Which Casting Process Should I Use?

17 Aug 2021

Pros and Cons of 5 Casting Processes: Sand, Permanent Mold, Die, Investment, and Lost Foam

With so many casting processes, it can be hard to decide which one to use. Therefore, it is important to understand each option and how it relates to production costs, production volume, casting size, tolerance, surface finish, complexity and more.

Compare and contrast with us the 5 main casting processes (sand casting, permanent mold, die casting, investment casting, and lost foam casting), so you can make your decision based on the facts.

casting processes

Casting Methods Cheat Sheet

#1 Sand Casting

Sand casting is one of the most common casting processes. In this process, molten metal is poured into a mold made of compacted sand.

sand casting process


  • Design flexibility (complexity and size)
  • Low cost tooling
  • Short lead time


  • Single-use mold
  • Poor surface finish and accuracy
  • Prone to shrinkage and porosity, leading to low material strength

There are 4 specific  types of sand-casting processes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages: green sand, nobake, coldbox, and shell.

1. Green Sand

Green sand is the most common sand-casting process. Its components include sand, clay, water, and other additives.

A benefit of green sand casting is that it can be used for high volume or short/prototype runs. It is cost effective for many metal applications.

However, green sand casting cannot hold as tight of dimensional tolerances and surface finishes as other processes. Therefore, it typically requires more machining to reach the final dimensions and surface finish than other processes.

2. Nobake

This process involves a simple sand and resin mixture that cures at room temperature through a chemical reaction.

Benefits of the nobake process include good dimensional control, uniform strength, and size flexibility.

Unfortunately, the nobake sand mixture has a limited shelf life and you must be conscious of the sand temperature during the process. Overall, this process can be very costly.

3. Coldbox

This resin process cures at room temperature, using a gas or vapor catalyst.

Coldbox sand casting can achieve complex parts with low labor and energy costs.

However, this process is limited to small and medium sizes. The core box design is an important factor. It is also only cost efficient in high volumes.

4. Shell

This resin coated sand process requires heat to cure.

Benefits of shell sand casting include high dimensional tolerances and surface finish, opportunity for complexity, and a long shelf life.

Yet, shell sand casting is only available for small to medium sized parts. It requires metal tooling, making it only cost efficient in high volumes.

#2 Permanent Mold

The permanent mold process is our specialty. It involves pouring nonferrous alloys into a preheated, reusable steel mold. The steel mold is prepared with a coating that prevents sticking and lengthens mold life.

permanent mold process

Permanent mold foundries are typically cleaner than sand casting facilities because they do not involve loose sand.

Different pouring methods can be used in permanent mold that impact the success of your part: static standard/gravity pour, tilt pour, and reverse tilt pour. To learn more about permanent mold pouring methods, watch this short video:


  • Stronger and less porous than sand casting or die casting
  • Good surface finish/texture control
  • Long reusable mold life
  • Good dimensional accuracy – high precision
  • Good for moderate to high volume production
  • Relatively quick cycle time
  • Can use sand cores, making it semi-permanent mold
  • Fine grain structure


  • Higher tooling costs
  • Not cost effective for low volume production
  • Size limitations
  • Parting lines (can be removed by machining/polishing)

permanent mold pros and cons

#3 Die Casting

Die casting is similar to permanent mold casting. Die casting also involves a steel mold but uses pressure to inject molten nonferrous metals.

die casting process


  • High accuracy and complexity
  • Design flexibility
  • Good surface finish
  • Quick production rate
  • Good for high volume production


  • Highest tooling costs
  • Size limitations
  • Can only use low melting point alloys
  • Parting lines

If you’re annually running tens or hundreds of thousands of parts, like an automotive company, you’re going to want to go with die casting.

#4 Investment Casting

Investment casting uses a wax (or thermoplastic) pattern that is layered in slurry and stucco to form a shell. The wax is melted out of the shell, the now hallow shell is cured, and the metal is poured while the ceramic shell is still hot.

investment casting process


  • Achieve complex shapes and details
  • High surface finish and accuracy – No flash or parting lines
  • Near net shape – Little to no machining required
  • Can be the most expensive casting method
  • Limitless in terms of alloy choices


  • Lengthy process
  • High manual labor
  • High piece price
  • Size and handling limitations

#5 Lost Foam Casting

In the lost foam casting process, the part or clusters of parts are coated in a slurry and sand. They are vibrated to create a compact mold. When the molten metal is poured, the pattern evaporates, eliminating the need for cores.

lost foam casting process


  • Design freedom
  • Near net shape
  • Low tool wear


  • Not cost effective for low volume production
  • Large initial die cost
  • Porosity
  • Pattern weakness
  • Pattern are not reusable, so require a pattern for each part
  • Metal tooling required for pattern making
  • Few suppliers

BONUS: #6 Stamping

Metal stamping is a common alternative to casting. It is best for simple parts, as it involves using high pressure to shape a sheet of metal into your desired part.
metal stamping process


  • Cost effective
  • Quick production time
  • Great tolerance and surface finish
  • High volume capacity


  • Lack of design flexibility in terms of shape and thickness
  • Not for highly complex parts
  • Produces lots of waste
  • High tool cost

Choose the Best Method for Your Next Casting

To kick start your next project, we have many allies in the casting business. We are happy to look at your next project and help decide what casting process is right for you.

Give us a call at (812) 537-2275 or you can email us at sales@batesvilleproducts.com

It never hurts to check

Request a quote and a Batesville team member will be in touch to discuss your metalcasting goals and how our metalcasting experts can help make your next project a success.