A Great Time to be Alive

July 7, 2004
Things are looking up, and heres the proof.

It might be trite to say that the annual AFS Casting Competition represents the future of the metalcasting industry, though it would also be true. What interests me more, though, is how this annual contest — the winners, the “best-in-class,” the honorable mentions, the also-ran's — represent the present.

First, let me make clear that I am a pushover for “the future.” Architects’ visions and artists’ renderings of new buildings fascinate me. I think every space shuttle take-off is an engineering breakthrough. I am confident that our efforts to institute democratic change in Afghanistan and Iraq will prove successful, and worthy of our sacrifice.

This doesn’t spring from some blind optimism, but rather from a clear understanding of all that’s happened up to this time. I’ve lived long enough to remember that Communism was a fixed alternative to our core beliefs, until it crumbled in a matter of months. I remember a time when respectable newsmagazines carried thoughtful analyses about “the end of capitalism,” only to have millions of ordinary people become rate-watchers and daily market players.

These examples, and others, give me a sense of confidence that all sorts of improbable things are actually quite possible. No matter what dire, intractable problem you can imagine for yourself, human life is getting healthier, wealthier, and freer all the time. Life improves because facts and circumstances are always more complex than any of us alone can imagine.

I don’t downplay the problems. I realize that even in this time of economic growth, basic manufacturing is being undermined by imported products. The federal International Trade Commission has initiated a timely and useful investigation, to determine the state of competition in the U.S. foundry market. This study, to be released in the fall, will help frame the scale of a problem so many readers know in the particular.

I hope ITC report will give indications of what may be done to make our domestic industry more competitive, but even before it is complete I’m confident that these producers, our readers, have the skills and strategies to recover some market advantages.

And, one reason I know this is because of the Casting Competition has demonstrated that the industry is already demonstrating its strength. Over 40 entries were judged, and all of them represent recent developments, active research, and current capabilities. These designs cover a range of applications in the automotive, military, power-supply, and heavy-equipment markets, among others. They deliver weight savings, lower material and production costs, and faster manufacturing and assembly time, among other pluses.

These designs are the current state-of-the-art in metalcasting. They are more than a look at a brighter future. They are visions that are bringing the future to life.

July is the best time of any year, and you can’t convince me otherwise. The weather is ideal, almost everywhere. We have a great national holiday to celebrate, one that still inspires and satisfies everyone, and unites us in general appreciation. So far, the Fourth of July hasn’t been drawn into the sights of those scolds who take all the excitement and charm out of Christmas, or transform Thanksgiving into a some dour examination of conscience.

July is the perfect season to relax and unwind. Quite the opposite of the winter months, in July nature is on our side. We might be walking a golf course or hiking the woods; fishing off a deck or sunning on a beach. Long days brighten our outlook: “School is still weeks away” ... “I have a few weeks of vacation time remaining” ... “There’s still time to turn this year around.” It’s a great time to be alive.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)