The right equipment and tooling for the job

Vestshell’s secret to castings of unmatched quality lies in a commitment to provide superior equipment and tooling to our skilled craftsmen. To accomplish this, much of the machinery and tooling used in our foundry is custom-designed and built by our versatile in-house mechanical design team.


As you’re certainly aware, the investment casting process is a complex collection of sub-processes. As such, equipment manufacturers specialize and supply segments of the process – wax presses, melting equipment, preheat furnaces – usually based on the experience gained in other manufacturing sectors. As a result, many foundries struggle with a myriad of production and quality problems caused by widely size-disparate equipment. To avoid this situation, Vestshell has built size-compatible equipment for the entire process. We standardized runner and cluster systems, allocated common pickup points, and set standard size envelopes as the foundation for automation. Every work station and work cell configuration can accept the same maximum size casting or cluster assembly. This has led to superior quality in the handling of fragile wax patterns and ceramic shell molds and has minimized damage caused by overly large equipment handling undersized components. Because Vestshell has brought automation to a very labor-intensive process, our customers secure a significantly better value and quality consistency than what they are likely to receive elsewhere.


Vestshell designs all molds on a CAD system, which allows us to virtually cycle the mold before it is built. This test assures that our craftsmen will not struggle with awkward inserts or tool ergonomics once the cost of building the hardware has already been realized. To maximize machinability, durability and ease of use, our wax pattern molds are constructed from aluminum block with moving parts of hardened tool steel or other dissimilar material. To achieve consistent alignment, cores are actuated by hydraulic cylinders or actuating cams. Each mold also has full-depth, hardened guide pins sliding in hardened sleeve bushings. The die halves are thereby aligned and guided as they are clamped in our custom-designed injectors. This arrangement ensures the halves will not move in shear under injection pressure, avoiding pattern mismatch and often eliminating even a hint of die witness lines on the castings.


Rather than build straightening fixtures from a theoretical drawing, which may not address the reality of the cast shape, we design our proprietary fixtures from the casting itself. Our veteran toolmakers fabricate these tools to exacting dimensional tolerances difficult -- if not impossible -- to find elsewhere in the industry. Made from hardenable tool steels, our straightening fixtures are designed to perform flawlessly over their life span -- often at elevated temperatures -- and to maintain exacting dimensional repeatability that can run to ten thousandths of an inch.


Designed to allow our straightening department craftsmen to check their work on the go, in-process inspection fixtures contribute to keeping production runs on time and on budget. They equip our shop floor staff to check for deviations, adjust parts if necessary and collect Statistical Process Control data to ensure that all variables of their process are contained within strictly defined parameters. All this is accomplished before a formal dimensional inspection review is done.


Clichés aside, we genuinely believe that our skilled craftsmen are our most important assets. Thus, when designing processes and tooling, ergonomics and safety are our premier intents. For every job we undertake, we design and build trimming and grinding fixtures to guarantee that responsible workers aren’t harmed by machine pinch points or handling errors. As an added benefit, these custom fixtures ensure castings are not damaged or scrapped during these dynamic processes. In short, Vestshell has proudly taken part in pioneering a process and built the supporting equipment and tooling to ensure performance consistency throughout that process. The pride of workmanship and the indelible mark of experience are in every tool and piece of machinery built, as well as in every casting fabricated from them.


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