SUITABILITY OF A SOUTH AFRICAN SILICA SAND FOR THREE-DIMENSIONAL PRINTING OF FOUNDRY MOULDS AND CORES
Applications of three-dimensional printing (3DP) to metal casting include, among other things, the direct manufacturing of foundry moulds and cores in refractory materials such as silica sand. The main properties of silica sand that are essentially related to the traditional moulding and core-making processes are: size distribution, clay content, pH, acid demand, and refractoriness. The silica sand used for 3DP must also be appropriately selected for the layer-based manufacturing process involved in 3DP. Properties such as grain size distribution, grain surface morphology, angularity, flowability, and recoating abilities have a particular importance when determining sand suitability. Because of these extra requirements, only a limited range of available foundry silica sands can be used for 3DP processes. The latter situation explains the scarcity and high cost of suitable silica sands, thus contributing to the relatively high operational costs of the 3DP processes for the production of sand moulds and cores. This research paper investigates the suitability of a locally-available silica sand for use in a Voxeljet VX1000 3DP machine. The local silica sand was assessed and compared with an imported silica sand recommended by the manufacturer of 3DP equipment in terms of foundry characteristics and recoating behaviour. The study shows that, despite the differences between the characteristics of the two silica sands, the local sand could be considered a suitable alternative to imported sand for rapid sand casting applications.
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