Hodge Foundry breaks its record for largest casting

AFS Corporate Member Hodge Foundry in Greenville, Pennsylvania, poured its largest ever casting on November 3, a 240,000-lb. ductile iron part that was poured with 260,000 lbs. of molten metal. Shipped on December 17, it is the first of a family of related, oversized castings to be produced for the same customer.

The casting is 9-ft. tall and approximately 14-ft wide and deep. A small foundry of 52 employees that’s known for its ability to make very large castings, Hodge Foundry houses a “high bay” where parts of extraordinary size are produced using the nobake green sand process. A 100-ton crane with 200,000 lbs. of lift capacity and a 50-ton crane able to lift 75 tons were used to (1) suspend a 50,000-lb. core into the mold during the pour and (2) lift the casting multiple times for manual cleaning, paint-priming, and loading onto a special super-load, multi-axel truck. The cope weighed 125,000 lbs., the cheeks weighed 194,000 lbs., and the drag weighed 61,000 lbs.

“From a manpower standpoint, the cleaning process actually takes more time than both the molding and the and the core-making process,” said Hodge Plant Manager Mike Forsha. “There's nothing automated or easy about that––it's just good old-fashioned, roll up your sleeves and get the job done with chipping and grinding tools and other equipment in the foundry. In this scenario, you’re definitely taking the tools to the part, not the part to the tools.”

The sand mold was made from a traditional wood pattern. The tooling was created at a shop in Croatia and shipped in pieces back to the foundry after five months.

From order to delivery, the part took a full year to produce. In preparation for the job, the foundry refurbished a third furnace and reconfigured an existing casting pit to accommodate the casting.

“It all funnels down to: The planning takes months, the manufacturing takes weeks, and the pouring takes minutes,” Forsha summarized. “And that day is where the stress and focus is, because once you start molten metal flowing, there's no rolling that back. That's the moment of truth where all your planning and calculations and everything come to fruition. And it went off very well for us.”

Hodge Foundry typically pours between 8–10 million tons of gray and ductile iron annually, roughly a 90–10 ratio respectively. This casting represented about half of the company’s sales for the month of December.