What is Vacuum Casting and How Does it Work?

  • Vacuum casting, also known as urethane casting, is a versatile manufacturing process used for producing small quantities of high-quality plastic or metal parts.
  • By creating a mold of the desired part and injecting liquid plastic or metal into the mold under a vacuum, vacuum casting ensures uniform and detailed parts with excellent surface finish and dimensional accuracy.
vacuum cast containers
vacuum cast containers

What is Vacuum Casting?

  • Vacuum casting, sometimes referred to as urethane casting or polyurethane casting, is a process where a vacuum is used to pull liquid plastic or metal into silicone molds to create parts.
  • This process ensures that the resulting casts are bubble-free and have smooth surface textures with zero defects.
  • Vacuum casting is widely used for rapid prototyping as it is faster and more economical compared to methods like injection molding.
  • It is capable of producing components with intricate details using polyurethane resins, making it ideal for various applications across industries.

How Does Vacuum Casting Work?

  • Vacuum casting begins with the creation of a master model, typically through 3D printing or CNC machining.
  • A silicone mold is then made from the master model, which serves as the template for creating multiple copies of the part.
  • Polyurethane resins are heated and mixed with colorants if desired, then poured into the silicone mold under vacuum conditions to ensure complete filling and bubble removal.
  • After curing, the parts are demolded, and finishing touches such as trimming and polishing can be applied to achieve the desired final product.

Technical Specifications

  • Materials: Vacuum casting supports a wide range of materials including various plastics and rubbers.
  • Lead Time: Typically, the lead time for vacuum casting ranges from 10 to 20 days depending on the complexity of the parts and the volume of production.
  • Minimum Wall Thickness: A minimum wall thickness of 0.75 mm is achievable, although 1.5 mm is recommended for better structural integrity.
  • Quantity: Vacuum casting is suitable for producing small to medium quantities of parts, typically ranging from 1 to 20 parts per mold.
  • Surface Quality: Vacuum casting can achieve both glossy and matte surface finishes, providing versatility in aesthetic options.

General Applications

  • Medical Implants: Vacuum casting is used in the fabrication of complex medical implants and prosthetics.
  • Automotive Industry: It is ideal for manufacturing highly detailed automotive components such as intake manifolds, exhaust systems, and body panels.
  • Food Industry: Vacuum casting is utilized for creating intricate parts, molds, and packaging components required in food production.
  • Aerospace Components: Vacuum casting is suitable for fabricating precision aerospace components like air ducts and fuel systems due to its accuracy and repeatability.
  • Consumer Goods: It can manufacture complex consumer goods like toys and sporting equipment with high precision, meeting the demands of various consumer markets.


  • Fine Details: Vacuum casting can replicate intricate details from 3D printed master models, ensuring high fidelity in the final parts.
  • Low Cost: Compared to CNC machining and injection molding, vacuum casting is relatively inexpensive as it requires minimal time to produce reusable molds, making it cost-effective for small-scale production.
  • Dimensional Accuracy: Vacuum casting produces parts with excellent dimensional accuracy, reducing the need for post-processing and ensuring consistency in part dimensions.
  • Flexibility: Vacuum casting offers design flexibility, allowing for the creation of almost any geometry, making it suitable for a wide range of applications across industries.


  • Specific Materials: Vacuum casting is limited to certain materials, restricting the range of applications compared to other manufacturing processes.
  • Impact of Mould Type on Prototype Quality: The quality of prototypes produced through vacuum casting may be affected by the type of mold used, requiring careful selection of mold materials and fabrication techniques.
  • Shrinkage: Shrinkage during the curing process may cause parts to deviate from the desired thickness, requiring adjustments in the design and casting parameters.
  • Speed and Scale: Vacuum casting is a relatively slow process compared to methods like injection molding, making it unsuitable for large-scale production runs requiring high production rates.
  • Temperature Limitations: Vacuum casting may not be suitable for high-temperature applications due to the limitations of the materials and processes involved.

Comparison with Injection Moulding

  • Vacuum casting does not require a DFM (Design for Manufacturing) process, making it quicker than injection molding and suitable for low-volume production with tight tolerances and smooth surface finishes.

Comparison with 3D Printing

  • Vacuum casting produces highly detailed parts with smooth surfaces, similar to 3D printing, but may be more time-consuming. However, it offers better accuracy and detail replication compared to 3D printing.

Materials Used in Vacuum Casting

To ensure the production of effective and quality castings, selecting the most appropriate casting materials is crucial. Among the materials commonly employed in vacuum casting are polyurethane resin, silicone rubber, epoxy resin, PU foam, and silicone resin.

Polyurethane Resin

Polyurethane resins exhibit a combination of soft and hard phases, offering exceptional flexibility and toughness. They are particularly well-suited for processes requiring short-run production and minimal development time. The ability to quickly implement changes in the manufacturing process with minimal effort helps to keep production costs low.

Characterized by heat resistance, elasticity, and a high e-module, polyurethane resins deliver high performance across a range of applications in vacuum casting. These resins find utility in various productions, including prototypes, industrial large-volume parts, hoses, and gaskets. With balanced physical properties and high dimensional stability, polyurethane resins facilitate easy molding and are suitable for products requiring abrasion resistance and flame retardance.

Polyurethane Resin Casting

Silicone Rubber


Silicone rubber possesses durability and high resistance as an elastomer, owing to its unique molecular structure. Comprising silicone and other molecules, this structure contributes to the material’s distinctive features.

Renowned for its high, permanent elasticity and excellent release characteristics, silicone rubber is a preferred material for mold making. Its properties include good flow and transparency, shrink-free curing at ambient temperature, long-term stability of mechanical properties, and resistance to casting resins.

Silicone rubber’s reliability and versatility have made it a popular choice for mold fabrication in vacuum casting. Utilizing silicone molds in vacuum casting offers geometric freedom and ensures premium-quality finishing options.

Epoxy Resin

A robust material known for its resistance to wear, chemicals, and environmental factors, epoxy resin is formed by chemically mixing epoxy with a hardener. Its ability to withstand sustained force without deformation makes it an ideal adhesive.

Across industries like construction, manufacturing, and woodworking, epoxy resin is valued for its remarkable bonding capabilities, versatility, and resilience to moderate temperatures. From serving as the matrix phase in composite parts to providing surface protection, its applications are diverse.

In vacuum casting, specific epoxy resins are utilized to produce high-quality products. During this process, the resin and hardener undergo degassing and separate heating before being stirred into vacuum tanks. Casting epoxy resins are commonly used in crafting, sculpting, and jewelry making.

Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam, used as a core material or base in vacuum casting, offers lightweight components with intricate designs. Known for its heat resistance, low density, and ability to create superior surface structures, this material finds utility across diverse industries.

In sectors like construction, transportation, leisure, and entertainment, PU casting foams are employed in the production of insulation materials, multi-layer structures, and lightweight panels.

With cost efficiency compared to other casting materials and a short production cycle, polyurethane casting foam emerges as a preferred choice. Its machinability and dimensional stability make it suitable for precision-demanding conditions, while enabling swift and effortless demolding of final products.

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