General Kinematics

Paradigm Shift Ahead for AFS Online Library

American Foundry Society’s Online Library is an amazing repository of past research. In this treasure chest are more than a century of research and development made by metalcasters for the metalcasting industry, with some research articles dating back to 1896. The library contains publications such as: AFS Transactions, International Journal of Metalcasting, Modern Casting, MetalCasting Design & Purchasing, AFS conference proceedings, industry-wide trade journals and various technical publications. The collection is also being constantly curated and updated by our staff librarian. Our library currently boasts more than 14,000 digitalized articles, making it the largest specialized metalcasting library in the world.

The online library was first launched in 2008, allowing visitors to search and purchase individual articles for download. It persisted in its original form for many years. However, technology does not stand still, and the foundations the online library is built upon are outdated. To give you some context, the original Apple iPhone was first released just six months prior to the online library being launched. In 2008, mobile was not a factor, unlike now where mobile is a primary consideration when building a web presence. 

AFS is in its third year of information technology renovations. We have modernized our membership database and staff work stations, launched the social forum CastingConnection, and rebuilt the corporate network infrastructure. It is now time we re-envision the AFS Online Library.  The AFS Library is moving from its current home to a dedicated library management platform. This is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, meaning AFS pays a modest fee for its very own instance of the library platform. This platform is continually updated and improved by our partner as technologies evolve. 

AFS IT Project Manager Katie Matticks led an exhaustive search of dozens of library system platforms.  The platform we have selected for our re-envisioned library is the Liberty System by Softlink. Softlink specializes in knowledge, content, and library management systems, as well as request management systems for special, education, government and corporate information libraries. Some of its clients include the World Wildlife Federation, American Academy of Family Physicians and The Appraisal Institute. Its Liberty platform enables vital information to be discovered and delivered anywhere, anytime, through modern digital devices. Liberty combines advanced functionality with ease of use. 

Some of the new features and functionality you will see when the new library is launched are:
Responsive design: The new library system is being designed to dynamically scale and change its user interface depending on the size of your device’s screen. This will give the you a great experience whether you are on a desktop or mobile device.
Faceted search: Faceted search is a way to add specific, relevant options to your results pages, so that when you search for an article, it can see the classification of the articles you’ve ended up with. This is very similar to your experience when shopping on Amazon. This can help you expand what you’re looking for to include other related topics
Library navigation: For the first time ever, the AFS Library will have a true navigation setup. We are building this navigation on an in-house metalcasting industry taxonomy.
Predictive text searching: Predictive text searching will display possible search terms in real-time as you type, just like Google.
Catalog of physical resources: The online library will also include a catalog of our physical collection of industry-wide trade journals and technical publications, which is currently located at AFS Headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois.

That is not all! The AFS online library has been hampered by a complex pricing model that has limited its usefulness to members and required many technological work-arounds to implement. These work-arounds degraded the user experience. The most exciting news about the vision for the library is that it will now be a true member benefit. That means that American Foundry Society’s vast online archives will be accessible to AFS members, both individual and corporate. This is a significate value add to membership. If you are an AFS member or work for an AFS Corporate Member look for the library to appear as an option on your community hub profile after logging into AFS.

Look for the new and improved AFS Library coming to your membership later this winter.  


Conversions, Reshoring and Public Policy

About 10 years ago, while I was serving as the CEO of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce in Nevada, I met a local activist who had a long list of civic complaints, all of which he attributed to what he saw as the evils of economic growth.

I ran into that same activist at an event a couple of years later, in the midst of the recession. Unemployment was surging. Local businesses were closing. Neighborhoods were racked by foreclosures. I couldn’t help but ask him how he liked the absence of growth.

Economic growth is vital. One of the key roles of AFS is encouraging growth in the $30.3 billion metalcasting industry. When we released the annual Metalcasting Forecast & Trends last winter, we projected 3% growth in our industry in 2017. That projection looks to be on target so far. More foundries are busy, and many are aggressively hiring more workers. While not every foundry is as busy as it would like to be, the uptick over 2016 has been good news for much of our industry.

Growth is important because in a flat market, a foundry can only expand its book of business by taking customers from other foundries (often by offering lower pricing) or by picking up business in the unfortunate case of a foundry closing. Conversely, when the demand for castings is growing, there are more opportunities.

Three of the best ways to encourage growth of the casting business are conversions, reshoring and public policy.

Throughout the year, Modern Casting highlights stories where complex assembled parts have been converted to castings, for an example, see the article in this issue on page 26. Often, our Casting of the Year award honors go to conversions. The economic benefit of conversions is that they are new revenue to the foundry doing the work, and to the casting industry. 

A second way to expand the market is through reshoring. Modern Casting recently ran a cover story about Osco Industries in Portsmouth, Ohio, which is among the foundries that has experienced reshoring success. AFS hosted Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, at the 2017 Metalcasting Congress to further encourage this trend.

The third factor affecting growth is public policy. When policymakers allocate more funding for vital infrastructure programs, more castings are sold. Vigorous enforcement of trade policies can protect against foreign subsidies and dumping, which also is good for domestic production. Conversely, ill-advised tax policies and overly restrictive regulations tend to choke off investment in new plants and equipment, which restricts the demand for castings. AFS advocates aggressively for public policies conducive to a strong metalcasting market. Corporate membership dues are pivotal in making these efforts possible.

So the next time you see or hear AFS communicating about conversions, reshoring or public policy objectives, remember what we are really doing is advocating the growth of the metalcasting industry.    

Click here to see this story as it appears in the October 2017 issue of Modern Casting


#ASKGARYVEE Is One Massive Right Hook

The Internet is packed with rubbish, as every web user knows. It’s also a cornucopia of opportunity for anyone willing to do what’s necessary to succeed.

Gary Vaynerchuk saw this opportunity early in the life of the internet, and turned a $3 million brick-and-mortar wine business into a $60 million enterprise by using his internet marketing wizardry. 

His 2016 book, #ASKGARYVEE: One Entrepreneur’s take on Leadership, Social Media & Self-Awareness is at first a bit confusing, then mesmerizing. It’s about marketing, entrepreneurship, sales, and more. In Gary Vee’s career, it’s all in one raging torrent. 

The book is a brilliant piece of entertaining opportunism, covering any issue Gary Vee has discussed with his audience: How to become a leading digital marketer and entrepreneur, how much he respects his mom and dad and loves his wife and children, and his great desire to buy the New York Jets.

#ASKGARYVEE shows engaging genius on all fronts. Gary Vee is a long-time proponent and user of internet video broadcasting. For years he has given advice and guidance to those willing to stick their necks out and ask questions on his YouTube channel. #ASKGARYVEE is simply an edited transcript of those programs, organized into catechetical chapters with questions from the audience and answers from Gary Vee.

It’s a bestseller. The answers are often brilliant and almost guaranteed to entertain. Considering how the text was generated, it’s obviously opportunistic.

I bet every marketer and entrepreneur who reads #ASKGARYVEE will think “I wish I’d thought of that.” More to the point, how many would have the chutzpah to carry it off? One caveat, however. If you search for his videos online, be prepared for sailor talk. Gary Vee, CEO of VaynerMedia.com, can be very pungent. Search for his newest material on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AskGaryVee/, as he now prefers that platform. 

Where does he get his immense drive? He’s been driven since he started his baseball card business as a teenager and made thousands. He keeps proving he can out-hustle and out-produce the competition. 

The Vaynerchuks immigrated from the old U.S.S.R. (Belarus) in 1978 when Gary Vee was three. At age 42 he has four New York Times bestsellers to his name, and his net worth might be $160 million or even more. When he says stop making excuses and do the hard work required to achieve, we might want to listen.

He grew up like lots of other kids in New Jersey. He’s a first-generation success story. But he will tell you to your face: If you think the main reason for success is being an immigrant, you just don’t get it. Sacrifice and hard work get it. Gary Vee existed on an annual income of $30,000 or less for five years to build a wine business.

He is an advocate for the tried and true value of deferred gratification. He even says, “we’ve become too entitled.” Amen, brother.

Along with advocating passion and hustle, Gary Vee sounds like your friendly office drill instructor when he gets going on execution. “Execute” is a word that rockets off the page like a Nolan Ryan fastball. That’s because he is committed to “clouds and dirt.”

Clouds are “high-end philosophy and beliefs that are at the heart of everything … they are the huge picture, the everything. They are not goals.” Clouds are what you believe, your deepest values, your world view.

The dirt is the details of executing, not just getting into the weeds but digging under the weeds to become the best practitioner you can be. Between clouds and dirt there is the murky area where you aren’t truly committed to belief or execution.

Gary Vee says push on both edges – up to the clouds and down in the dirt - because the “middle sucks.”

If you really want to succeed in marketing, as an entrepreneur, in a startup or in sales, you must learn to H-U-S-T-L-E. As Gary Vee says, “Put down Clash of Clans. Binge-watch Game of Thrones or Walking Dead next year. And get to work.”

To hustle, he says “pounce on every opportunity … wake up before everybody else and work into the night … hustle until there’s not a single drop of juice left.”

Sounds exhausting, but Gary Vee explains how you can do it too, if you’re truly committed.

One of my favorite quotes from this book is “I promise you Goliath will never work as hard as you.” As the man says, get to work.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the October 2017 issue of Modern Casting


Patent Protection Pointers

Product development is difficult enough, whether it is a new invention from the proverbial drawing board or is a modification of an existing product.  One of the key issues facing corporations today is how to best protect developments for new machines, products, foundry processes, etc.  Additionally, there are times that the “when” question is just as important as the “how,” because obtaining patent protection includes a number of statutory deadlines.

As noted in this column several months ago, patent protection is essentially a grant of a right to exclude others from practicing an invention in exchange for providing a full disclosure of how to practice the invention.  In almost all cases, patent protection extends 20 years from the original filing date.  In other cases, the inventor or business can use trade secrets in search of longer lasting, perhaps perpetual, protection for the invention.

Two types of patent applications that are most used in the foundry world are “non-provisional patent applications” and “provisional patent applications.”  The non-provisional patent application provides a full disclosure of an invention, includes claims that define the invention, and can eventually lead to a patent after claims are found allowable during examination by a patent examiner.  In contrast, provisional patents do not require claims, are never examined, and are often used to hold a date of application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The differences here are significant, as the America Invents Act of 2011 changed the U.S. patent system from a “first to invent” system to a “first inventor to file” system.  As such, many businesses and inventors prefer to file a provisional patent application with a brief disclosure in order to more quickly plant a flag in Washington D.C. to obtain an earlier filing date, thereby gaining superior rights to others who later file applications for the same or similar inventions.  Subsequent filing of non-provisional patent applications within one calendar year claim priority to the provisional patent application to maintain the filing date claim.

While this system change has the good intention of simplifying the previous system of determining who was the first to invent a particular molding machine component or casting process, patenting decisions are now accelerated along with the research and development decisions and commitments.

This timeline acceleration can bring foundry operations into a legal minefield of confidentiality and disclosure rules. Keep in mind that in both the new and old patent systems, there is a twelve-month window after disclosure for the applicant to file the patent application at the USPTO.  After the 12-month grace period, American patent rights are extinguished. Perhaps more problematic is the fact that most foreign countries require that there be no previous disclosure prior to filing a patent application. As a result, even an errant disclosure on social media or at a trade show by an eager and well-intentioned employee can sink hopes of foreign patent protection.

With these pitfalls, it is important to remember that protection of your inventions is not all that difficult to put into place.  Here is one example of how a foundry operation can provide better protection for its inventions:

First, have every applicable employee in the company sign an appropriate confidentiality agreement, a non-compete agreement, and an assignment of “inventor’s rights” to the foundry, so there will be no questions in the future as to invention ownership and confidentiality.

Second, if vendors are involved in the development project, it is best to have an agreement between the two parties to define both confidentiality and non-disclosure.  The agreement should also make the vendors specifically acknowledge and agree that every part of their contribution to the project is assigned to you (the foundry or the foundry supplier), along with any present and future patent rights.  These agreements should include not only the products and inventions being developed, but also any follow-on products and inventions that might be future offspring of the project.

Third, any “field testing” programs are designed and implemented with trusted customers who also agree in writing to confidentiality. Results of the field testing must be used to judge the product in question.

Finally, if there is not a way to develop and test a product without a public disclosure, you have exactly 12 months from the disclosure date; therefore, make sure your patent lawyers are involved as early in the project as possible.  This will help ensure that when the product gains commercial viability, a solid patent application is already in the works. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the October 2017 issue of Modern Casting


The Melting Triangle

In our industry, we all work on continuous improvement. Production supervisors worry about melt rate or throughput. How can we push more pounds through our current furnaces? Energy managers worry about energy efficiency. How can we reduce energy use? Metallurgists worry about melt loss. Oxidized metal is an immense loss that requires more metal to be melted and increases handling of the dross or slag.

This column is on energy; however, we need to understand that these properties are all related. The three points of melt rate, energy efficiency, and melt loss form a triangle. Cost improvements in one property can be negated by cost increases based on the other properties. The goal when making a change is to optimize the system, not just a single property.

The following are some examples of this relationship within the aluminum industry:
•    Burners aimed directly at the metal increase the melt rate. Energy efficiency also can improve. However, melt loss is normally worse with flame impingement. Some flame contact can be handled by large charged material, such as sows. Yet, flame contact is bad for light and large scrap as it reaches molten temperatures. Remember, flame temperatures can be 2,500-3,000F (1,370–1,650C). These high flame temperatures increase the melt rate but also increase the oxidation rate. The high flame velocity can shift and move light scrap to the point of fully oxidizing the metal within the combustion gases.
•    High fire rates can increase melt rate. After a point, the extra heat is not absorbed by the metal and instead escapes up the flue. Energy efficiency is worse as the flame rate increases without a corresponding increase in melt rate. Melt loss may get worse as the metal temperature increases.
•    Oxygen burners are known to increase melt rate with higher flame temperatures. Energy efficiency is greatly improved since the nitrogen in air isn’t heated along with the oxygen. Yet, these higher flame temperatures can increase melt loss. Some oxygen burners are designed to keep a rich atmosphere near the metal surface to reduce oxidation.
•    Slow melt rates may improve melt loss with cooler furnace temperatures. Or, slow melt rates mean a longer period for the metal to oxidize. Energy efficiency may or may not improve. The change needs to be tested and analyzed.
•    Aluminum has been used as a fuel. For instance, some metalcasters purposely encourage thermiting to provide heat in dross to melt the free aluminum and allow it to drain. Don’t do it. Given current LME costs, the cost of aluminum as fuel is $56 per MMBtu. This is expensive “fuel” compared to natural gas at $4 per MMBtu.

Some changes can help the three properties of the melting triangle:
•   Proper air-fuel ratios improve melt rate, energy efficiency, and melt loss. Either regular maintenance of the air-fuel ratio, better controls such as mass-flow with pressure and temperature compensations, or flue gas sensors can optimize the system for all three properties.
•   Negative furnace pressure means cold ambient air is pulled into the furnace. This reduces energy efficiency because the cold air can cool charged metal, add excessive O2 to the mixture, or even short-circuit the combustion process. All of this can decrease the melt rate. The extra O2 in the furnace increases oxidation. Improving the furnace pressure system will improve the entire system.
•   Reducing hold time may not improve melt rate but it improves throughput. Optimizing non-melt times, such as the door open time, chemistry checks, and maintenance time, or increasing casting rates can all increase throughput. At the same time, the reduced dead time means less energy is used and there is less time for the metal to oxidize.

When you make a change to improve one property, you need to understand how the other properties are affected. More throughput doesn’t help if energy efficiency or melt loss is worse. A more energy efficient furnace may be more expensive to operate if throughput or melt loss is worse. The total cost per pound is critical. Run strictly controlled tests measuring all of these properties before formalizing any change. This means the charge pounds need to be weighed. Energy use must be measured. If possible, measure both pounds out and dross. If you can’t run controlled tests, at least monitor these three properties over a time period such as a day, week, or month.

What is the moral of the story? When you plan a furnace or process change, you need to consider all three properties of melt rate, energy, and melt loss (the melting triangle) to produce the lowest cost material.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the October 2017 issue of Modern Casting

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