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Different Metals, Similar Casting Benefits

Shannon Wetzel

The annual AFS and Casting Source Casting Competition is one of my favorite things we do in the course of the year. Seeing all the different castings submitted, reading their back stories, and watching the judges’ pleased reactions to each part is a treat. Usually there is a clear winner. This year there were two!

What I love about the two Casting of the Year winners is how different they are—different processes, different metals, different industries and volumes. Yet they both fall under the large umbrella of metalcasting. So, the benefits they provided to their customers are similar: reduced cost and labor, improved properties, and fewer parts to inventory.

Mark Mundell, director of sales at Lethbridge Iron Works (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada), said it well: “Everything written about casting conversion is true. If you can make a casting out of a multiple-piece component, it is going to provide for a cheaper, more consistent and repeatable part, and it will lean out the manufacturing process.”

You can read about the two winners, plus eight other honor-worthy castings, on page 20. The Castings of the Year are an aluminum V-6 300 hp engine block for a marine outboard engine cast via lost foam by BRP-US (Spruce Pine, North Carolina) and an iron opener body casting for agriculture equipment produced via sand casting by Lethbridge Iron Works.

Both winners benefited from close collaboration with the customer. Both foundries also were working off established relationships with their customers—in BRP’s case, the customer was a sister company in their organization, in Lethbridge Iron’s case, it was a company they’ve worked on casting conversions with before. That relationship and trust between foundry and customer enabled the teams to push their designs and processes to achieve more. 

Collaboration and relationships are also key parts of our story on page 28 on how the casting supply chain has responded to the needs brought on by the coronavirus. The casting industry, like the rest of manufacturing, has shown how flexible it can be and how rapidly it can respond to urgent needs. It also illustrates how important having a strong base here domestically is to keep society moving forward.