For Rapid Prototyping in metal, we focus on the casting of prototypes and small series. In addition, we offer mechanical finishing and surface engineering services.

Cutting-edge technology with ultra-short lead times

For the production of metal prototypes in die-cast quality, our experience has led to the evolution of a process that we believe provides the optimum customer benefit.

The vacuum differential-pressure (VDD) method

The VDD process can be classified as a type of investment-casting and gypsum-molding process. Similar to investment casting, the process is computer-controlled within a casting system, in which the prototypes are cast into ceramic cuvettes. This method makes it possible to produce cast prototypes within a few days and is ideal for the production of individual functional and design prototypes as well as small series.

We use the VDD process to produce prototypes of components, which are then mass-produced via a die-casting and investment-casting process (and also to a lesser extent for gravity die castings).

Machined metal casting for the Leica M165C functional prototype
Machined metal casting for the Leica M165C functional prototype
Metal casting after heat treatment, without mechanical processing (raw casting) – functional prototype for the Leica M165C
The metal casting after heat treatment but before mechanical processing (raw casting) – functional prototype for the Leica M165C
3D-printed, lost model for metal casting, VDD investment casting without machining (raw casting), finished casting
Left: 3D-printed, lost model for metal casting including oversize and shrinkage, Middle: VDD investment casting without machining (raw casting), right: finished casting
VDD investment casting, heat-treated without mechanical processing (raw casting)
VDD investment casting, heat-treated without mechanical processing (raw casting).
meltable metals for the VDD process
In the VDD process we can in principle inductively melt all metals up to 1,300°C.
Wax part embedded in ceramic material with gate and sprue ball, as well as the cavities after firing of the ceramic material
Left: wax part embedded in ceramic material with gate and sprue ball. Right, in red: the cavities after firing of the ceramic material.

The process begins with the master model

  • Master model creation / lost-wax models
  • (Mold making)
  • (Wax casting)
  • Wax-tree construction
  • Manufacturing and firing ceramics
  • Metal casting
  • Post-processing
  • Mechanical finishing
  • Surface treatment (if necessary)

In order to meet the customer's requirements for tolerances in accordance with VDG P690 A2 or A3, we manufacture our cast parts directly by means of lost models, which we produce via 3D printing (the components are produced using a Voxeljet 3D printing system). The mold-making and wax-casting steps are thus omitted and dimensional tolerances similar to those found in die casting are possible.   

Basic data for metal casting

  • Maximum component size: 500 x 400 x 300 mm (LxWxH)
  • Maximum casting volume: 2.6 to 3 liters
  • Minimum wall thickness for aluminum: 1mm
  • Quantity-dependent lead time: 1 to 3 weeks for approx. 3 to 5 pcs.
  • Alloys: aluminum, zinc
  • Dimensional accuracy: tolerance class A1 in accordance with VDG data sheet P690 is achievable – depending on the process used for the lost-wax models and the dimension/size of the components

Mechanical finishing

Suitability very good good Restrictions / requirements
Functional parts   Mechanical properties may vary compared to other series-production processes
Design parts    depending on the selected production process for the lost models, the surface quality may vary 
For subordinate components without special surface requirements   Subsequent surface treatment is possible (smoothing, grinding, blasting, varnishing, anodizing)
Pre-series parts   Machining may be necessary; original materials can be used
Test components   Alloys similar to series material