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Behind the Scenes

Kim Phelan

Behind every great achievement there inevitably lies at least one good story. From culinary works of art to breathtaking engineering feats, and every human endeavor in between, when people come together to create, there’s just bound to be a few memorable yarns in the making. 

Take, for example, the little-known back story from the filming of “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” that ridiculous, I-don’t-know-why-I’m laughing, 1975 Arthurian parody. For years, I’ve imagined the actors yucking it up nonstop, barely able to make it through their lines while cantering upon their imaginary horses. Oh no, it turns out, behind the scenes of this super-low-budget comedy, actors, directors, and everyone on the set were entirely miserable. The movie was filmed outdoors in Scotland during the month of April––which meant, from dawn till dusk, they were freezing cold and soaking wet, with four umbrellas among the lot of them, and fewer than half would enjoy hot water when they got back to the hotel each night. How that film ever saw the light of day is a small miracle. 

I suppose you could tell stories of your own about the struggles and victories behind the scenes of complicated casting projects. It’s tough work designing parts with complex geometries and non-negotiable properties. But frequently the success is sweetest because of the strong communication and collaboration enjoyed between customer and foundry engineering teams. As a matter of fact, I recently happened to uncover the back story of a great casting achievement that appears in this issue on page 12. 

In every edition of Casting Source, casting expert Jiten Shah, founder of PDA LLC in the Chicago area, authors a regular piece called “Design Details.” In it, he unpacks technical gems from a real casting job, many of which are past contenders in the AFS annual Casting Competition. While collecting the usual bits and pieces for this issue’s featured casting, I came across the foundry’s written narrative about the project. Listen to these excerpts from the sales director’s contest entry form: 

“[Our company] and the OEM have built a great working relationship over these past few years … This project has helped the OEM develop their proprietary design into a cast solution, consolidating their previous operation from five welded components into one single casting … The benefits realized by the manufacturer, after consolidation into a casting, not only provided a significant manufacturing time savings but also greatly reduced a bottleneck in the operation, scaled production for high capacity, improved overall manufacturability, and improved product reliability.” 

That’s a mic-drop moment if ever I heard one. 

The men and women of AFS-member foundries are practitioners of an ancient craft that has evolved into a complex science harnessing the latest modern technologies. Not to sound too schmaltzy here, but it’s their human-ness that gives your work with them a happy ending. I encourage you to give them all the back story you can about your project needs and expectations, and I guarantee they’re ready to give you everything they’ve got. End of story.