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The Game-Changer Issue

Shannon Wetzel

My first job out of college was as a sports editor for a small community newspaper covering the local high school teams. My duties included both writing about and photographing various high-profile games—including the Friday night football game.

At the time, the newspaper still used film cameras, so late on Fridays after games, I would head back to the office’s dark room for the most stressful part of the week—developing the film.

So much could go wrong. I could make a mistake in the development process and ruin the film. All the pictures could come out blurry or too dark or overexposed. I could be left with a gaping hole on the front page to fill. Do-overs were not an option.

One day my publisher walked into the office with a brand new digital camera for the sports department. With that one purchase, he wiped away one of his employee’s highest stress points and greatly improved the quality of the newspaper’s sports coverage. No more blurry pictures. No more rationing film. No more loading film into the camera and missing a big play. No more wasted time in the dark room. The photos were more interesting and dynamic. I caught more of the action and always had plenty of options to choose from for that front page.

In your hands is Modern Casting’s annual Buyer’s Guide. It is a tool for when you seek out your next purchase, whether it is safety gloves or shakeout equipment. Whatever the investment, it could be a game changer for your operation, just like the digital camera was for my first job.

The metalcasting industry has undergone a considerable amount of evolution in the past decade, as investments both simple and complex are completely changing processes and improving quality.

The widespread use of solidification modeling takes much of the “fingers-crossed” moment out of metalcasting. Better testing and data analysis systems have improved control and tightened tolerances. Laser scanning allows for easier dimensional inspection and reverse engineering (great for gaining growth in casting conversions). Innovations in rapid tooling such as 3-D printing or machining sand molds, plastic patterns or metal tools, have increased the industry’s competitiveness with other processes in terms of product development time, time to market, and tooling costs.

Something so seemingly simple as lighting has a big impact, and I have seen this improve greatly in the last 13 years covering the metalcasting industry. Over a decade ago, it was not uncommon to visit an otherwise good foundry that was operating in shadows and dim light. On my last foundry visit, the shop floor was so pleasingly bright. I tried to think of the last casting operation I toured that was gloomy and not well lit. None came immediately to mind.

Purchases, big and small, are agents of change and innovation. Continuous investment and planning keeps your foundry in a position to take advantage of game-changer technology quicker than your competitors. Like the digital camera at my old newspaper, a new investment can put your team in a better position to succeed.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the November 2017 issue of Modern Casting