The first designers’ workshop for lost-foam castings was declared a success by its co-sponsors, the American Foundry Society and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Materials Science and Engineering Dept. A total of 119 participants from 80 companies and seven countries joined the event November 15 and 16, 2005, in Fond Du Lac, WI.
The attendees represented a wide variety of metalcasting interests, including casting designers, product engineers, product managers, buyers, producers of aluminum and iron castings, casting equipment builders, and consumable materials suppliers.
The workshop featured 16 tabletop exhibits, 16 presentations, and a tour of the nearby Mercury Marine lost-foam aluminum casting facility. (Mercury Marine’s operation solidifies aluminum castings under isostatic pressure.) Table-top exhibitors included product design engineers, product release engineers, lost-foam casting manufacturers, and equipment suppliers.
Potential casting buyers and designers were exposed to the entire lost-foam casting process, including a historic review, process steps, process advantages, design criteria, and case studies. Also part of the discussion were some visions of the future for the process.
The Workshop also featured a contest that put lost-foam castings forward as one of several competing designs. Lost-foam castings offer designers and manufacturers an opportunity to consolidate multiple castings and stampings into one part, to cut down on machining and assembly, as well as overall casting weight. Specific examples were shown and discussed.
Attendees offered various comments about their expectations and reactions to the Lost Foam Workshop. “We would like our pumps to be more powerful, using the smooth surface of the lost-foam castings,” one engineer for a pump manufacturer explained to a producer of lost-foam castings.
A engineer for an electrical tool company explained he is working to reduce tool weight. “I hope our tools are as light as possible, so our customer can grab it easily in work. Lost-foam castings could help to save some pounds,” he said.
An aluminum casting producer observed, “I thought that the conference was one of the best that I have attended. I found it very informative, and we also picked up a couple of good leads.”
The Workshop seemed to initiate a surprising amount of new interest in the lost-foam process. Many applications were received after registration was closed, and some attendees decided to arrive without having registered. At the close of the event, many were asking when the next workshop will be held. (Planners report they are reviewing the post-conference surveys and checking schedules to determine their plans for the next Workshop staging.)
One benefit from the workshop was the way it brought the lost-foam casting producers into closer discussion with designers. With suggestions, concerns, and questions raised by the participants, researchers, suppliers, and casting producers, they may now work better together to meet the expectations of the designers, and bring more castings to the market. And, that renewed enthusiasm for the process may result in growth opportunities and renewed prosperity for the lost-foam casting segment.