Can 3D Printing Replace Casting?

by Mike Brooks | Last Updated: May 5, 2022

Metal casting is among the ancient manufacturing techniques employed to create metal parts.

Can 3D Printing Replace Casting

Even so, 3D is a fairly new and innovative technology that seems to be slowly overtaking the classical metal casting method.

When foundries rely on various casting processes, the most common include investment casting, sand casting, and die casting in addition to metal casting.

Even if metal casting has passed the test of time, this manufacturing method is labor-intensive and expensive.

These limitations have made metal casting factories turn to 3D printing as a substitute for conventional metal casting processes to be relevant in their industry.

Is 3D Printing a Casting? Can 3D Printing Replace Casting?

In the casting process, molten metal or plastic is poured into a mold with a cavity or hollow with the desired shape. The melted metal or plastic is then allowed to cool and solidify to produce the casting form.

3D printing, on the other hand, is an additive manufacturing method. You create objects by adding a layer of material one at a time.

Each additional layer sticks to the preceding one until they produce the final part. Therefore, we can view 3D printing as an advanced and economical alternative to conventional casting methods.

Casting or 3D Printing? Which Way to Go?

Although foundry industries and individuals have embraced the 3D printing technology, this manufacturing method is an additional technique to the existing sand casting, investment casting, and dies casting.

Even so, 3D printing has advantages over the rest.

3D printed casts are easily movable, waterproof, customizable, breathable, and thin. They also prevent muscle atrophy and infections.

In various ways, 3D printed patterns are a natural evolution in casts.

Is It Cheaper to Cast or 3D Print?

When you want to manufacture your parts, you first want to consider the investment cost of both the casting and the metal 3D printing methods.

One of the major benefits of additive manufacturing technology over conventional methods is time and cost savings. While the production cost of the conventional process is approximately 3,600 €, 3D printing has a lower cost of 900 €.

Since 3D printing takes a shorter time than casting, it reduces the cost of production by eliminating the expenses of the expensive tools. Producing metal parts without tools is far more economical.

How Can 3D Printing Be Used to Boost Metal Casting?

Most foundry companies are using 3D printing for metal casting. 3D printed investment patterns, sand molds, and cores are already doing well in the industry.

Investment casting/ lost wax casting is a process in which wax-made master patterns are covered with ceramic slurry. Production of the wax patterns is done using injection molds.

Casting in the 3D printed patterns enables investment casting foundries to create modified jewelry with complex designs and also tailored dental products.

That enables them to make it through the competitive investment casting market. This casting is done with every castable metal, but steel, copper alloys, and aluminum alloys are the most common ones.

The functionalities of sand 3D printers and other additive manufacturing methods are similar. It uses the process of layer after layer allowing the creation of parts of complex geometries.

The sand particles are glued together by a binder glue to form a 3D shape.

Since sand 3D printers are very flexible, they are ideal for creating construction intermediaries.

These printers can also create higher-strength parts or those that need different materials other than the 3D printing ones. Their versatility also enables you to use other materials in addition to sand.

Will 3D Printing Replace Conventional Manufacturing?

The manufacturing sector is constantly looking for innovative ways to employ in their production journey.

And, 3D printing has put its best foot forward! The advanced 3D printing technology, materials, and equipment have led to a decline in manufacturing costs, ranking the best option in the sector.

Conventional production has to work extra hard to keep up with the growing manufacturing demands worldwide. Even so, that is accompanied by numerous restrictions.

For that reason, 3D printing steps in to curb such challenges.

Why Is 3D Printing Better Than Casting? [8 Reasons]

Additive manufacturing comes with various unique advantages, as discussed in this section.

1. Saves Time

Time is an essential factor in production. Metal 3D printing is much faster than traditional foundry methods in many ways. In casting, you need to design your parts, fill the system, do feed head, and create a mold.

On the other hand, 3D printing only requires you to start it off and wait for the results. The process is automated.  That makes it less time-consuming as you can even engage in your other activities simultaneously.

2. Lowers Production Cost

While conventional methods are known to be extremely expensive, Metal 3D printing is cost-effective and more accessible. It eliminates the workforce required during the metal printing process.

While subtractive casting requires several people to operate machines, the 3D printer needs only one person to control its operations. Its manufacturing process is automated, and once given a kickoff, it’s good to go!

That way, the cost of production is lower due to the minimal operators.

3. Risk Reduction

The waste of money and materials and the risk of errors are major challenges when using traditional casting tactics. Thanks to 3D printing!

It has design freedom and allows you to confirm your design before engaging in the manufacturing process. The 3D prototype makes it easier to alter and redesign any model created through conventional methods.

Additionally, you don’t have to worry about setup costs.

While the traditional technique’s efficiency relies on mass production (requiring many assemblers), 3D printing only needs the filament material to complete an order. Hence, you won’t have to manufacture in large quantities to account for the setup costs.

4. Faster and Cheaper Failure

3D printers require no retooling during production. Although their assembling is slower than traditional assembly, additive production less human errors and machinery problems.

5. Minimizes Lead Times

3D printing quickly adapts to new ideas. In small-scale production, one can design a concept and print it on the very day.

The method is still faster than conventional methods, even when it comes to large-scale production. The speed can allow manufacturers to reduce lead times while they remain outstanding in the competitive world.

6. Build and Grow

3D manufacturing encourages innovation and growth. Additive methods enable businesses to produce metal parts whose original design comes from imagination.

One can virtually create an item and print it within a blink of an eye – turn an idea into finished castings.

7. Minimal Waste

Since 3D metal printing is a relatively new technology, the cost of materials may be a bit high. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t worry you as a range of materials is coming up with time, resulting in a price reduction.

Despite the high costs of 3D printing materials, the overall cost is lower than conventional techniques. While 3D metal printing uses materials efficiently, traditional foundry patterns result in a lot of waste.

8. Reduced Production Space

Manufacturing firms require big space to store raw materials and products before selling. These goods can remain on shelves for a long time when there is no ready market.

If you use 3D metal printing for manufacturing, you can produce your goods once you have a ready market because it takes just a short time.

Enjoy Greater Design Freedom With 3D Printing

3D printing can’t sweep away all the casting process out of the market.

Even if it’s loaded with benefits to the foundry industry, it can only act as a powerful addition to the traditional casting methods.

3D printing is suitable for highly complex, low-volume casting tasks. It’s cost-effective and has design flexibility in molds and patterns manufacturing.

The manufacturing companies can’t rely on additive methods alone to handle the rapidly increasing demand. Instead, they should modernize the subtractive techniques with 3D printing to achieve the desired results.

They’ll overcome the limitation of the traditional methods and remain standing in the highly competitive environment.

Michael Brooks is the founder of He sees a very bright future for 3D printing that's why his mission is to try and make this easy for everyone. Discover your hidden talent and creativity. You can follow here: Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.