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VTFire Ignites New Era in Metalcasting Education

Jan. 21, 2011
With a hands-on approach to research and teaching for the future of foundries
Prof. Steve Bickley (left) and Paul Huffman (right) take part in the first pour at the Kroehling Advanced Materials Foundry at Virginia Tech on November 4.
A view inside the instructional foundry, including some of the equipment donated by industry suppliers.
Photos by courtesy of LeeAnn Ellis, Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Foundry Institute for Research and Education (VT FIRE) completed the first molten-metal pour on November 4, 2010, at its world-class research and teaching foundry. VT FIRE was designed with an emphasis on green engineering and industry best practices.

Moving from the small casting operation in the university’s Whittenmore Hall to this new facility has given Virginia Tech students an opportunity for hands-on experience at working in an actual foundry, a future tha many of them may pursue as careers.

In addition to the new foundry, Virginia Tech’s Materials Science and Engineering Department has been developing a minor degree in foundry engineering, has reintroduced the metalcasting course for the first time in many years, and has added classes that focus on solidification in metallurgy, modeling, rapid prototyping, and foundry safety.

The VT FIRE project was spearheaded by the American Foundry Society’s Piedmont Chapter and several Virginia Tech alumni from the MSE program, including Paul Huffman and John Kroehling (for whom the Kroehling Advanced Materials Foundry facility is named.) Professors Robert Hendricks, Bill Reynolds, Chris Williams (ME Department), and Bob Sturges (ISE Department) led the initiative to design and construct the new foundry and to develop the new curriculum.

Financial and material (new foundry equipment) support came from many metalcasting companies and industry suppliers, including CMI, Conbraco, Digital Lumens, Electonite, ETA Engineering, Graham-White, Inductotherm, Palmer Manufacturing, Piedmont Foundry Supply, Precision Castparts, Virginia Castings, and Wheelabrator, as well as numerous AFS chapters and the Deans of Virginia Tech’s Colleges of Engineering, Architecture, and Urban Studies.