The future of metal casting

Frequently Asked Questions

It's not just what we make,
    it's what we make possible!

What is Direct Shell Production Casting (or DSPC)?

DSPC is a revolutionary patternless casting process for metal parts in which the casting molds are generated automatically, directly from 3-D CAD data. With DSPC there is no need for physical patterns, core boxes or any other tooling, and no part-specific setup. The only "pattern" is the CAD design itself.

Is DSPC unique to Soligen?

Yes! DSPC is a proprietary technology developed at Soligen. Its core technology is based on Three Dimensional Printing (3DP) a patented technology invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and licensed exclusively, on a worldwide basis, to Soligen for the metal casting field of use.

How is DSPC related to Three Dimensional Printing?

The core technology of DSPC is 3DP. DSPC is a patternless casting process developed at Soligen, Inc., which holds the exclusive worldwide license to MIT's 3DP technology for use in metal casting. DSPC machines produce the actual ceramic molds for metal casting.

Is MIT still involved with 3DP or DSPC?

Yes, MIT continues to develop the 3DP technology for other fields of use, and advance the 3DP accuracy, surface finish and printhead technology. All the improvements are added to Soligen's license for the metal casting field of use. There are currently 4 other licensees of 3DP for direct metal printing, medical, filtration and desktop applications. Soligen's development team is in constant contact with MIT for exchange of ideas and development results.

What is the duration of the exclusivity?

Presently Soligen's exclusivity is granted until 2006, after which Soligen and MIT will consider extending the exclusivity further.

What is a Parts Now program?

Parts Now is Soligen's registered trade name for its production out-sourcing services. The Parts Now service enable Soligen's customers to order:

  • Functional cast parts made directly from a CAD file by the patternless DSPC process.
  • Short production runs produced in conventional casting practices using tools (dies, patterns or core boxes). These tools are created from the same CAD file of the DSPC parts that were tested and approved by the customer prior to making the tooling.
  • A full production program management which provides a smooth transition from CAD (engineering) through prototyping to mass production, thus insuring the customer that every part (prototype or production) conforms to the customer requirements.

What if all I need is one or two parts?

Create an account with Soligen's Parts Now service via this Web site and send your request for quotation. Soligen responds to any part of the above-mentioned services.

For one or two parts only, how does Soligen's Parts Now service differ from any "rapid prototyping" service bureau?

If your needs are for a metal prototype only, Soligen's Parts Now service is a rapid prototyping service bureau, except that Soligen specializes in cast metal parts and has the DSPC technology. Rapid prototyping service bureaus can never produce a functional cast part (or "first article") directly from your CAD file. Service bureaus can only make models (or non-functional prototypes) using materials and processes that are very different from those that are later required in production. In some cases these models can be used as casting patterns, but they have major limitations in time, cost, quality, and geometry.

What about getting a prototype from a service bureau and converting it to a metal part?

Service bureaus typically will not provide you with anything more than a pattern, forcing you to work separately with a foundry if what you need is a metal part. And, if for any reason a good casting cannot be produced, you're left with nothing. By comparison, at Soligen, you receive finished, functional metal parts in the alloy of your choice. The process of manufacturing a satisfactory metal part is not your problem! Soligen's Parts Now turn-key service provides you with a COMPLETE SOLUTION, not just a part of it. Furthermore, since DSPC creates the actual ceramic mold for the metal casting process, it enables you to simulate the casting process including the gating and the cooling thereby giving you more assurances as you move further to examine castability and productivity issues in your part design.

What is the typical turn around time for a DSPC made part?

Typically 12 - 15 business days from receiving your CAD file and purchase order. At times, shop load could extend the delivery schedule by a few more business days. Soligen has delivered cast heat treated and machined aluminum parts in 5 business days!

How could Soligen help me beyond the "prototyping stage" in my product commercialization?

Soligen's Parts Now service provides you with a one-stop source for cast and machined metal parts. Soligen supplies you with parts that are ready for assembly. Rather than abandon you once you've perfected your design through prototyping, Soligen's Parts Now team will generate production tooling (dies, patterns coreboxes, machining fixtures, etc.) from your approved design data and provide interim and full production quantities with very competitive prices and deliveries. By using the same CAD data to produce both the first article and the production tooling, you are assured of the highest quality and consistency from design through production.

So, does Soligen own and operate conventional foundries and CNC machine shops?

Yes, currently Soligen owns an in-house aluminum sand casting and permanent mold foundry with integrated CNC machining. Custom painting and coating is performed by sub contractors.

Which alloys do you cast at your in-house foundry?

Aluminum 206, 319, 328, 356, 357, 390.

What kind of parts do you cast at your foundry? Any size limitation?

Soligen specializes in high quality aluminum castings. We have substantial experience in automotive (engine blocks, cylinder heads and manifolds), precision casting (hand tools, pumps, valves) and parts with complex core cavities. Soligen produces aluminum parts with size envelopes of (40" x 40" x 40") and weights of a few hundred pounds.

What is the turn around time for a lot of 150 aluminum castings?

Depends on size and complexity, however, typical turn around time including casting, heat treating, machining, and painting is 10-12 business days (app. 2-3 weeks) after approving the first article DSPC part and the CAD file.

What about other alloys?

Other alloys such as copper, magnesium, iron (ductile, malleable and gray), steel, stainless steels and super alloys are cast at local foundries where Soligen has long term relationships. Soligen plans to add foundries with additional casting processes and alloys as it expands. In providing our Parts Now production services with alloys different than aluminum, Soligen takes full responsibility for the program management and the quality and the delivery of the finished cast parts.

What if we need high production volumes?

Soligen has joint venture agreements with foundries that operate automatic lines for castings. The tooling (core boxes and patterns) that are generated by DSPC are initially used at Soligen's foundry for the short production run. At this stage, Soligen's Parts Now team works with the production foundry to verify that the short production run is also an accurate simulation of the high volume production process. This process guarantees a smooth transition to quantity production and competitive prices.

How quickly can I get a quotation from Soligen?

For parts that are made entirely with DSPC, Soligen will typically provide you with a quotation within 24 hours of receiving your part design and completed RFQ. Parts requiring tooling or complex machining need additional time for quoting.

Can Soligen produce parts to mil spec?

Absolutely. Soligen has produced a number of parts for defense contractors, including flight-certified components. Soligen provides inspection reports (dimensional), heat treatment certificates, test bars, x-ray and die penetrant certificates.

What CAD system do I need to provide Soligen with a CAD file?

Virtually all 3-D CAD systems can export geometry in the .STL format (binary preferred) which Soligen can accept. Soligen has Unigraphics, Catia, SDRC and ProEngineer in house. Parasolid, STEP, STL, and IGES are also accepted.

How can I send CAD files to Soligen?

Files can be uploaded through our ftp site, ftp.soligen.com, sent as an email attachment to this address: files@soligen.com, or sent on tape or diskette. More info...

Are data and files sent to Parts Now secure?

Access to your account is restricted by password. No information about you, your company, or your designs is furnished to anyone outside Soligen (and when necessary, its subcontractors) unless expressly authorized by you.

My part designs are proprietary: will Soligen sign a non-disclosure agreement?

Soligen will be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement with your company that will provide you with the appropriate comfort regarding the safety, confidentiality and the protection of your design and data. Please Email or fax (our Fax # is: 818-718-0760) your NDA for our review.

Where are Soligen's facilities?

  • Soligen's headquarters and DSPC Center is in its 17,000 square foot production facility in Northridge, California.
  • Soligen's in-house foundry is a 20,000 square foot aluminum foundry and precision CNC machine shop in Santa Ana, California.

What about Confidentiality?

Soligen keeps a "chinese wall" around any of its customers. Soligen will not divulge any information relating to your data, projects, or level of business without your written permission. To execute a nondisclosure agreement with Soligen, please print from our website or email a request for NDA. We will execute 2 copies, sign them, and mail them to you for your company's approval. The executed copy by your company should be mailed or faxed to Soligen for filing.