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Pressure Casting Equipment

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Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:34 am

Greetings fellow junkies!

I was speaking with Mark last night and as he is planning to try his hand at pressure casting, he wanted to see some pictures of my setup. In anticipation for the inevitable flood of further questions I will receive from both him and anyone else interested, I decided to write up a bit of a quick guide to pressure casting equipment. Enjoy!

I'll start off with some pictures of the workshop and equipment. As some of you are aware, I'm back living with my folks for 6 months until I go back for my last semester of uni. Fortunately I was able to commandeer a section of my Dad's garage.

workshop1.jpg
One side of the garage. It required a day of cleaning up and a dump run to get it to this state of usability. Note the big red compressor that is actually older than I am.


workshop2.jpg
And here's my area. Pressure pot in the middle. Vacuum pump on the left. Casting supplies on the right.


workshop3.jpg
Here's the pressure pot connection details. It's a bit of a Heath Robinson as the fittings were mostly scrounged from the depths of Dad's store room. But it does the job. The reason for the complexity is because of the dual use for both pressure and vacuum.


workshop4.jpg
Top of the pressure pot. See the pressure and vacuum gauges (left and right respectively).


workshop5.jpg
Whilst I was feeling snap-happy I decided to take a picture of my modelling workbench. It's pretty messy but I blame that on the fact that there's always plastic dust and crap everywhere. We can't all model without sandpaper and have a spotless work desk like Seb does!


Okay, so now that's out of the way, let's talk about the pressure pot some more.

Mine is a 10L unit I picked up from eBay about a year ago. It came with a spray gun and a bunch of fittings and crap, including the black hose I use as a vacuum line. You want to take your chamber to at least 40PSI and I prefer 50PSI for my casting. Some hard core people go to 80PSI but I wouldn't want to do it with this type of tank and from what I've read anything over 50PSI makes negligible difference anyway.

In any case the safety release valve that came with the pot was only rated to 40PSI (even though the pot itself is rated to 100). This is a simple mechanism that will automatically release if the pressure reaches the release pressure, thus preventing any accidents from pressurising the pot too high. I broke the safety valve trying to get it off (when rearranging the fittings) so I had to buy a new one for $25. They're much more expensive than they look! I wanted to operate at 50PSI but the only one I could get was 60PSI, which is fine.

The pot is designed for spraying paint and thus had a big metal suction tube that goes from the lid down to the bottom of the chamber. The first thing I did was remove that and the other fittings. Whilst I did this next bit over the course of a year, it's still an arduous task.

Depending on the moulding and casting procedures you're planning to use you can get away with a simpler fitting setup. Because of my use of single part split moulds I need to sometimes apply a vacuum and then immediately the 50PSI pressure to the mould before the resin cures, and thus needed the pictured elaborate setup.

Basic Theory
Just a quick recap of the basic theory of pressure casting. When you mix the resin (stirring it) you introduce small air bubbles. You also get bubbles as you pour the resin into the mould. These bubbles will collect on surfaces of the cavity, causing holes and loss of detail in the cast part. To remove these bubbles, the mould is placed into a pressure pot immediately after pouring the resin. By applying >40PSI the bubbles are shrunk down to nothingness and then once the resin is set, they are unable to grow again.

But unfortunately, the solution isn't this simple. What we don't notice is that the silicone mould is also is full of little air bubbles. When the mould is placed under pressure the bubbles near the surface of the model imprint shrink. This in turn causes little spiky shapes to appear on the surface of the cast part. In the worst case these bubbles in the silicone will actually pop, filling with resin. As the part is demoulded the resin bubbles tear away the silicone and the mould gets pretty stuffed.

The next solution then, is to ensure that the mould has no bubbles. This can be done in two ways:
  1. Place the mixed silicone under a vacuum to suck out all of the bubbles, before pouring into the mould box at room pressure.
  2. Place the mould box and everything into the pressure pot after pouring the silicone and leave it at 40PSI of pressure until the silicone is set (can be over 12 hours).
The problem with the second option is that if the master part being moulded is hollow, there is danger of implosion. The first method however, requires the acquisition of a vacuum pump.


Pressure Moulding and Casting
Okay, this is the technique Jon is using and it seems to work well. His parts are all solid so he doesn't have to worry about implosion. You make your mould box as usual and clay up the master (or not, depending on the type of mould you're doing). Mix up the silicone and pour into the mould box (still at a slow speed as usual). One the silicone is poured the whole lot is placed into the pressure pot. Apply 40PSI (or 50 if you plan to cast at that pressure) and leave it under pressure for the entire time it takes for the silicone to set.

The following picture shows the simple pressure pot setup required for this:
pressure-pot-setup.jpg

Because there's only pressure being applied the connections are pretty simple. The only thing that may give you some grief if matching the different fitting types. If you can, try to work with mainly 1/4" BSP fittings - there are the de-facto standard for air fittings like this. The pressure pot had a couple of weirdo sizes (some metric) but fortunately came with adaptors to 1/4" and 5/8".


Vacuum Moulding and Pressure/Vacuum+Pressure Casting
I was lucky enough to score a vacuum pump for free (although it did require rebuilding and doesn't pull as nice a vacuum as is ideal) so I bit the bullet and went this route. I'm very happy with it. Many of my large parts are hollow and after a mishap trying pressure moulding a year ago I won't be doing that again!

I haven't yet done a pretty picture for this one, but this is as shown on the actual photos of my pressure pot. It's not that there's anything especially difficult about it but you need a few extra valves and things to make it work.

The main thing to worry about is the fact that you can't apply pressure to a vacuum gauge or vacuum to a pressure gauge. Well, you can but it's not exactly good for them...
For this reason you need extra valves for switching in and out the appropriate pressure gauge for your activity. I wanted to get a 3-way valve to select the gauge but they were disgustingly expensive and I compromised with a much cheaper option.


So that about sums it up for now. Ask away if you have any questions or I've been a bit vague. This isn't supposed to be a moulding/casting tutorial but more just a guide to the practical hardware aspects.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby jamespipers » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:58 am

I think the steel pipe is better to use in the fitting because it is more durable compared to the copper pipe. I tried this at home and it is effective. I commend you try it too.

plumbing
Last edited by jamespipers on Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:56 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:01 am

Copper is most likely going to be fine for this - IIRC most cheap fittings are brass anyway (chrome plated).
Oh yeah I can make that....
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby thomen » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:00 am

Love the post! thanks for the info!
how did you block up the suction tube from the original paint setup by the way?

if i bought a similar pressure pot from ebay would there be any way i could get more info on how to rig up the dual setup from you? i.e. what parts/valves are needed etc? or would you sell a kit for that setup?

Thanks so much! sorry im totally new to this!
Tom
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:17 am

thomen wrote:Love the post! thanks for the info!
how did you block up the suction tube from the original paint setup by the way?

I didn't - that's what the safety release valve and gauge are connected to.

thomen wrote:if i bought a similar pressure pot from ebay would there be any way i could get more info on how to rig up the dual setup from you? i.e. what parts/valves are needed etc? or would you sell a kit for that setup?

I don't have a kit to sell you, but I could advise what's needed. If you have any shops which specialise in air compressors/fittings and take it in there telling them what you want to do they will also be able to help.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby thomen » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:28 am

The pot is designed for spraying paint and thus had a big metal suction tube that goes from the lid down to the bottom of the chamber. The first thing I did was remove that and the other fittings. Whilst I did this next bit over the course of a year, it's still an arduous task.


so you just removed the tube on the inside?

sorry for all the questions! I do love your setup by the way!
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby blind pig » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:35 am

thomen wrote:so you just removed the tube on the inside?


Yup, it gets in the way otherwise. Use a hacksaw or anglegrinder with a cutting disc.

The airinlet under the lid should be covered with a baffle to stop the compressed air from blasting down onto your resin or silicone and splashing it everywhere, spoiling your hard work. :lol:

I made my baffle from MDF in a kinda "U" shape and glued it in with Liquid Nails. Does the job.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:36 am

Yep. Do some more reading about the forum as others have discussed the same ;)
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby thomen » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:37 am

will start reading around!

a baffle you say! i think ill head to the dictionary!
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:51 am

I hope the definition isn't.........baffling.
(I know I know that was a terrible pun. I couldn't help myself) :mrgreen:
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby thomen » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:58 am

haha dad jokes!

sorry yep! so it sort of directs the air up to the top of the pressure pot instead of blowing it straight down!

a cpu baffle might work well http://blackmoreit.com/products/dell-powervault-powervault-745n/dellh1660-dell-h1660-powervault-745n-cpu-shroudair-baffle.html can pick them up very cheap on ebay


so is the gauge at the top of the yellow hose air or vacuum?
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby blind pig » Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:07 pm

thomen wrote:so it sort of directs the air up to the top of the pressure pot instead of blowing it straight down!


I think that is overkill.
I just used some scrap MDF and a bit of glue to redirect the air sideways along the top of the lid and not down into the working area of the pot. Cut and sand the MDF to fit the curve of the pressure pot lid.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:31 pm

blind pig wrote:I think that is overkill.
x2

A bit of MDF will be fine. You're directing the air sideways; not necessarily up.
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby thomen » Thu Feb 17, 2011 5:57 am

nice ok no need to go to town on this thing! keep it simple! mdf it is! ordered the paint tank from ebay! let the waiting begin!

re the gauges on your tank is the one at the top of the yellow hose the vac gauge?
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Re: Pressure Casting Equipment

Postby mangozac » Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:20 am

I cheaped out and did things a little weird with that gauge. That is the pressure gauge - it's on the same line as the yellow pressure line coming in. I did this because I didn't want to pay for an expensive 2-way valve to select which gauge to use (vacuum or pressure). It's not the best position for it as it gets cut off when the air in valve is closed.
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