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This device would be much like those little toys with hundreds of small pins that you can push out to form the shape of your face, hand, etc.
Instead of round steel pins, it would be best to use hexagonal or square ceramic rods. Hundreds of these would move up and down via hydraulic or electric
motors controlled by a CAD program, forming a bass relief shape of whatever you need to manufacture.
Then spray on a thin coat of plaster or another substance to seal and insulate the surface, and pour in some molten aluminum, steel, or Jello. When it has solidified, press a button and the ceramic rods press up and dislodge the part.
This would not be as precise as a real sand casting setup or even a 3D printer, but it would be cheaper and quicker than both, great for making a general shape or representing a rough idea.
Competing concept to your idea [ixnaum, Oct 02 2005]
Objet Geometries Ltd.
It is a good idea - and there is a company that already developed something similar based on photopolymer-jetting technology [sg2i, Oct 03 2005]
||Not sure about the "cheaper" part - all too often that's a question of economies of scale, rather than complex technology.
||Sort of halfbaked. Can't remember where, but I was reading some trade magazine where the support structure for a mold was made of pins in a similar way. This meant the actual mould was much smaller and lighter, and easier to modify.
||that has been on my mind for quite a few years.