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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