General Kinematics

Keep Those Home Fires Burning

Metalcaster

backyardmetalcasting.com

Here’s an entertaining website for those who love metalcasting and just don’t get enough of it at work: backyardmetalcasting.com

DIY hobbyists can try small-scale casting techniques in their own backyards (and at their own risk).  Some of the casting equipment projects featured include flowerpot and coffee can furnaces, a mini iron melting cupola, homemade refractories and aluminum flask building. 

Have fun and don’t forget to wear your safety gear!


Collaboration Isn’t Just for Customers

Blog photo 11.20.12

Our editorials and blogs often preach about the need for casting customers to reach out to their metalcasting suppliers to establish a partnership in which both parties can benefit from design and engineering collaboration. Some of the onus for collaboration must fall on the casting supplier, as well.

In the last couple of months, I’ve spoken at length with three end-users from three different industries on real casting projects that were made possible and/or profitable thanks to collaboration with their casting supplier. Two of these instances were casting conversions, and two were unique rapid tooling developments. (One was both). The customers’ approach to these projects is commendable, from the initial creative spark to try out something new and unfamiliar, to the patient development work conducted between metalcasting supplier and customer.

On the flip side, the metalcasters involved in each project were up to the challenge of trying out something new. Many casting suppliers may be satisfied with accepting a finished design and supplying it in the same proven casting method, even if it means higher scrap rates and longer lead times. However, for those who wish to stand out from the group, a niche of casting customers looking for supplier partnerships exists.

In my conversations with the end-users, it was evident the collaboration was mutually beneficial. The customers ended up with casting designs that were less expensive, involved fewer parts, and had lower lead times—all of which gave them an edge over their competition. The metalcasting suppliers cut their own internal defect and machining costs, lowered their lead times, and gained more business and trust from their customers.

As much as we talk about casting end-users needing to be open to input from the metalcasting supplier, when they do approach you for collaboration, will you as metalcasters be ready, willing and able?


Sparking Creation Through Castings

Continuing Education/Training, Metalcaster

In an industry that is constantly conscious of its reputation, it’s nice to see when events in metalcasting appear in national, large-scale news outlets. Even nicer when the event involves the younger generation sparking interest as future casters. The icing on the cake: an AFS Chapter picking up on that spark and working to keep it going.

Recently, Calera High School Engineering Academy pre-engineering teacher Brian Copes was chosen by PEOPLE Magazine as one of five teachers of the year, for the spark he’s ignited among his students. In the classroom, Copes inspires his students to create. Under his direction, they created prosthetic legs from used car parts and even traveled to Honduras to fit amputees with the legs. Another trip is in the works for this summer. Check out PEOPLE Magazine’s article and video on Brian Copes! (begins at 3:24).

The AFS Birmingham Chapter also recently donated a metalcasting kit (Foundry-in-a-Box) to Calera High School, providing students with everything from safety equipment and melting units to crucibles and patterns. Working with local metalcasting facilities, these students have already designed and produced their own castings. With their Foundry-in-a-Box, students can work through each part of the metalcasting process in the comfort of their own classroom.

A big pat on the back to Brian Copes and the AFS Birmingham Chapter for rising above and helping to mold the future generation of metalcasters.



Aces for Missouri S&T

Casting Buyer, Metalcaster, Supplier to Metalcasters

The Metallurgical Lab at Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, Mo., is staffed with qualified, knowledgeable Missouri S&T graduate students as trainers and mentors.  They ensure safe, continued operation of the lab facility, which enhances the hands-on education of those pursuing degrees in Metallurgical Engineering.  

The St. Louis Chapter of the American Foundry Society recently donated $10,000 to the Robert Wolf Foundry Account at Missouri S&T, to support the lab’s continued staffing and operation.  The funds were raised through private donations and supplements from the AFS treasury.  In addition, AFS member organizations contributed by sponsoring holes at the First Annual AFS/Rolla Alumni Golf Tournament held June 1.

“The St. Louis AFS Chapter is pleased to make this contribution to ensure the future talent of our industry personnel, and looks forward to future opportunities to support the endeavors of Missouri University of Science & Technology,” said Tom Rhoads, chairman.

The chapter presented the donation at a joint meeting with Missouri S&T on September 20.  Pictured (l. to r.):  Doug Imrie, Southern Cast; Von Richards, Missouri S&T; Tom Rhoads, American Railcar; Barry Craig, MetalTek; Bill Howells, St. Louis AFS board member.


Made in Bodine

Metalcaster

2012 Toyota Camry

Reading St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s article on Bodine Aluminum’s 100th anniversary reminded me of my visit to the aluminum casting facility in Troy, Mo., a few years ago.

Like the story highlights, one of the biggest impressions the plant left me with was its open, organized and informed culture on the shop floor. The place was clean and uncluttered. Plant statistics and performance charts were prominently displayed and updated.  It was my first real look at a true, lean metalcasting facility, thanks largely to its connection with Toyota. And I was impressed.

The visit also drove home a point many consumers still miss. Toyota is a Japanese company, but many of its cars on the road in the U.S. were produced domestically. Cars.com’s list of the 10 most America-made cars includes three Toyota models (the Camry, Sienna, and Tundra) and two Honda models (the Accord and Pilot), along with the Ford F-150, Chevy Traverse, Jeep Liberty, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

While the argument can be made that foreign-based companies should lose a few “made-in-America” points since their headquarters and many R&D establishments are not based in the U.S., many of the manufacturing and casting jobs are based here and that puts a lot of Americans to work.


Cast Iron Adds a Touch of Class

Metalcaster

iron fence public domain picThe Chicago Transit Authority is in the process of renovating many of its subway and elevated train stations.  In some cases, the improvements are long overdue and those of us locals who have to adjust our travel plans accordingly are only too happy to do so.  

This week, the CTA announced plans to renovate the 70-year-old Clark/Division stop on the city’s north side.  The Chicago Tribune reported that subway station hasn’t undergone a major renovation since it opened. Perhaps it suffices to say the $50.6 million estimate sounds about right.

Among the many updates the CTA plans for its sixteenth-busiest rail stop are cast iron street-level entrances, which will be a significant improvement in terms of both practicality and aesthetics.  The present entrances are (is it just me?) perpetually slippery clay-tile stairways lined with tubular railings coated in thick, flaking red paint.   

The entire renovation will take until mid-2015, and it promises to be well worth the wait.  


That Must Be One Big Cup of Coffee

Metalcaster

spoon sculptureThe “Viseum” in Wetzlar, Germany, is featuring a 7.5-ft. cast bronze, nickel-plated spoon—the largest utensil manufacturer WMF has ever produced. The sculpture is designed to highlight the reflections and optical distortions of looking into a polished bowl of a spoon.printed model

The CAD data of the original spoon was adjusted to the required size on the computer. This data was then transferred to a voxeljet VX1000 printer, which produced a plastic model of the bowl of the spoon using a layer building method. The printer produced the entire model in approximately 10 hours, from thousands of 0.00591-inch (0.15 mm) layers that were selectively glued together with a binder. The large build space of the machine made it possible to print the bowl in one piece at 33.5 x 16.4 x 7.5 inches (850 x 416 x 192 millimeters).spoon sand mold

The unpacking process, during which excess material is removed from the model, was followed by a stiffening process using artificial resin and subsequent finishing. This method did away with the construction of a negative mold, resulting in significant cost and time savings. The printed PMMA model was used to quickly generate a sand mold that was cast in bronze.

“Not least due to 3D print technology, this project was completed quickly and without any problems,” said Gerd Greiner, manager of the WMF model building studio in Geislingen, Germany.
bronze spoon polishing


A Casting Getaway

On a much-needed getaway weekend, I embarked on my first camping trip. After a couple of days “roughing it” in the woods (ok, it was a campsite), we decided to head to the neighboring town of Galena, Ill., for what I felt was a much needed check back into the real world.

To my surprise, upon exiting the visitor’s center, a sign stood before me, announcing a Grey Iron Foundry. Yes, I was a little excited, thinking I would walk right in, announce I work for AFS and tour the metalcasting facility. But I quickly realized that might be a bit of a bold approach. Also, they were closed for Saturday. I was a little disappointed.

As I walked around Galena, I found my mind was tuned in to every casting I could spot—from old, antique cast-iron stoves for sale at antique shops to the sewer gates, announcing themselves at each street corner. It’s true—castings are all around us. Oddly enough, a year ago this time, I would not have given it a second thought, let alone understand the word ‘metal casting.’

Metalcasters have a great opportunity to share with family, friends, neighbors—anyone—the age old business of casting.  


Cupolas, Crucibles and Communication

Metalcaster, Supplier to Metalcasters

AFS offers a wealth of training resources on this more than 5,000-year-old industry, its various techniques and their applications.  As new methods are created in any industry, best practices develop through an ongoing engineering process that often involves trial and error.  


Reporting and writing about metalcasting affords those of us on the journalistic side an opportunity to watch these developments take place. Our role is to gather and share your stories, providing a forum for continuous learning and the presentation of new ideas.  


According to “The Process of Metalcasting,”a video available from AFS, “In all methods, the key to quality metalcasting is a direct line of communication between the part manufacturer, the design engineer, the pattern maker and the foundry.”


The same can be said for the quality of content we run in MODERN CASTING. I’ve spoken with a few of you in this, my first week with the AFS, and I look forward to talking to more of you in the coming weeks and months. The line of communication is open, so please feel free to contact me anytime.  

dkapel@afsinc.org


Hello, metalcasters

Metalcaster, Supplier to Metalcasters

I’m getting started this week as senior editor for the American Foundry Society’s publications. My background is in manufacturing business magazines, covering a wide variety of industries. Most recently, I worked for a national publication serving commercial printers. That experience took me to a couple of metalcasting facilities in Germany, which cast the press iron for machinery used to print magazines such as MODERN CASTING.

It’s a fascinating process, and I’m looking forward to meeting many of you and learning more about the industry. If you’d like to reach me, I am available at dkapel@afsinc.org.

See you on the casting beat—Denise Kapel


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