3D Sand Printing vs Traditional Tooling

The Benefits of 3D Sand Printing 

Hoosier Pattern opened its doors in 1997 as a traditional pattern shop. Over 20 years later, HPI has become an industry leader as a premier pattern shop and—as of 2013—an additive manufacturer as well. Hoosier Pattern is one of the only shops in the United States that has both rapid prototyping and hard tooling capabilities. Many customers come to HPI and ask how they can determine whether to 3D print something versus having a tool built for their project.

The difference in benefits between 3D printed sand and hard tooling boil down to two factors—time and money. Hoosier Pattern's 3D printed sand molds take around ten days to craft and cost $0.13 per cubic inch. Hard tooling can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete and costs can climb to thousands of dollars.

On the surface, 3D printing looks like the way to go for every project. However, some projects are better suited for sand printing and some for hard tooling depending on the elements and goals for the project itself. But how can it be determined which method best fits your particular needs? We may have the answers you’re looking for.

When to Use 3D Printing

Prototyping

Sand printed molds and cores can only be used once, which makes them the perfect option for prototypes. If you have more than one design for a potential part, prototyping can be used to determine which mold or casting is the best option. All of the designs can be sand printed quickly, simultaneously, and at a cheaper cost. Each mold will be individually identified, which prevents confusion when it reaches the customer. Since all 3D printed sand parts start with a CAD file, parts can also easily be tweaked and re-printed.

Low Volume Production

The term “low volume” can be defined differently by every company. We define “low volume” as anywhere from 10-500 units per year. It may not be the best choice for a company to invest in the traditional tooling process if a part will only be used for a short amount of time. Sand printing may be the best option for smaller or temporary projects.

Strict Deadlines

Sand printing is the best choice when projects require a fast turnaround. At Hoosier Pattern, many of our employees have a foundry background, so we understand how critical deadlines can be. Our standard turnaround time for 3D sand prints is 10 days. This is 10 days from the time the order is placed to the time the project will be back on the foundry floor.

Our 10-day turnaround time has changed the game for many of our customers. In the past, it could have taken several months for a tool to be completed and reach a foundry. After we receive the CAD file, we plug it into a job box. Our job box is roughly the size of an average refrigerator and takes 20-22 hours to print. Because this turnaround time is so fast, we are sometimes able to do rush orders. Our employees do everything they can to ensure a customer has their product when they need it.

Geometrically Complex Parts

It's not uncommon during the process of conventional patternmaking for engineering changes to appear. Even the smallest change can pose a problem to the castings once the tooling has been produced. Since 3D printed sand begins with a CAD file, engineers are able to design and create geometrically complex casting castings to be manufactured the way they were intended to be.

Compromises don't need to be made in order to have high-functioning manufacturability while maintaining a low cost.

When to Use Traditional Tooling

High Volume Production

Although 3D printed sand molds are more cost and time effective, there are project scenarios in which traditional tooling is a better fit. For example, it doesn't make sense to have single-use molds made for a part that is going to be produced thousands of times—in the long run, a traditional pattern is going to be more cost efficient.

Tool Life

3D printed sand molds and cores can't compete with the lifespan and durability of a hard tool. While 3D printed sand is made for one-time use instances, hard tooling molds are made to withstand thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of uses.

Still wondering which process is right for you? Our engineers at Hoosier Pattern will help you make the best choice for your specific needs. We will be honest with you and let you know whether your project is best suited for 3D sand printing or traditional tooling.

Contact us today to learn more about our process and how we can use our expertise to benefit your business.

Posted in: 3D Printing, General