Will Expansions Keep Coming?

Take a look at the top stories on our web page this week. Three new foundry expansions, a new casting facility launch and a major new casting program won. It’s a stark contrast to where this industry was two years ago, and our recent forecast indicates growth in the casting industry should continue through the next three years. The industry’s capacity shrank, but as manufacturing is seeing growth, much of that capacity must return.

Our editorial staff is working on a special purchasing issue for March/April in which we’ll try to answer questions about casting capacity, total landed cost, and selecting a casting source.

We want to hear from you. How is your casting supply? Are your suppliers increasing their capacity? Do you find yourself looking for untapped metalcasting facilities that will help facilitate your own company’s growth? 

The news is good today. What will it take to make it last?

America the Bacon




Yes, bacon.

As if America were not already beautiful enough, we can now use a set of cast-iron skillets to intensify that beauty with the bubbling grease of bacon or the colorful sizzle of a stir fry.

The skillet set, a replica of the 48 contiguous United States cleverly titled “Made in America,” was crafted by metal sculptor Alisa Toninato and took a year and a half to finish.  Toninato did most of the work herself, but the last 28 states were poured by Smith Foundry in Minneapolis so they would be ready for a showing at the 2011 ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich. 

The set is available for purchase, so save up and you could be starting the day with pancakes in California, snacking on hot dogs in Kansas and finishing off the day with steak in Texas.  America has never tasted so good.

Jillian Knuerr, Assistant Editor 

The Double-Edged Sword of Efficiency

By most reports, the metalcasting industry is bouncing back from the recession. Forecasts indicate an industry wide upswing is coming, and anecdotal evidence of facilities running full-out abound. So why do we keep opening the papers and hearing the economy is struggling? Why are millions of people still out of work and protesting in the streets about their situation?

Certainly, this is a difficult question with no single answer. But an article featuring Chicago White Metal Casting on NPR’s website offered at least one valuable insight: our efficiency has allowed us to satisfy the demands of our customers without rehiring some of the less specialized workers we’ve lost.

This is good news for Chicago White Metal Casting and many other small metalcasters across the nation. It is not so good news for workers who have made their living in the manufacturing sector all their lives. But while the situation may cost the country some manufacturing jobs in the short-term, the hope is that efficiency will increase our ability to compete on the global scale in the future.

Doing more with less may seem to be a double-edged sword, but we’ll put our faith in a lean, efficient metalcasting industry rehiring those unemployed workers over an inefficient one any day of the week.

-Shea Gibbs, MCDP Managing Editor

Keep Tabs With Twitter

Do you tweet? Or do you at least lurk on your Twitter feed, getting the latest updates on Tebow mania, CNN news, or your favorite musician’s concert dates? We’re not the first ones to announce this, but Twitter can be more than a guilty pleasure. It’s also way to touch base with your casting suppliers.

More metalcasters are on board the Twitter train than you might expect, including Bremen Castings (@bremencastings), Sivyer Steel (@SivyerSteel), and Waukesha Foundry (@waukeshafoundry), to name a few. Many news and industry organizations dealing specifically with metalcasting are on there, too, including Metal Casting Design & Purchasing magazine (@Metal_Castings), the American Foundry Society (@amerfoundrysoc),  Foundry-Planet.com (@foundryplanet), the North American Die Casting Assocation (@NADCAblog), and our own Al Spada (@SpadaLuvCasting).

If you’re on Twitter, let us know—we’ll follow you! If you’ve avoided Twitter, reconsider dipping in. Tell us about that major program you’ve just launched, the casting facility you’ve just toured, the supply issues you’re facing. Get breaking news and insider information on the casting industry that you would miss sticking to primary news outlets.  Share your experiences with other design engineers and casting buyers. 

When you’re stuck in an office, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a vacuum. Let Twitter be your wormhole to the rest of the world.

-Shannon Wetzel, Digital Managing Editor

Intern's Blog: A Final Reflection on Casting

Well ladies and gentlemen, all good things must come to an end, and this will be my last blog posting. My internship is ending, but I’ve enjoyed the time I have spent with Metal Casting Design & Purchasing learning about the metalcasting industry. I have learned the basics and seen first-hand how a foundry works. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but am glad I immersed myself into a subject I had no previous knowledge about: castings.

In my journey navigating this industry, I learned that metal castings are all around us. Touring a metalcasting facility was something I will never forget. Witnessing all the steps involved from concept to casting and seeing the glowing molten metal being poured into molds was like getting backstage passes for the castings arena and meeting the talented foundry “rock star” workers (I guess “metal stars” would be more appropriate). I also gained knowledge about everyday items I use in which castings play a significant role. I think people would be shocked that they are never more than 10 ft. from a casting, as I was at first. Castings are so close to us, helping us in our everyday lives.

I hope you have enjoyed my impressions on the metalcasting industry and have been reminded of when you were a newbie, when there was so much to take in but you were gratified by learning along the way.  I may not be a metalcasting expert quite yet, but I still have a lot of casting knowledge under my belt.

My favorite experience throughout this venture was learning how metal castings can be molded into almost anything. The possibilities are endless, ranging from a functioning part in a car engine to a beautiful work of art. This reminds me of how anything is possible, with just a few modifications. 

Intern’s Blog—Thankful for Castings

Without metalcasting, the world would not be where it is today. Don’t believe me? Check out this timeline of casting development from our archives. And in the spirit of giving thanks, I’d like to take a moment to share some of the things from the metalcasting world I’m thankful for.

  1. The oldest casting in existence, a frog made in 3200 B.C. Cute is not a word heard often in the metalcasting industry, but I think the frog is a cute reminder of the simplistic artful beauty of castings.
  2. The first movable cast lead type for printing presses created in the 1400s, which changed communication around the world.
  3. Manually operated diecasting machines patented in 1849 to supply rapid cast lead type for newspapers. This equipment revolutionized the way information was presented to people, making print accessible so the public could learn and educate themselves.
  4. The involvement of our founding fathers in the metalcasting industry. In 1750, the English parliament prohibited refining pig iron and casting iron in the colonies. This ban contributed to the American Revolution. The foundrymen were forbidden to do their job and would not back down from British tyrants. So in 1776, of the 56 men that signed the Declaration of Independence, seven (Charles Carroll, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Philip Livingston and Stephen Hopkins) were foundrymen. These men signed their names for a cause they believed in, even though it endangered their lives.
  5. The efforts of Orville and Wilbur Wright engineering the first successful airplane with the help of a 152-lb. cast aluminum crankcase. The casting was a vital part of the airplane, and from this first model the creation of the modern airplane was possible.
  6. Metalcasting workers who strive to make quality castings. For centuries, they have been doing what they do best and working hard to develop their industry. Their work, ideas and technological advancements will continue to enhance the world we live in.

I hope this timeline reminds you to give thanks to the castings that helped modernize our society.

Recognizing Casting’s Passion

Manufacturing is definitely seeing a sense of revival in the mainstream media and pop culture.  From television shows like Made in America and How Its Made to consumer advertising for automobiles (Toyota) and golf clubs (Ping), a resurgence in the love for manufacturing is happening.

Another example surfaced with Sailor Jerry Spice Rum, which produced a series of digital short videos called Hold Fast in which it is profiling “craftsmen of different stripes, to celebrate and honor the people keeping alive the spirit of authenticity and devotion to craft that Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins made famous with his pioneering tattoo work.”

The Hold Fast videos made their debut on November 21 by profiling the first five craftsmen, including Paige Tooker, owner of New York Art Foundry.  This copper-based investment casting shop is one of only a handful of metalcasters in New York City. The video interviews Tooker and gives you a glimpse into her craft. Take a look at the videos at http://sailorjerry.com/Social/

Sailor Jerry says more videos will be released on a weekly basis, with each one giving a unique insight into the philosophies and creative processes behind some of today’s most well-regarded and original artisans. Let’s applaud the rum manufacturer for seeing the art of metalcasting and the passion of metalcasters.

Metalcasting Vs. Urban Sprawl

Residences and industry don’t mix. So as housing sectors continue to spread outward from city centers and cover vast tracts of once prime industrial land, manufacturers can fall victim.

But we think metalcasting can take on urban sprawl with the best of them.

The question is this: when residential zoning surrounds a metalcasting facility, will the company be nimble enough to respond? Will it be able to eliminate odors? Lower noise volumes? Find ways to expand capacity without encroaching on land earmarked for other purposes?

We think Smith Foundry, Minneapolis, is nimble enough.

In a recent article in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, Smith Foundry owner Neil Ahlstrom talks about some of the challenges his ferrous job shop has faced when trying to grow through new zoning restrictions. To overcome one of the challenges, the company has had to engineer an alternative sand system. For another, it is looking into noise and vibration mitigation strategies.

We’d put up an 88-year-old metalcasting facility against urban sprawl any day.

Ferrari is Backing Aluminum

An article from Popular Mechanics today highlights Ferrari’s commitment to increasing the aluminum content of its vehicles for weight reduction while other luxury and performance car makers are leaning toward carbon fibers. 

According to the article, Ferrari sees aluminum as better suited for production and is taking advantage of improvements in casting technologies to achieve walls as thin as 2 mm. The use of metal matrix composites also will help reduce car weight.

The article reminded us of an aluminum engine cradle for the Cadillac CTS that was converted from steel which achieved a 40% mass reduction and 2.2 lb. weight savings.

Aluminum’s been in manufacturing for more than 150 years, but Ferrari’s experience shows it’s still cutting edge.

Intern’s Blog—Giftwrapped Castings

After seeing my first metalcasting facility, touring a diecasting plant was next up on my journey through the metalcasting industry. I had the opportunity to visit Chicago White Metal Castings Inc., Bensenville, Ill. This particular diecasting plant is in its third-generation of family-run operations dating back to 1937. It specializes in aluminum, magnesium and zinc die castings.

The foundry is a one- stop, full service shop. It makes castings, finish-machines them and incorporates them into complete assemblies before wrapping them up in nice little packages to send straight to the consumers. To me, the plant itself was a nice little package: everything was done right there inside the building. No need to travel around town, it’s all there in one location to fulfill all your die casting needs. It was a fast and efficient process that was cool to see first-hand.
It felt as if the shop transformed the finished die castings into presents for its buyers. The packaging and shipping department assembled the finished castings and sent them out like gifts—gifts that quietly make the world go round. The company’s employees were working hard to cover all the aspects of producing a die casting as part of their normal day’s work, but sadly, tying the parts with a nice bow was left out.

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