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Casting is a manufacturing process by which a liquid material is usually poured into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed to solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process. Casting materials are usually metals or various cold setting materials that cure after mixing two or more components together; examples are epoxy, concrete, plaster and clay. Casting is most often used for making complex shapes that would be otherwise difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods.
Metal casting is one of the most common casting processes. Metal patterns are more expensive but are more dimensionally stable and durable. Metallic patterns are used where repetitive production of castings is required in large quantities.
Plaster and other chemical setting materials such as concrete and plastic resin may be cast using single-use waste molds as noted above, multiple-use 'piece' molds, or molds made of small rigid pieces or of flexible material such as latex rubber (which is in turn supported by an exterior mold). When casting plaster or concrete, the finished product is, unlike marble, unattractive, lacking in transparency, and so it is usually painted, often in ways that give the appearance of metal or stone. Alternatively, the first layers cast may contain colored sand so as to give an appearance of stone. By casting concrete, rather than plaster, it is possible to create sculptures, fountains, or seating for outdoor use. A simulation of high-quality marble may be made using certain chemically-set plastic resins (for example epoxy or polyester) with powdered stone added for coloration, often with multiple colors worked in. The latter is a common means of making attractive washstands, washstand tops and shower stalls, with the skilled working of multiple colors resulting in simulated staining patterns as is often found in natural marble or travertine.
Casting process simulation uses numerical methods to calculate cast component quality considering mold filling, solidification and cooling, and provides a quantitative prediction of casting mechanical properties, thermal stresses and distortion. Simulation accurately describes a cast component’s quality up-front before production starts. The casting rigging can be designed with respect to the required component properties. This has benefits beyond a reduction in pre-production sampling, as the precise layout of the complete casting system also leads to energy, material, and tooling savings.
The software supports the user in component design, the determination of melting practice and casting methoding through to pattern and mold making, heat treatment, and finishing. This saves costs along the entire casting manufacturing route.
Casting process simulation was initially developed at universities starting from the early '70s, mainly in Europe and in the U.S., and is regarded as the most important innovation in casting technology over the last 50 years. Since the late '80s, commercial programs (such as AutoCAST and MAGMA) are available which make it possible for foundries to gain new insight into what is happening inside the mold or die during the casting process.
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