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MetalCasting Design & Purchasing

The Artist Is the Engineer

When discussing the sales dollars or tonnage of castings generated by the metalcasting industry, the focus is on engine cylinder blocks, valve bodies, compressor housings and thousands of other mass-produced engineered components that are the lifeblood of this job-shop industry’s production.  But when discussing the elegance, beauty and creativity embodied by the metalcasting process, the discussions may shift to a niche portion of the industry known as art casting.

Within the pages of Metal Casting Design & Purchasing, we typically don’t dedicate as much ink to the art casting segment of the industry as we could (it regularly appears on our Shakeout or In a World Without Castings pages). Since our goal is to illustrate the opportunities with engineered cast metal, our focus is on showcasing ways to improve design and purchasing practices that can have the largest impact on manufacturing. But, the reality is that art casting provides an opportunity for metalcasting and manufacturing as a whole to demonstrate our capabilities with products that are understood by all segments of society.

This is embodied in our cover story, “Restoring the U.S. Capitol Dome,” on p. 20. When working with our legislators and regulators in Washington, D.C., examples like the work being performed to bring the Dome back to glory showcase the importance and skill of metalcasting (and manufacturing) in a way they can relate to. But for you, as a designer and buyer of castings, art casting and this Dome story can offer you an additional level of food
for thought.

“What I find most astonishing is the amount of detail that went into crafting the ornaments.  It is incredible to see the intricacy. … There are little lines and indentations the size of your pinky fingernail.”—Joe Abriatis, construction manager of the Dome Restoration Project.

“(Original Cast) Pieces that can’t be repaired will be melted, re-alloyed and poured into new castings, so the original pieces will remain part of the Dome’s historic fabric.”—Abriatis

The ability to achieve intricate design detail, as well as almost infinite geometric complexity with metal castings (especially when combined with additive manufacturing), is one of the key areas that separates this manufacturing process from other metal component forming methods. In addition, the recyclability of the process, with our society’s focus on sustainability, is critical to its longevity as a manufacturing technique because metalcasting takes scrap metal (iron, aluminum, copper-base, etc.) and creates new engineered components.

Inspiration must come from all areas of manufacturing.  Take the opportunity to look at the art castings all around you—from plaques and statues to architectural reproductions—to summon your inner artist and unleash the opportunities with metalcasting.

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