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What is Urethane Casting?

The Basics Of Urethane Casting
Urethane casting provides end-use, rigid or flexible, plastic parts with production-level quality. Built without expensive and time-consuming hard tooling, the urethane casting process uses a 3D-printed master pattern and silicone mold to deliver high-quality, short-run parts in a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost of injection molding.

How Urethane Casting Works
Urethane casting is similar to injection molding in that liquid plastic is poured into a mold of the final part. The major difference is that urethane casting uses a "soft" mold made of silicone whereas injection molding using a "hard" mold that has been CNC machined. The drawback to urethane casting, then, is that the mold wears out more quickly. However, it is vastly more cost-efficient for low-volume and prototype plastic parts with production-level quality and surface finishes.

The urethane casting process has 3 major steps:

The Master Pattern: In step one, a master pattern of the final part is made using an additive manufacturing process. Polyjet 3D or stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing processes are most often used due to the high-resolution and naturally smooth finish to the prints.

Molding: In step two, the 3D printed master pattern is encased in liquid silicone to form an accurate mold. Multiple molds can be made from the same master pattern which makes urethane casting perfect for on-demand, low-volume production runs. When the mold cures, it is cut into distinct halves and the master pattern is removed.

Pouring: In the final step of the urethane casting process, liquid plastic is poured into the silicone mold, and the mold is then placed in a vacuum chamber, which helps remove air bubbles in the liquid material. Once cured, the silicone halves are separated and the newly formed part is removed. This process is repeated until the desired quantity is achieved.

Benefits Of Urethane Casting
Urethane casting has a low-cost and quick turnaround for high-quality plastic parts compared to that of injection molding or 3D printing. Where injection molding requires expensive up-front investment for the machining of the mold, urethane casting's silicone mold is inexpensive and easy to produce off the master pattern. Where most 3D printing processes require extensive post-processing to get to a near-finished state, a urethane cast part comes out of the mold ready to go with just a few minutes of clean up. Urethane casting is the go-to solution when looking to do on-demand prototyping or low-volume production of rigid, flexible, clear, colored, or even rubber-like plastic parts. It's truly a jack of all trades process.

The Benefits Of Working With For Urethane Casting
Supports any urethane casting process, material or finish you could need. Our extensive network of SLA and Polyjet 3D printing partners means we can handle everything from the master pattern and mold-making, to the production casting of parts and custom finishes. With more than 2,500 vetted manufacturing partner facilities across the U.S., Xometry is able to pair your part order with the machine shop best suited to handle the quality, surface finishes, performance, and color requirements you need — resulting in competitive prices and ideal lead times for your projects.

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