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Is there a best Material for Foundry Tooling?

 

Foundry tooling, also known as foundry patterns, is a necessity in the production of metal castings. The tooling is what creates the mold in the sand that will eventually give the part its shape. Creating foundry tooling is more of an art than it is a skill, it takes years of experience to learn the tricks of the trade. In recent years the introduction of new tooling material and different techniques to produce the tooling has changed the art of pattern making.

Here at our Industry, our material of choice for creating patterns is what we call red board. Red board is just a red polyurethane board that is soft enough to easily be machined and worked with, while hard enough to withstand the production of a coupe thousand castings. The tooling's basic shape and dimensions are first cut out of the red board using a CNC machine, but there is only so much a machine can do. Some tooling needs to be worked by hand in order to get it to meet the required tolerances. The red polyurethane board allows the pattern maker to make alterations to the tooling by hand. Red board has another major advantage over other materials, changes can be made to the tooling at any time. Adding material to red board is as simple as gluing on another layer and putting it back in the CNC or working it by hand.

Tooling can also be created out of wood, however in recent years this has become a less favorite option. Wood can wear and break more easily than polyurethane board which makes it less than ideal for full production use. If you are looking to create a limited number of castings, with loose tolerances, while trying to save that extra dollar, then wood tooling is an option.

For full production tooling that will withstand the test of time, aluminum is used to create the foundry tooling. This type of tooling is different from the polyurethane tooling our foundry works with because it is double sided. When creating tooling out of aluminum, it is common to see tooling on both sides of the aluminum, one side is the cope and the other is the drag. This double sided tooling is known as a matchplate and is used in automated machines to produce thousands of molds a day. Aluminum is the material of choice for matchplates because it is fairly easy to machine while providing the necessary durability to withstand repeated use.

There are other materials that are used to create tooling, such as different types of polyurethane boards and different types of metals, but the three above are the most commonly used. Since we typically only produce prototype and short run/low quantity production castings here at our Industry; we typically use red polyurethane board to create our patterns, however there are exceptions. In short, there is not a 'best' material for patterns, it all depends on the application in which the pattern will be used.

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