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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


Not Losing Steam

Steam Tractor

Over the weekend, our family attended a local threshing bee and steam show. Basically, it was a small fair of antique agricultural equipment and steam-powered machinery, many of which were in operation. We watched in awe as steam-powered shovels, tractors, threshers, saw mills, and flour mills puffed away. As my husband took in one of the largest pieces of equipment—a giant Corliss steam engine, he turned to me and without sarcasm said, “Shannon, there’s a lot of castings in here!”

I’m often pointing out castings in everyday use to friends and family, resulting in many eye rolls, but it’s starting to rub off. To the lay person, castings don’t seem that exciting at first. But then you start to notice them everywhere, and the applications they are used in turn out to be fascinating. Throw in a bit of historical perspective—steam power has waxed and waned but the casting process has been around for centuries and continues to be a major building block of our world—and an appreciation for metalcasting is born.

Even though we were looking at antique machinery, the castings we saw made me think toward the future of this industry. In one hundred years, a rural antique tractor club might be holding a fair of equipment circa 2010. Like the steam-powered tractors I saw last weekend, the “antique” tractors a century from now will still feature a signicant amount of castings. In 2112, tractors may run on something other than diesel power. Maybe the internal combustion engine will have been replaced by then. The parts will have changed, and maybe the alloys will have evolved. But I’d bet my house the hard-working machines will have castings.   


The Wooing of Manufacturers

Metalcaster, Supplier to Metalcasters

podium
Metalcasters, are you feeling popular these days? As political candidates drum up funds for the big push for votes this fall, much of their attention is turned on the manufacturing industry and its job-making prospects. President Obama and presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney, as well as candidates running for Congress, have been making the rounds through major manufacturing hubs to spread their message. They want to convince you their platform will best meet your needs, but they want to listen to your thoughts, too. Following are five ideas to use this election season as a chance to spread your own platform.

1. Write your Congress candidates, no matter whether you plan to vote for them, and explain what policies would enable your company to create more jobs. Invite them to tour your plant.
2. Write or email your newspaper.
3. Produce a short, simple video of your business operations with commentary on how the health of your company affects the health of the economy.
4. Attend fundraising events.
5. Get tweeting. Many candidates are on twitter. A smart tweet from you on a pertinent election topic could be retweeted to thousands of followers.

What Do You Think?

Seven short months ago, I accepted my position as assistant editor for MODERN CASTING Magazine and was introduced to the world of metalcasting.
 
I have my degree in journalism to thank, but I could not hide that I was coming from the field of cosmetics to one of molding, coring, designing, gating, melting and pouring. And, I was overwhelmed.
 
As it turns out, I have family ties to metalcasting. While the majority of my family work is in manufacturing, hands-on-type jobs, I was surprised to learn that my uncle is a metalcaster. So, as I prepared to dive in to a new field and culture, I knew I was well supported and had a tiny bit of background to work with.
 
During these seven months I have made every attempt to pay close attention and learn when opportunities are presented—visiting metalcasting facilities, doing research, taking a stab at feature articles and being the voice of our various social media outlets.
 
Most recently, I had the opportunity to re-design our digital and print newsletters and assist in fine tuning our new website. The old newsletters represented a copy and paste, regurgitation of the news and information already posted in various areas of our website. With the new designs, our staff wondered: “What do our readers want to see and what is interesting to include?”
 
Sure, we can tally website visitors, total clicked-on items and track visit lengths, but at the end of the day, those results are just numbers. And, the questions still exist. What do you, our readers, visitors and members want to see and read? What catches your interest? What do you think?
 
The new website represents many months of work, staring at computer screens, clicking on links and redirecting them. The newsletters follow suit, requiring representation of our new, comprehensive site in one tiny email. But our objective remains the same—we are the metalcasting trade publication committed to supporting the metalcasters and suppliers with all of the news, information and stuff that interests you.


Dear Metalcasting Industry

Dear Metalcasting Industry,
I’ve had a nice time getting to know you over the past six and a half years.

When I first walked into the offices of the American Foundry Society in February 2006, I didn’t know slag from silica or cores from copes. What a long way we’ve come, you and I.

Today is my last day as managing editor of MODERN CASTING magazine. While my work with you feels anything but done, my wife was offered a great job in Virginia, and she had to take it.

This isn’t goodbye, metalcasting industry. After all this time exploring your ins and outs, I know one thing is certain—you’re everywhere. When my family climbs into our car for the drive away from Illinois, you’ll be there. When I cook the first meal in my new home, you’ll be there. And when I walk down the streets of my new city, you’ll be there too.

And oh the memories you’ve provided me. You took me all across this nation, metalcasting industry, from the Amish country in Pennsylvania to the deserts of Arizona. In addition to sending me to nearly half our great states, you allowed me to stamp my passport in Canada, Mexico and Brazil. I know more about manufacturing today than I ever thought I would, and I am a better person for it.

Please, metalcasting industry, don’t make this harder than it has to be. I’ll miss you too, but you know as well as I do that life is cyclical. I’ve seen you through the roaring times of the mid-2000s, to the Great Recession, to your burgeoning recovery. Certainly you’ll have no problem seeing me through a simple change of location.

My only regret is I won’t have the chance to see what you become in the future. With economic conditions improving and research and development investments on the rise, I see nothing but clean, defect-free castings on the horizon.

Best of luck to you, metalcasting industry, not to mention all the wonderful people you’ve introduced me to over the years. With their help, I know you’ll succeed.

Sincerely,
Shea Gibbs


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