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Lost Wax Investment Casting History

Investment Casting History

Investment casting is among the most ancient of metal-crafting arts.  Conversely, it is also among the most modern.  Its origins date back many thousands of years.  The sculptors of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the artisans of the Han Dynasty in China, the Aztecs goldsmiths of pre-Columbian Mexico, and the craftsmen of the Benin civilization in modern day Nigeria used this method of casting to produce their intricately detailed artwork of gold, copper and bronze.

The first description of the investment casting process was written by an Italian monk some 900 years ago who adapted it to craft large statues.  The monk’s process was very similar to those used in investment casting today; the original model was sculpted in wax then coated with successive layers of plaster.  After the plaster hardened, the wax was melted out and molten metal was cast into the void.  A short time later, after the metal cooled and hardened, the plaster was broken away and there stood the statue; an exact replica of the original wax sculpture.

This process was rediscovered in Europe in the 16th century by artists and jewelers, who perfected their techniques over the following three hundred years.  It was then, during the late 19th Century, investment castings found a new market as dentists began to adapt the process to manufacture dental fillings and inlays.

The manufacturing industry realized the need for investment castings at the beginning of World War II with the sudden increase in demand for large quantities of intricately machined armament and aircraft parts.  Manufacturers found that the “lost wax” process of casting these parts virtually eliminated all but the closest machining operations; thereby increasing their ability to produce critical items such as turbine blades and gun parts at the fraction of their original costs.  Knowledge gained from the dental trade was combined with the permanent die techniques perfected by jewelers to produce critical items in unbelievable quantities.

Investment castings are utilized today in virtually every industry where production quantities of metal parts are required.  Furthermore, with the advent of three dimensional design and modeling, investment castings are now feasible for prototype quantities of complex devices without the necessity of producing permanent dies.

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