com/forums/111989-shapeways-feedba ck/suggestions/2535008-metal

    Thank you for the suggestion stonysmith. I hope others make their voices heard by voting. I'd love to purchase more stainless steel from Shapeways but unfortunately the finish limits my uses in many cases. If Shapeways provided a smooth surfaced / high detail metal option (i.e. with no print lines or at least on par with silvers smooth surface) i'd buy FAR FAR more.

  10. Tamert
    Tamert New Member
    Hello Layton-

    I cannot distribute any pictures of the products I have produced using this method. They are functional parts that I designed and produced under contract for a third party.

    However, I can tell you about the finishes that I received real generally. After a bit of trial and error, I found that you can create everything from a matte style finish to a near polished look. The key is polishing or roughing up the surface of your model before sending it into plating. If the surface of your plastic part is rough before before plating, it will be rough after. Smooth before = smooth after.

    You can choose from a wide variety of actual finishes. So far I have used their nickel/copper/nickel process and just nickel/copper process. You can choose the metal plating thickness up to 4 mils without substantial changes in pricing.

    If you choose the full 4 mils (100 um) your part will be EXTREMELY durable. Brittle materials like the FUD materials offered by shapeways become substantially stronger than WSF (but not flexible).

    Lastly, you can create many unique coloring effects by post processing the metal coated model once you receive it. Check out the post production techniques forum here for other ideas but with a copper finish you can create some amazing patinas.

    Hope this is helpful.
  11. abby
    abby New Member
    There are hundreds of foundries that offer lost wax castings in all metals and at prices less than Shapeways.
    I cast in bronze or brass from printed patterns , which I finish to the desired surface quality before taking a silicone mould from which the wax patterns are made.
    If you wish for more information visit
    I have had wax patterns sent to me here in the UK from the USA and Australia and have never had one broken in transit , the waxes used for lost wax casting have melting points well above anything the weather would damage and are flexible enough to withstand some shock handling although very cold temperatures will make them brittle , as one would expect.
  12. Layton
    Layton New Member
    Thanks abby

    I looked into my area and unfortunately there aren't any foundries in my province (Canadian here), so I would have to ship my stuff no matter where I get it done. I may end up contacting you later this year!
  13. Bathsheba
    Bathsheba Well-Known Member
    The trouble with larger (>2") objects tends to be that there is no 3DP process that is
    1) cheap enough to print big things
    2) high-resolution enough to give a nice surface
    3) castable

    #3 is a surprisingly heavy constraint. Most 3DP materials other than wax aren't optimized for clean burnout, and even those intended for casting often don't work well outside specialized industrial foundries that are too expensive for art.

    Of course, none of this is an issue if your designs are moldable: print them in any material else you like, make a mold, pull a wax, take it to a foundry and be happy. Better yet, pay the foundry to make the mold and be even happier.
  14. Bathsheba
    Bathsheba Well-Known Member
    I want this on my tombstone.
  15. abby
    abby New Member
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012
  16. Tamert
    Tamert New Member
    This is incredibly elitist and insulting.

    So I take it that none of the sculptors you have worked with have ever used an air hammer to rough cut their stone sculptures? None of the artists that you have worked with have ever used a synthetic brush?

    What you are describing are highly developed trade skills, not art. Modern computer technology and RP technology allows for those who perhaps don't have years to spend to develop trade skills to express what they find beautiful. The expression is art, not the mechanics of creating it. Advances in CAD and RP technology are allowing somewhat crude expressions now but as the technology progresses will allow for nearly limitless expressions.
  17. GlenG
    GlenG New Member
    Oh boy Abby,
    You have just drawn the crosshairs on your own back :eek: !
  18. GlenG
    GlenG New Member
    The sculptor Constantin Brancusi once commented;
    "The joy that beauty gives us, the aesthetic sensation, has nothing to do with the profession of art".
    For me, this statement puts to rest the debate over what art is or is not . The proof will always "in the pudding"! Or as Duke Ellington once said; "If it sounds good, it is good". So lets all stfu and get back to work, the bench or the workstation, no difference.
  19. stop4stuff
    stop4stuff Well-Known Member

    Art is art no matter the medium - some art is better than others, but that is down to opinion.

    Whereas talent is talent no matter the skillset. :)


    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  20. abby
    abby New Member
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2012