For three weeks in May/June, Laura West has been the first visiting artist at Solheim Rapid Prototyping Lab (actually she is the first visiting artist in the history of the engineering college). Laura West is a sculptor who is a tenured faculty member at Fresno City College in California.
Laura came to us to study the development of our powders and their application in metal casting – Laura is well known for her metal casting skills – esp. with iron casting. Prior to coming here, Professor West has been investing Z-corps standard powders in a ceramic shell lost “powder” process for pouring bronze, aluminum and iron.
While at Solheim Lab, she took a different strategy – Laura adapted one of our base recipes to print cementenous material molds.
Instead of printing a pattern to make a mold around, Professor West printed the mold to pour metal directly. When the saturation level was adjusted correctly, the printed molds turned out beautiful, crisp and clean. The molds were lightly sprayed with rubbing alcohol then cured for 24 hours to allow moisture to evaporate (both by air and kiln) and then some were painted with a mold wash (zircon flour, graphite and alcohol). Both open face and two part closed molds were tested with bronze and aluminum, with great success. The surface of the cement printed molds held up well to the molten metal with very little burn-in (similar to that of a resin bonded sand mold). The resulting castings had a good detail level.
The cementenous mix also produced very good results for printing of sculpture and other designs. The surface is very hard without the use of an infiltrate. When the surface is sprayed with rubbing alcohol, the strength of the patterns is amazing – Laura used the test bars as a nail file. This is a great example of how the arts and sciences can come together to produce some very exciting results!