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A Tale of Two Economies

When the subject of the economy comes up these days, it seems to me I’m living in two worlds. In the world reported by the popular press, the economy is still struggling, with job creation minimal and international financial crises creating uncertainty among investors worldwide.

But in the manufacturing world, many anecdotal reports indicate the economy is recovering.

In the latest sign this is the case, rapid casting producer Clinkenbeard was featured on a local news channel as a company that has been able to grow despite the flagging economy.

“We have a strategy that should work in any economy,” company Vice President Reg Gustafson told the Rockford, Ill., CBS affiliate. “We’re investing in people. People are the hardest thing to get.”

Gustafson said Clinkenbeard has added four full-time employees since October, and it isn’t the only company in the metalcasting world that has reported similar growth. We can only hope the trend will continue and our two economic worlds will realign in the near future.


Welcome to Our New Website

Magazines and Multimedia Screenshot

In the last couple of years, Metal Casting Design & Purchasing (MCDP)—like most publications these days—has made a strong push to better serve and interact with our audience on the web.

Last week, we unveiled an upgraded website that meshes everything we want to be, with opportunity for further growth down the road.

On the new site, you’ll find a more visually appealing home page, a better blog-reading experience, and quicker access to the items we add to the website frequently, such as photo galleries, audiocasts, online-only articles and breaking industry news.

 

If you are looking for a job or a new employee, take advantage of our Metalcasting Career Center, which is now integrated with the rest of the MCDP and American Foundry Society websites for single log-in across all sites (including the AFS Library, bookstore and Community Sharepoint).  

Check back frequently to our new Castingpedia—an ever growing library of casting process, alloy, design and purchasing articles, columns and case studies.

And stay tuned…we have more in store over the course of the next few months.

If you haven’t yet, poke around our new website to see all our new features. And let us know what types of content you’d like to see here in the future.


On the Hunt for Zamak Treasure

In April, clever Seattle puzzle enthusiasts went on a clue-led hunt for treasure in the Emerald City Search. Their object of desire: a medallion cast in ZAMAK by Seattle-based metal casting company

Morel Industries, owned by Steve and Mark Morel. First person to find the medallion in the week-long search won a year’s worth of cultural experiences in the city, totaling nearly $9,000.
 

The theme for this year’s Emerald City Search was the 1962 World’s Fair held in Seattle, and the organizers of the puzzle hunt were tickled to discover Morel Industries had ties to the fair. The owner’s grandfather Leon Morel had cast several large bronze pieces for it, including a well-known fountain sculpture in front of the Intiman Theatre.
 
You can read more about the Emerald City Search hunt–which sounds like a blast for the Robert Langdon in you–here.
 
According to emeraldcitysearch.org, an engraver etched the art into machined blanks, which were used to create the molds. The end result is impressive.


Hollow Steering Knuckle Earns People’s Choice Votes

Metal Casting Design & Purchasing readers have cast their votes, and the first winner of the People’s Choice Casting Award goes to Compass Automotive Group, Fruitport, Mich., for its front steering knuckle.
 
The aluminum knuckle for the Tesla Model S sedan earned more than 2,300 votes in the inaugural contest. The part, produced in the vacuum riserless casting/pressure riserless casting process, is fully hollow and represents a 25% weight savings over a solid aluminum arm.
 
Congrats to Compass Automotive for producing our visitor’s favorite casting. The metalcaster also earned Best-In-Class recognition by our judges in the Metal Casting Design & Purchasing 2012 Casting Competition.
 
If you haven’t had a chance yet, mosey over to our gallery of all the great castings submitted in this year’s contest.


Metalcasting Industry Ready to Lead Again

At last week’s annual North American Metalcasting Congress, the mood was more than just optimistic. Folks were ready to become involved again or for the first time. For the last few years, metalcasters, like many of its end-users, have been keeping their heads down, casting to the grinding wheel, striving to make it past the last recession in one, solvent piece.

Last year, everyone caught their breath. This year, they are ready to start thinking long-term again.

Most of my discussions with attendees at the Metalcasting Congress in Columbus, Ohio, last week centered on businesses’ and individuals’ plans for more investment in methods to improve operations, more research and development of casting technology, more involvement in industry committees and organizations, more metrics and analysis applied to pricing and cost estimating, and more emphasis on safety and ergonomics.

It was refreshing to hear the renewed vigor in everyone’s voices now that the value of investing in the health of the industry is considered to be worth the time, effort and talent. I think it could be an indication of great metalcasting advancements coming on the horizon.  


These Shoes Weren't Made for Walkin'

British designer Tom Dixon designed shoes cast in aluminum with copper or black powder coating.

The shoes resemble a classic English style and are equipped with several fine details, including crease and wear lines. The collection may be available for production later this fall, but those details are not yet final, according to a fashion trends blog.

It’s a new spin on a classic design.  But, don’t expect to be walking around in freshly-cast shoes anytime soon—they would be terribly uncomfortable.

by: Jillian Knuerr, assistant editor


Cast in a Starring Roll

Metalcasting has very little to do with the movies, but their paths do cross from time to time on my desktop while Google searching “casting” news items. A search for “iron casting” will undoubtedly return an article about who’s starring in the next Iron Man movie. Our twitter account has a handful of followers who are hopeful actors looking for a breakthrough role.

Once or twice a year, however, a casting reference in the same sentence as “actors” truly points to the manufacturing process. Every February, a story pops up about the Oscar statuette cast at R.S. Owens, Chicago. Tonight, Chicago Tonight is even airing a segment about how the trophies are made. Some might say the foundry on the North Side is the most important casting agency in show business.

Another metalcasting/cinema marriage turned up this week. It seems this play on words has been turned into a play. “Centennial Casting,” written by Gino Dilorio and Nancy Bleemer, gives us the story of a metalcasting facility owner who often receives headshots from actors mistakenly believing his business is a casting agency. Smitten by one woman’s photo, the metalcaster holds a sham casting call to meet her. The play has been produced in various theaters since 2006. It’s now running through March 18 at the Seven Angels Theater for those of you in the Waterbury, Conn., area.

Perhaps you don’t give an acceptance speech every time you receive a shipment of castings, but this week, enjoy the notion you’re in good company with fellow casting end-users George Clooney, Viola Davis and Martin Scorsese.

--by Shannon Wetzel, digital managing editor


Metalcasting a Leader in Establishing Standards

When we talk about the metalcasting industry’s past, we’re talking millennia. It’s no wonder little-known aspects of this rich history are brought to our attention out of the blue from time to time.

And so it was when this nugget from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) came across my desk. Apparently, the metalcasting industry led the way in making materials safe for use on critical systems like the railways.

According to NIST’s Measures for Progress: A History of the National Bureau of Standards, “in 1905…the American Foundrymen’s Association turned over to the Bureau its work of preparing and distributing samples of standardized irons to its member industries.” This became the basis for the first-ever standard reference materials, “well-characterized, homogenous materials with specific physical and chemical properties.”

Such standards are still used today to ensure metalcasters and their customers agree on the products they exchange. For the most part, that means faulty parts like fractured cast iron wheels are history.

-Shea Gibbs, MCDP Managing Editor


Manufacturing Stars in Super Bowl Commercials

With manufacturing and jobs hot topics in the current elections, it was not surprising to see a healthy representation of American manufacturing in last night’s Super Bowl commercials.

General Electric aired two spots focusing on its appliances and energy-generation products and the people and facilities that make them. GE is a well-known casting customer—I’ve seen parts headed for its various applications on many a foundry visit.

Hyundai’s Rocky-themed commercial depicted an engineer struggling with a component design and encouraged by a chorus of Hyundai assembly plant workers, office peers and car salespeople. Was that a cast wheel I spotted in the engineer’s cubicle?

Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit ad featuring Clint Eastwood includes shots of large furnaces full of molten metal and assembly line workers building Chrysler vehicles. The automaker has made significant investments in its North American manufacturing plants as a whole in the last two years, including $27.2 million to its Etobicoke Casting Plant in Toronto and more than $300 million in its Kokomo, Ind., transmission plants, which includes a separate casting operation.

--by Shannon Wetzel, digital managing editor


Casting Buyers Sound Off

I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at a recent casting purchasing roundtable, and boy was it eye-opening. I knew metalcasters were passionate about castings, but these ladies and gentlemen have put as much thought into the metalcasting industry as anyone. Following is a look at a few things they had to say.

On industry capitalization:

  • “Most industries that were at 90% of capacity would be capitalizing like crazy.”
  • “With the recent industry growth, why are metalcasters not embarking on modernization?”
  • “I was recently in Brazil. They are recapitalizing and becoming competitive.”
  • “Metalcasters think, why capitalize for 5% ROI when the buyers are making several times that.”

On a lack of capacity:

  • “There isn’t a capacity problem if the relationships exist.”
  • “We don’t get responses to many of our requests for quote. The only way we can ensure we get the castings we need is if we have relationships already in place.”
  • “Many OEMs are forced to look outside the country because of a lack of capacity.”

On surcharges:

  • “Some metalcasters want to start surcharging for sand. You can’t surcharge everything that is variable. If you do, what’s the point of a base price?”

On foreign sourcing:

  • “Foundries need to think of new ways to add value, like vendor-managed inventory, to gain on their competition. This is the type of stuff that drives us back across the pond. “
  • “Most domestic sources have no appetite for taking control of the whole supply chain.”
  • “Tooling prices are increasing rapidly. Some metalcasters may need to move this in-house to become more competitive.”

—Shea Gibbs, Metal Casting Design & Purchasing Managing Editor


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