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Robert Warrick: dedicated to advancing iron casting research.

Robert J. Warrick, 63, Intermet's research and development gum, doesn't think of himself as a "fast study" and describes his technical accomplishments as "more perspiration than inspiration." After looking at his esteemed career, largely dedicated to the advancement of iron casting processes and applications, one begins to see that perhaps a better word to describe Warrick's progress would be "dedication."

Scientific Start

Warrick's first exposure to ductile iron production was in 1952, as he worked as a summer employee at Engineering Castings, Inc., Marshall, Michigan. While studying at the Univ. of Michigan, an FEF scholarship helped support his dedication to metallurgy, and upon graduation in 1963, he joined the Ford Scientific Research staff. For the next 10 years, he was involved in a broad series of R&D studies including the identification of heterogenous nuclei in graphite nodules and work on inoculation, rare earth/magnesium ratio effects and alloy element effects in ductile iron.

He primarily worked with ferrous materials (both cast irons and steel) and developed a broad series of plant and product-related support projects for Ford's Engine, Casting, Steel, and Transmission and Chassis Divs. Other support projects provided the background for subsequent work at Ford Casting Div. and later at Lynchburg Foundry (Intermet).

Ford's In-Mold Initiative

In 1975, Warrick joined the Ford Casting Div., where he helped establish an R&D program. "I learned far more about manufacturing operations during this period, where projects covered the waterfront from melt efficiency improvements, material cost control, alternative charge materials, the ongoing launch of the new Michigan Castings Center, scrap reduction, machinability problem resolution, lost foam casting production and automatic pouring," he said. "The character of my job had changed to involve much more group and project management."

It was during these four years that Warrick worked on the In-Mold ductile iron production alongside Dr. Prem Mohla, who did much of the development work, George Booth, who got the project launched at Michigan Castings Center, and Bill Gay, who provided the overall division management support to get the job done. The process involves inoculation of iron directly inside the mold to produce better product quality and consistency. Mohla first approached Warrick with the idea, based on work in Europe.

"I still remember telling Prem all the reasons the process wouldn't work when he first raised the subject and then saying, 'Let's go for it,'" he said. "We conducted all sorts of studies of potential problems, ran numerous trials, had successes and failures, signed a licensing agreement, and finally launched a successful In-Mold process at Ford."

Warrick said he learned two major lessons from this project: don't drop a new idea until you've thoroughly thought it through and there is no substitute for up-front work to understand a new concept and its potential pitfalls before a production launch. 'The project was initiated primarily as a cost-reduction program, however, properly done, the process can yield a more consistent product than ladle treatment since magnesium fade is not an issue and since this process yields superior inoculation effectiveness," Warrick said. As a result of their work, Warrick and Mohla have patents for solid nodulizer inserts.

Iron Innovations

Warrick joined Lynchburg Foundry in 1977 as manager of process technology and quality assurance. Relatively soon afterward, he was given responsibility for improving costs through process and material developments, strengthening programs to meet emerging new quality requirements and building the approaches and discipline to be a top-quality automotive safety parts supplier. Programs during this period covered ductile treatment process improvements, determining the cost of materials such as coke per ton of good castings, strengthening NDT skills, and developing in-line 100% inspection systems for knuckles.

"With a growing business, one needs expanding markets," Warrick said, adding that efforts at Intermet's Research Foundry have since shifted toward expanding the foundry's steering knuckle business, introducing automotive crankshafts and ductile iron and austempered ductile iron (ADI) camshafts, and exploring other automotive applications. He has been involved with developing the Ford front I-beam as a casting, prototyping and developing production procedures for lower control arms and, most recently, developing enhanced compacted graphite iron (ECGI) for DaimlerChrysler engine bedplates. "Many of these started as development programs and are now core business segments for Intermet," he said.

The ECGI work started as the result of DaimlerChrysler's request for a stronger, tougher bedplate material than the traditional gray iron for a new engine program. "The new engine design required a stronger material, and we proposed a modified compacted graphite iron to meet strength requirements, resolve historic bedplate cracking problems during manufacturing and meet our castability requirements," he said. "Some pleasant developments during the program were the confirmation of the excellent castability of the proposed material and the superior sound characteristics for the 4.7L engine that resulted from the use of ECGI."

"ADI has been much more frustrating," he said. "The amount of effort has been high, and the rate of adoption low. Particular successes include the production of over 500,000 Pontiac engines with ADI camshafts. The benefit to Pontiac was the ability to improve engine performance through valve train changes that required significantly improved cam lobe Hertz stress capability without having to purchase a new camshaft machining line." Intermet's most recent production ADI application is the Ford Mustang upper control arm designed by its Wagner facility.

Expanding the Market

"The automotive industry has been good to us in providing high-volume work that suits our production facilities and personnel," he said. "We have committed our capital to developing plants that can consistently produce high-quality engineered castings with tailored chemistry, inoculation practice and pouring conditions hour after hour. Converting new and existing products to ductile iron, ADI and ECGI is an effective way to create the opportunities one needs to grow."

To facilitate market growth, Warrick believes ferrous casters must:

* develop and provide the basic property information needed for designers using computer-aided design programs, including strain control fatigue information;

* educate casting users and potential casting users (students) of the capabilities of the materials that the industry is capable of producing today. "Our material capabilities are way beyond what they were just 10 years ago as a result of improvements in equipment, inoculation practice and clean metal practices;"

* develop strong, lightweight castings and don't be afraid to produce them. "In many ways, we've become fat and happy, and so have our castings;"

* attract aggressive, talented young people into the industry and utilize them effectively;

* keep up to date on customers' needs and work realistically and aggressively to meet them;

* be receptive to change.

"I think the future is good for ductile iron, ADI and ECGI, provided we make it so. The automotive castings market is under attack, based on weight, by aluminum. However, the cost advantage is with ferrous castings. ADI and ECG provide much higher strengths than conventional ductile and gray irons, respectively. We can't roll over and watch our markets disappear to aluminum simply because it's the new lightweight, sexy kid on the block."

Warrick sees R&D as a means toward commercial ends - offering a better product and a more cost- and quality-effective process. "To do this well, you have to talk to your internal and external customers and listen effectively," he said. "If you don't know what your customers want, the things you develop are just shots in the dark. If you don't discuss potential changes to make something practical, both you and your potential customer will miss some good opportunities."

Accepting the Challenge

Warrick also prizes the relationships he has developed among fellow researchers through the years. An AFS member since 1963 and John H. Whiting Gold Medal winner in 1996, he believes that technical societies are very important in advancing the state-of-the-art because they aid in:

* developing and providing basic technical literature - "In advancing the art, one always wants to start with what's known and to go from there," he said. "Why reinvent the wheel? The standard references and research reports available through our technical societies are an invaluable asset;"

* making contacts - "With active technical society participation, one can meet and work with many of the best minds in the industry," he said. "Great consultants! Great for stimulating thought! Great sounding boards! Together, we become the power of many rather than that of the few;"

* developing standards and standard methods for materials and testing - "These areas are invaluable in helping us standardize and market our products and processes," he said. "They also help provide a common basis for business internationally;"

* providing exposure to the leading edge - "Technical conferences provide exposure to some of the latest industry developments," he said. "They always help me 'get my head back on straight.' In industry, projects tend to focus one's mind into intense, relatively narrow channels. Sitting back at a conference and listening to and analyzing a broad base of presentations is great for broadening an individual's thinking and often leads to new concepts for projects and developments."

Robert J. Warrick

Vice President-Materials Research and Development, Internet Corp.

Education/Degree: Univ. of Michigan, PhD, MSE and BSE in Metallurgical Engineering

Immediate Family: Wife-Jean, daughters-Paula and Lydia.

Professional Assns: AFS, American Society for Metals, Ductile Iron Society, Foundry Educational Foundation, American Society for Testing and Materials, Society of Automotive Engineers.

Company Information

Founded: 1846 (as Columbus Iron Works).

Foundries: Decatur, IL; Havana, Illinois; Radford, VA (2); Lynchburg, VA; Columbus, GA; Hibbing, MN; New Hope, MN; Ironton, OH; Alexander City, AL; Jackson, TN; Stevensville, MI; Neunkirchen, Germany; Ueckermunde, Germany.

Mold Abilities: Green sand, lost foam, shell, diecasting.

Markets: Automotive/industrial.

Capacity: 660,000 tons/year.

1998 Shipments: 581,000 tons.

1998 Net Sales: $842 million.

Metals Cast: Ductile and gray iron, aluminum, zinc.

Employees: 6900.
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Title Annotation:profile on Intermet VP Robert J. Warrick
Comment:Robert Warrick: dedicated to advancing iron casting research.(profile on Intermet VP Robert J. Warrick)
Author:Foti, Ross
Publication:Modern Casting
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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