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Sand casted parts in a pile
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What Is Sand Casting?

 by 97th Floor,

Sand Casting: Process, Equipment, and History

Sand casting is a versatile and widely used casting process that has been practiced for centuries. Sand casting is great for creating metal components in a cost-effective manner. Keep reading to learn about the sand casting process, different types of sand casting, its history, and more. 

What is Sand Casting?

Sand casting is a casting method that uses sand molds to shape and produce metal objects and components. Sand casting is one of the oldest known casting processes and is valued for its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and ability to create complex shapes.

Sand casting offers great versatility in terms of the size and weight of the castings it can produce. It is suitable for small-scale custom productions and large-scale industrial applications such as automobile parts. This process is particularly useful when the desired outcome needs to have specific features or internal cavities.

An infographic depicting the different steps in the sand casting process. The steps listed are pattern creation, mold creation (drag), mold creation (cope), mold assembly, pouring, and cooling/shakeout.

The Sand Casting Process

1. Materials Needed

To start the sand casting process, several materials are required, such as sand, a binder, various additives, molten metal, the pattern, and other casting tools. The sand serves as the primary molding material, while the binder holds the sand particles together. Additives such as clay, coal dust, or organic compounds are used to enhance the mold’s strength and permeability.

Choosing the proper sand is crucial for achieving high-quality castings. The sand should have specific characteristics, such as good refractoriness to withstand the high temperature of the molten metal, permeability to allow gasses to escape, and proper collapsibility to facilitate the shakeout process.

2. Creating the Pattern

The first step in sand casting involves creating a pattern, which is a replica of the desired metal component. One can make patterns from wood, plastics, or metals. The pattern is typically larger than the final product to accommodate shrinkage during cooling.

The pattern is carefully designed to capture all the details and features required in the final casting. Skilled pattern makers use their expertise to ensure that the pattern accounts for allowances, draft angles, and gating systems necessary for successful sand casting.

3. Creating the Sand Casting Mold

The pattern is embedded in the sand to create a mold. The mold consists of two halves, known as the cope and drag. These halves are separated to remove the pattern and allow for the pouring of molten metal.

The molding process requires great precision and skill to ensure the accurate reproduction of the pattern. The cope and drag are formed by packing the sand mixture around the pattern. Special molding tools and techniques, such as ramming, squeezing, or jolting, may be employed to achieve proper compaction and mold density.

4. Pouring the Molten Metal

Once the mold is prepared, molten metal is poured into the cavity created by the pattern. The metal is typically heated in a furnace and then transferred to a pouring ladle for controlled pouring into the mold. Different metals are used for different end uses. A few commonly used metals include steel, brass, aluminum, and iron. 

The pouring process requires careful attention to prevent defects like misruns, cold shuts, or inclusions. The metal must be poured at the correct temperature and rate to ensure proper filling of the mold cavity and to minimize turbulence or gas entrapment.

5. Cooling and Shakeout

Sand castings on a GK shakeout conveyor.

After the molten metal is poured, it cools and solidifies within the mold. Cooling time varies depending on the size and complexity of the casting– larger objects will take longer to cool compared to small objects. Proper cooling is essential to achieve the desired properties and dimensional accuracy of the final product, while also enabling safe handling of the pieces downstream

Once the metal has solidified, the mold undergoes a shakeout process. This involves mechanically or manually breaking the mold to separate the solidified casting from the sand. The excess metal, known as the casting’s “gating system,” is removed during this process.

6. Recycling the Sand

One of the advantages of sand casting is the ability to reuse the molding sand. After the shakeout, the sand is separated from the casting and can be recycled for future use. The sand is reconditioned and processed to restore its properties for subsequent casting cycles.

There are a few techniques that can be used to recondition and recycle the sand such as mechanical, thermal, or chemical processes. These processes help to rejuvenate the sand and maintain its quality. This sustainable approach reduces the environmental impact and cost associated with sand disposal and acquisition.

How Sand Casting Works

Sand casting follows the principles of gravity casting. The molten metal is poured into the mold, where it fills the cavity and takes the shape of the pattern. As the metal cools and solidifies, it forms the desired shape. The solidified casting is then extracted from the mold for further finishing processes such as grinding and blasting. 

During solidification, the metal undergoes shrinkage, which can cause internal stresses and dimensional variations. Proper design considerations, such as the use of risers or chills are necessary to  ensure the integrity of the casting.

Pros and Cons of Sand Casting


  • Cost-effective for low part variation production.
  • Capable of producing large, complex shapes.
  • Versatile and compatible with a wide range of metals and alloys.
  • Relatively low tooling costs compared to other casting methods.


  • Limited dimensional accuracy compared to other casting processes.
  • The surface finish may require additional machining or finishing operations.
  • Longer production lead times due to mold preparation and cooling time.
  • Not suitable for production runs of many variations of parts.

Different Sand Casting Techniques

Green Sand Casting

A green sand mold with solidified metal inside of it.
Green sand mold.

Green sand casting is the most common and traditional sand casting technique. This process uses a mixture of sand, clay, and water to create the molding material. The name “green” refers to the sand’s moisture content, which provides cohesiveness and allows for easy mold formation.

Green sand casting offers flexibility in terms of mold adjustments, easy pattern removal, and good dimensional stability. It is widely used across industries such as automotive, aerospace, and in many general manufacturing facilities.

Cold Setting / No Bake

In cold setting or No Bake sand casting, a chemical binder is used to harden the sand mold at room temperature. This technique eliminates the need for high-temperature curing and allows for faster mold production. Cold setting is advantageous for applications that require quick turnaround times and where dimensional accuracy is critical.

Shell Molding

Shell molding is a sand casting technique that involves the use of pre-coated sand molds. The molds are created by heating the pattern and applying a resin-coated sand mixture to form a thin shell. This process offers improved dimensional accuracy and surface finish.

Shell molding provides excellent surface quality due to the smooth and precise mold cavity. This method c is especially effective when creating high precision castings like medical tools, aerospace components, and more. This technique produces a similar result  to that of die casting

The History of Sand Casting

There have been traces of sand casting being practiced for over 6,000 years. It originated in ancient China and Egypt and has since evolved with advancements in materials and technology. Sand casting played a significant role in the industrial revolution and continues to be a vital casting method today.

Throughout history, sand casting has been used to create a wide range of objects, including tools, weapons, ornaments, and industrial components. The technique has witnessed continuous refinement and adaptation to changing needs, making it a cornerstone of the manufacturing industry.

General Kinematics: Find the Sand Casting Equipment You Need

Sand casting remains a popular and versatile casting method due to its ability to produce unique shapes and cost-effectiveness. By understanding the sand casting process, equipment, and various techniques, manufacturers can leverage this method to create high-quality metal components for a wide range of applications.

If you are unsure if sand casting is the right process for your manufacturing needs, or if you are sure and need somewhere to begin, look no further. General Kinematics offers industry-leading vibratory foundry equipment and is staffed with expert engineers ready to answer any questions you may have. Speak with a GK Engineer Today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sand casting mainly used for?

Sand casting is used to produce a wide range of metal components, including engine blocks, cylinder heads, pump housings, and various industrial and automotive parts. Sand casting offers a lot of variability and flexibility in the size and complexity of the object being produced and is generally cost-effective, making it a great manufacturing process. 

Is sand casting expensive?

Compared to other casting methods, sand casting is generally considered a cost-effective option. Costs vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the part, the metal used, and the required finishing touches. Sand casting’s ability to reuse and recycle sand contributes to its cost efficiency.

What is the sand casting process?

The sand casting process involves creating a mold using a pattern, pouring molten metal into the mold, cooling and solidifying the metal, and then removing the casting from the mold. It is a versatile and widely used casting method that can produce complex shapes and accommodate various metal alloys.