Stay Safe, Backyard Metalcaster

It’s staggering the number of people that want to give metalcasting a go on their own.

The latest incident we found was regaled in an article in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. According to the story, a high school science teacher built a furnace in a hole in his lawn and somewhat-successfully cast trinkets out of scrapped soda cans. It’s a fascinating story, but you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time waiting for this unsupervised, improvised project to go terribly awry.

The most common metalcasting hobbyists we come across (or more appropriately, come across us) are enthusiasts who want to rebuild something from the past—a marine or automotive part that has been lost to history. Most of the time, these hobbyists want to build something that no one else will build for them, either due to the component’s lack of profitability or because it would take too much time to develop the know-how to produce it.

There’s an allure of self-sufficiency there that metalcasting hobbyists simply can’t ignore. These men highlight the mystical draw of the metalcasting process—the glowing metal, the sparks, the completed component emerging as if a Bundt cake from a pan(which are themselves cast, by the way).

Men like the high school teacher from Lancaster, on the other hand, highlight the strides the metalcasting industry makes on a regular basis. According to the article, the tinkerer produced what “looked like crumpled wads of aluminum foil rolled in sand.” Professional metalcasters produce parts that are critical to the operation of an airplane at 30,000 ft.

The article goes on to say that the untrained science teacher scared passersby and his wife with the potential for an injurious accident. Professional metalcasters have decreased the number of accidents that occur on their watch for two years in a row, according to data published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2006, the year for which the data is last available, the industry reported 11.9 injuries or illnesses for every 100 full-time employees, down from 13.5 in 2005 (a 12% improvement) and 14 in 2004.

The general public may think that metalcasting is an antiquated, dangerous industry that produces nothing but manhole covers, but for many modern casters, that is simply untrue. We thank the metalcasting hobbyists whose amateur attempts highlight this fact…as long as they stay safe.

Turn the Beat Around

We’ve met many people in the industry who are passionate about metalcasting, but we’re hard-pressed to think of someone with the same kind of passion as a woman from Kawaguchi, Japan.

A recent article from the Japanese newspaper, Daily Yomiuri, tells the story of 23-year-old percussionist Sayaka Nojiri, who is promoting the metalcasting industry the best way she knows how—drumming.

The daughter and granddaughter of metalcasters, Nojiri is hoping to promote the industry that was once a pride of the city but since has dwindled. She turns metal castings made in Kawaguchi into percussion instruments for recitals around town—her way of showing gratitude to the city, she said.

From the article:

"She turned metal-cast products, including frying pans, into percussion instruments by putting holes in them to create a variety of unusual sounds.

At her recital last year, she improvised for an audience of about 300, while imagining the sounds and smells of foundries and the feel of the casting process."

Maybe we should start taking drum lessons.

Oiling the Casting Supply Chain

Metalcasters want to sell you castings, whether you know it or not.

Just how much they want to sell you castings was apparent at the recent Marketing and Selling of Castings Conference, put on from July 31 to August 1 by the American Foundry Society. With more than 160 metalcasters making their way to the Chicago area this year, attendance was up more than 100% from 2007. If you arrived late to the conference room at the Westin O’Hare, you couldn’t get a seat.

The relationship between casting makers and buyers is unique in the world of manufacturing. It’s not like many component producing/consuming relationships, where there is only one industry that can satisfy the needs of the buyer. Industries that can benefit from castings sometimes don’t even know the products exist. And metalcasters often don’t know who needs their products.

Events like the Marketing and Selling of Castings Conference are designed to bridge this gap in the supply chain. They’re an attempt to bring casting sellers and buyers together and allow them to network and bounce ideas off each other. Among the presenters at the conference were representatives from five companies that use metal castings—Caterpillar, Winergy Drive Systems (USA), FMC Technologies Inc., Haas Automation and Cummins Inc. Those particular sessions were great opportunities for metalcasters to hear exactly what their customers want from them.

The conference was also a great opportunity for metalcasting buyers to find out exactly what their suppliers want from them. Even if you didn’t attend the conference and get the details, rest assured. One thing your suppliers apparently want is to deliver you the products you need. Sometimes, that can be difficult to come by, but by working closely with a metalcaster on the design of your desired components, you can develop a close relationship and a quality engineered component.

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