General Kinematics

Cores Aren’t the Be-All in Complex Engineering

It’s often the highly-cored castings that gain the most interest. The complex passageways they produce in a part are obvious signs of engineering ingenuity and showcase the shaping capability of the casting process. But a tour through Waukesha Foundry, a producer of castings in a myriad of sizes, processes and alloys, reminded us there is more to high value engineering than cores.

While Waukesha uses cores in many of its parts, its true engineering know-how is proven through matching innovative casting methods with specialty alloys for applications that require perfection—and the testing to prove it. The company offers four different casting processes—nobake, shell, Replicast, which is a kind of lost foam, and patternless molding, in which robots machine a casting’s pattern directly into the mold—and pours 200 different alloys.

Six metallurgical engineers are on staff. Their efforts to go after the hardest-to-make parts for industries with the highest standards have led to some fascinating jobs, from military to aerospace and petrochemical. Some of its castings’ end-uses seem to come straight out of science fiction. Waukesha has gone after these markets, knowing their standards are tough. That’s the niche it has carved for itself.

What value are you putting in your castings? It doesn’t have to be complex cores, specialty alloys, or niche casting methods. It may be prototyping, automation, process control, very little scrap, better casting yields, short lead times, off-shore partnering, and a number of other factors that sets your facility apart from the others. Make your customers look beyond the cores, or whatever else they have in their heads that signals high value engineering, and show them the value you can give them. 

 

 


Found Casting: Beer Geeks Like Castings, Too

You might not want to let your boss (or employees) catch you watching this video; it’s almost too silly to have anything to do with metalcasting. But that’s right, it’s another found casting.

New Belgium Brewing, producer of cult favorite Fat Tire Ale, has created a new aluminum tap handle, designed to resemble a bike rim, with the help of a local diecaster.

According to an article posted on beer watching website thefullpint.com, the tap handles were cast at Heritage Die Casting, Denver. The article even offers a few words from a spokesperson for the diecasting company:

“I think it’s neat to see this whole process taking place right here in Colorado for a Colorado company,” Heritage Die Casting's Gregg Bannick was quoted as saying. “I am incredibly proud of the final product. Creation of this bar handle involved some intricate work with pretty elaborate tools, but we wanted to make New Belgium’s vision a reality.”

Now enough of the silliness. You’ve got castings to make.


Eating Up a Piece of Spam

We received a piece of spam we enjoyed today. And no, it didn’t come out of a can and go well with eggs.

For a newsgathering organization like ours, “spam” refers not only to the variety of —ahem—enhancement products available to us at low, low prices, but also press releases with seemingly no connection to metalcasting that find their way to our inboxes. This type of spam isn’t necessarily from disreputable sources, but it doesn’t have direct bearing on the industry we cover.

Releases from the U.S. Small Business Administration often fall into this category. But a recent announcement of the administration’s caught our attention. “Small Businesses Are America’s Innovators,” read the headline, with a slightly more telling subhead: “Patents Per Employee Outstrip Those Of Larger Firms.”

Metalcasting facilities, by and large, are small businesses with 50 employees or less. This study called companies with fewer than 500 employees “small firms.” So, most metalcasters would find themselves in the group that is being lauded by this press release. To wit:

“Small firms obtain many more patents per employee than large firms… Small firm patents outperform large firm patents on a number of impact metrics including growth, citation impact, patent originality, and patent generality.”

What’s more, the smaller the firm is, the more patents per employee it churns out. Metalcasters would seem to be in this praiseworthy group again:

“Even within the small firm domain, companies with fewer than 25 employees will have a higher patent-to-employee ratio on average than firms with 50 employees, which will in turn have a higher patent-to-employee ratio than firms with 100 employees, and so on.”

But before we get ahead of ourselves, remember that spam can have a bad aftertaste. Let’s look at the breakdown of patents within the NAICS codes. The one under which metalcasting falls (331-Primary Metal) accounts for 0% of the patents within the manufacturing NAICS codes.

This is not to say that metalcasters aren’t innovators, but they are certainly not receiving many patents for their innovations. MODERN CASTING has been hammering this point recently, as well.

So check out the Small Business Administration’s inspiring report (cruise their interesting site while you’re at it), get out there and start receiving credit for your innovations.


Farrar Gets Good Press

A fellow metalcaster, Farrar Corp., Norwich, Kansas, was highlighted in a local newspaper Saturday. We always love to read positive articles like this one, which reiterates the notion that press can be a good thing. Hopefully your initial reaction to a phone call from a member of the media is not to ignore or decline to comment. The American Foundry Society gives some tips on how to handle media inquiries here.

From the article:

What started as a small blacksmith shop in a basement has become a multimillion-dollar ductile iron caster and machine shop and Norwich's largest employer.

And the family-owned Farrar Corp., which celebrated its 75th anniversary last month, shows no hints of despair - even in the midst of the current financial crunch.

"It's not just the fact that we're family-owned, that's not why it works," said Joe Farrar, the company president. "It is because of our dedication to customer service and meeting a need and filling that need. We are fulfilling a niche, and we do have a niche that no one else can do as well as we can."

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