Over time, several special purpose utilities have been created for use with SOLIDCast. These programs cover many topics; some are used in model building, some in file handling/conversion, and others for specific special purposes.


These utilities have been bundled with the SOLIDCast package. When you install SOLIDCast or update the program, these utilities are also installed and are accessible while running SOLIDCast from the Tools Menu. You need to have a model loaded first. Then, when you click on Tools, you should see something like this:


Descriptions of how each utility functions are given on the following pages.


UTILITY: FLOWCast Fixed Volume Fill


This utility sets up FLOWCast for a ‘true’ tilt-pour process for permanent mold castings or a ‘true’ roll-over process for investment casting. In a normal filling process, Fill Material is used to create an interface with either Casting or Riser Material, where hot metal enters the model. With Fixed Volume Fill setups, metal is transferred from a pouring cup or crucible to the empty mold cavity.


The first step in the process is to create a model where the metal in the cup or crucible is made of Fill Material. The model shown below is an aluminum tilt-pour casting with the die hidden so you can see the casting, risers and pour cup:



Step two is to mesh the model. Then highlight the mesh on the project tree by clicking the mesh icon.


Step three is to go to Tools…FLOWCast Fixed Volume Fill.


You will see a window like this:



The current status is OFF. Click the button that says Set FLOWCast to Fixed Volume. The status line should now say ON, as shown here:



Now, when you start FLOWCast, the volume of metal represented by Fill Material is already in the model, at the Pouring Temperature. As tilting progresses, metal will transfer from the pouring cup to the mold cavity, as shown here:



UTILITY: Convert ASCII STL to Binary


This utility converts an ASCII format STL file to a BINARY format STL file.


STL file formats are normally either binary or ASCII. A binary file contains data which is encoded. An ASCII file is a text file. If you open an ASCII STL file with a text editor (like Windows WordPad) you will see readable data like the following:


solid 139_6106_CAM

 facet normal 1.000000e+00 0.000000e+00 0.000000e+00

  outer loop

   vertex 6.000000e+01 1.450745e+02 -2.920325e+01

   vertex 6.000000e+01 1.450745e+02 -9.229675e+01

   vertex 6.000000e+01 1.680000e+02 -9.975000e+01



 facet normal 0.000000e+00 -3.091782e-01 -9.510041e-01

  outer loop

   vertex -2.090000e+01 1.680000e+02 -9.975000e+01

   vertex 6.000000e+01 1.680000e+02 -9.975000e+01

   vertex 6.000000e+01 1.450745e+02 -9.229675e+01




A binary file will be unreadable if opened with a text editor.


SOLIDCast requires that STL files be in binary format in order to be loaded into the model builder. Therefore, if you have an ASCII STL file, you need to convert it to binary format before using it. This can be done with the Convert ASCII STL to Binary utility.


To use this utility, first load a model. Then select Tools…Convert ASCII STL to Binary…. You will see a screen like the following:



Navigate to the STL file you want to convert, and select it in the file list window as shown below:



Now click the Convert button. You will be asked to enter a name for the new binary STL file.



Enter a name for the new file. (The original file will be maintained.) Then click the OK button. The system will verify that you want to do this by displaying the following:



Click on Proceed. A new file will be created in binary format from the ASCII file. The Percent Complete and number of triangles processed will be displayed during the conversion. The new binary file will exist in the same folder as the original and can now be loaded into SOLIDCast as an object. If the selected file is already in binary format, the following message will be displayed:



Converting from an ASCII format to binary format DOES NOT AFFECT THE SHAPE; the only difference between the file types is in the way that the surface data is stored in the file. A binary STL file is approximately one fifth the size of an ASCII STL file.


UTILITY: Create STL File from ISO-Surface


This utility allows you to take ISO-Surface plot data and export it as an STL file. This was so that it would be possible to take SOLIDCast information and place it into a CAD model in the original CAD system, to facilitate placement of risers, etc.


To use this feature, you must first have completed a simulation.


Note that this function allows the ISO-Surfaces to be rotated in space before being written out as STL files. This is because other CAD systems may be using a different coordinate system orientation than SOLIDCast. You may need to experiment a bit with the angles of rotation to find which entries will match the orientation of your CAD system.


To start the utility, load a model, then go to Tools…Create STL File from ISO-Surface. You should see the following:



Use the down arrow to scroll through the project tree to find the simulation you want, click the name to highlight it, then click Select Simulation. You will see a form that allows you to choose what data you want, what value you want it plotted at, whether you want to rotate the data, and the name and location of the STL file you want to save it in.


A typical filled-in form would look something like this:



When you have the form filled out the way you want, click Make STL File. If all goes well, you should get a response like this:



Click OK to return to the Model Building screen.



UTILITY: Create Shell Around STL Shape


Create Shell Around STL Shape is a utility used to create a constant-thickness shell around a shape. The shape around which the shell is to be created is contained in an STL file. The output of Create Shell Around STL Shape is a second STL file which contains the geometry of the shell. This STL file can then be loaded as a shape into a SOLIDCast model, as with any other STL file. In this way, the shell then becomes part of the model and is NOT created using the “Shell” option for mold creation when meshing.


A typical shape created by Create Shell Around STL Shape might appear as follows:


External Surface of Shell Shell with Casting Tree Visible


Why would we want to have the shell represented as a shape within the model?  The primary reason is that this allows us to add shapes external to the shell. For example, in investment casting, we often have insulating material such as Kaowool or Fiberfrax which is placed outside the shell. Previously, this was somewhat difficult to do using the “Shell Mold” option in meshing; this required placing the insulation at an offset from the casting surface, and then the shell mesh operation filled in the annular space. However, the insulating material was also shelled over in the process. Using Create Shell Around STL Shape, we can add the shell to the model and then add any external shapes much more easily. In some casting processes, a ceramic shell is placed inside another material such as a bed of vermiculite, sand or plaster; this arrangement can be simulated easily by using Create Shell Around STL Shape.


Another advantage of Create Shell Around STL Shape is that it allows us to create multiple shells of different materials, if that is how we are creating the mold for our process. Create Shell Around STL Shape may also be used in Permanent Mold processes to create a mold which is truly a constant thickness around a casting shape.


Using Create Shell Around STL Shape... typically would require the following steps:


  1. An STL file of the casting around which the shell is to be created must exist. If you have created the entire geometry of the casting, gating, feeders and risers as a single STL file, then you can just use this as the starting file. However, in many cases the casting and rigging are an assembly of shapes in a SOLIDCast model. In this case, you can use the STL From Model utility to create a single STL file of the rigged casting geometry, and then use this file as the input for the Create Shell Around STL Shape utility.


  1. Load a model, then select Tools…Create Shell Around STL Shape. The initial screen appears as follows, and allows you to select an existing STL file around which to create the shell:



  1. Click the Open button after you have selected the STL file that you want to use. You will see the following window appear:



  1. Enter the shell thickness, whether the shell is open-top or closed-top (this has the same meaning as in the Mesh operation in SOLIDCast), the “Surface Quality” of the shell, and the name to use for the output STL file to contain the shell.


Note A:  


Surface Quality refers to the detail and smoothness of the shell surface to be created. The higher the quality, the longer the shell creation operation will take, and the larger the resulting STL file will be. For example, in the illustration below, the same shell was created using Coarse, Medium and Fine settings: