Wisconsin group examines new techniques, basic methods.
The meeting, a cooperative effort that also involved the Stateline, Northeast Wisconsin and Univ. of Wisconsin Chapters of AFS, drew 78 exhibitors, who showcased their products and capabilities for the second largest foundry region in the U.S.
New CMMC Process
A glimpse of cutting edge technology emerged from a presentation by Bill Powell, Waupaca Foundry, on the markets, opportunities and challenges of cast metals matrix composites (CMMCs).
In addition to describing the low pressure permanent mold method Waupaca uses for producing CMMC disc brakes, Powell discussed a new alternative for CMMC production, Lanxide's Primex pressureless molten metal infiltration process. In effect, Powell said the method is "a casting process without a mold."
With infiltration, a blown alumina oxide ceramic preform (similar to a core) is placed upon either molten or solid aluminum and processed through a heat treat oven. During heating, the preform spontaneously absorbs the aluminum, filling voids through a capillary action. Cycles are typically 30 min to 1 hr.
He said the result is a near-net shape casting without evidence of metal entry. Quality-wise, Powell said the process produces 100% sound castings without material defects, since the preform effectively serves as a filter. In addition, only a muller for levitating alumina oxide, a modified coreblower and a heat treat furnace are required.
Waupaca has experimented with solid (the preform can be placed directly on beer cans, wire, or aluminum stock) and molten aluminum. It is currently producing preproduction prototypes for caliper pistons, and has sent parts to customers for testing.
The process is revolutionary, said Powell, since it doesn't necessitate molding, sand systems, finishing chores, traditional melting or material landfilling. He also added that it is highly productive and requires only 40% of the energy required by green sand molding.
Iron Permanent Molding
Another potential paradigm shift was explored by Yury Lerner, Univ. of Northern Iowa, in his presentation on developments in cast iron permanent molding. While the process has been embraced for nonferrous metals, only a few U.S. foundries employ the method for cast iron (namely Grede Perm Cast, Cynthiana, Kentucky, and Honda, Anna, Ohio), compared to 15 throughout Europe.
He said recent R&D has led to significant improvements in permanent mold design and material, optimized chemical composition of base irons and practical use of ultrasonic nondestructive techniques.
Due to the absence of sand and chilled corners, Lerner said the process can provide better machinability. Also, defects are more easily identified, and close dimensional tolerances may be achieved. "Despite controversial opinion, cast iron permanent molding is cost-effective for some high-production jobs," said Lerner, "and has a great future."
Among the conference's management-oriented topics, which included employee recruitment, equipment leasing and quality atmosphere, was "Marketing for Results" by Grede Foundries' Merrill York. Defining niche marketing as knowing what you do best and capitalizing on opportunities, he pointed out the elements critical to planning. They are: defining your foundry, marketplace, customers and parts; organizing your plan; and implementing it.
He shared the popular saying at Grede, "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." York said: "It's a correct statement, but tells only half the story. The other half now says 'Without a focused marketing plan, no one sells the right things.'"