Is 3D Printed Tooling a Solution for Die Casting? – Modern Machine Shop

After tackling the 3D printer, material and design, there's still one challenge left for Exco Engineering: convincing customers. 

Die casting is a particularly harsh operation. The process involves forcing molten metal into a mold cavity at high pressure, and is commonly used to make automotive parts such as engine blocks, wheels and engine cradles. The tooling that produces these parts must be durable, and buyers are not likely to trust a new process easily. In other words, die cast tooling is not an obvious place to experiment — but the challenge of the process makes it exactly the kind of application that is ideal for testing the limits of metal 3D printing. 
This is what Exco Engineering (located in Toronto) has done over the last four years. In an initiative led by Wes Byleveld, now director of additive manufacturing, the company has not only proven that 3D printed tooling can withstand the die cast process, but that it also provides benefits to that process in the form of better cooling, reduced cycle time and longer tool life.
Wes Byleveld, director of additive manufacturing, stands near one of Exco Engineering’s EOS metal 3D printers. The company currently owns two for its die cast tooling work, and could add more in the future. 
Getting to this point has been an uphill battle. Steps along the way have involved finding the right metal printer that could handle the work; a change in material; and pushing the limits of conventional design rules with simulation. Mr. Byleveld and his team still aren’t finished. The challenge Exco faces now? Explaining to customers the value that this 3D printed tooling offers.
Read the full story of Exco’s journey into 3D printed die cast tooling in this story from Senior Editor Brent Donaldson.
This article is the cover story of Additive Manufacturing’s November/December 2019 issue. Check out the digital edition for this story and others covering AM for aerospace, 3D printed cutting tools, better brackets and more.
Want to learn more about industrial 3D printing and additive manufacturing? Subscribe and never miss an issue. 
Software tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) reveal geometries that can only be realized through 3D printing. HP and Siemens share an example in an episode of The Cool Parts Show: an air duct. 
The underlying drivers of additive manufacturing’s advance are increasingly easy to spot on automated CNC machine shop floors.
Is additive manufacturing (AM) ready for production scale? The latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine highlights manufacturers who are succeeding with 3D printing for production right now. 


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