Plaster casting is similar to sand molding except that plaster is substituted for sand. Plaster compound is actually composed of 70-80% gypsum and 20-30% strengthener and water. Generally, the form takes less than a week to prepare, after which a production rate of 1-10 units/hr-mold is achieved, with items as massive as 45 kg and as small as 30 g with very high surface resolution and fine tolerances. Parts that are typically made by plaster casting are lock components, gears, valves, fittings, tooling, and ornaments. Plaster casting is an inexpensive alternative to other molding processes due to the low cost of the plaster and the mold production. It may be disadvantageous, however, because the mold quality is dependent on several factors, “including consistency of the plaster molding composition, mold pouring procedures, and plaster curing techniques.” If these factors are not closely monitored, the mold can result in distorted dimensions, shrinking upon drying and poor mold surfaces.
Once used and cracked away, normal plaster cannot easily be recast. Plaster casting is normally used for non-ferrous metals such as aluminium-, zinc-, or copper-based alloys. It cannot be used to cast ferrous material because sulfur in gypsum slowly reacts with iron. The plaster itself cannot stand temperatures above 1200oC, which also limits the materials to be cast in plaster. Prior to mold preparation the pattern is sprayed with a thin film of parting compound to prevent the mold from sticking to the pattern. The unit is shaken, so plaster fills the small cavities around the pattern. The plaster sets, usually in about 15 minutes, and the pattern is removed. The plaster is dried at temperatures between 120o and 260oC. The mold is preheated and the molten metal poured in.
Plaster casting represents a step up in sophistication and requires skill. The automatic functions are easily handed over to robots, yet the higher-precision pattern designs required demand even higher levels of direct human assistance.
Die Casting, Green Sand Casting, Aluminum Sand Casting, Investment Casting
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