Recognized for engineering, scientific merit
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca Foundry returned from the 2017 Metalcasting Congress held in Milwaukee on April 25-27 with several national awards.
Individuals receiving awards from the American Foundry Society were retired CEO Gary Gigante and Greg Miskinis, director of research and process development at the foundry.
Waupaca Foundry also earned the Plant Engineering Award and the Best in Class Casting Award.
Miskinis received the AFS Award for Scientific Merit, which recognized his contributions in industrial research, mentoring newcomers to the industry and service to the Northeastern Wisconsin chapter of AFS.
He is the principal author and lecturer for Foundry 101, an comprehensive program that takes participants through the basics of metalcasting from making patterns and cores, to green sand and tooling.
Since 1994, Miskinis has made more than 200 presentations of Foundry 101.
“We’ve done sessions with all our customers,” Miskinis said. “I also presented a condensed version for Iola Middle School.”
Miskinis is well known in the local community for Foundry in a Box.
Visitors to Waupaca Foundry, when it celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015, were given an opportunity to participate in the Foundry in a Box program.
They learned about the general principles of metalcasting by making their own medallions and keys as part of the program’s interactive demonstrations.
Miskinis studied metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1981 and a master’s degree in 1983. He began working at Waupaca Foundry in 1989.
As a researcher, Miskinis has published articles in trade journals and presented technical papers at AFS meetings.
Miskinis’ research played a role in the development of salt/sand composite cores for casting aluminum in low pressure die casting and gravity casting.
He helped develop a high-performance gray iron alloy for brake discs and a low-distortion core making method for tight tolerance brake discs for automobile racing.
“The development of brakes for racing was a challenge for both materials and process,” Miskinis said.
Miskinis said the mixing of sand for cores used to be more of an art form and less scientific, making automation difficult to implement.
When automated sand-mulling was introduced at the foundry, the equipment included a Miskinis Precision Controller.
“The ersatz dial worked flawlessly for two years until an electrician discovered it wasn’t connected to anything,” Miskins said. “The purpose was to make the mullers more comfortable with automation.”
Retired CEO Gary Gigante received the Peter L. Simpson Gold Medal for long-term contributions to the metalcasting industry.
Gigante, who started at the foundry in 1981 as a metalurgist and rose to CEO in 2007, was recognized for his efforts to advance technology, environmental stewardship and the development of people within the industry.
The AFS Gold Medals are considered the highest awards in the industry. Waupaca Foundry executives have won three.
Former Waupaca Foundry President and CEO Donald Brunner won a Gold Medal in 1993. Retired President and CEO Gary Thoe won a Gold Medal in 2007.
Waupaca Foundry received a Plant Engineering Award for the ongoing expansion and modernization projects at Plant 1 and Plants 2/3 in Waupaca.
Waupaca Foundry invested $27 million and added a total of 64,500 square feet to its local facilities in 2015-16.
At Plant 1, the first phase of the project was built in July 2015. The foundry added 11,500 square feet of storage space for the sand cores used in the iron casting process.
The new storage facility has energy-efficient LED lighting.
“The LED lighting throughout the facility and the natural lighting in Plant 1 enhances the work environment for employees,” according to Dale Hardel, the Plant 1 engineering manager.
Plant 1 also warms the building by recovering heat from the compressors that circulate air throughout the building.
The second phase of the Plant 1 expansion project included building a new 25,000-square-foot core production facility in early 2016.
The first phase of the foundry’s 28,000-square-foot expansion at Plant 2/3 was completed in April 2015.
A core production facility was built with three new double-wide warm-box core-making cells.
The project included new robotic work cells, an automated sand conditioning system, a state-of-the-art material distribution and additive system and a new core-drying oven and conveyor system.
The second phase was completed in the spring of 2016. It included one new and two relocated double-wide warm-box core-making cells. Two robotic cells were relocated and one new robotic cell was added to the production lines.
Todd Pagel, the Plant 2/3 manager, noted the robotic cells decrease the number of tasks each worker must perform.
With the legacy cells, an operator has five work stations and performs 1,000 tasks per hour to produce an average of 200 parts. These tasks include operating the core machine, placing the cores over the pattern, removing them from the definer, washing and drying the cores, placing them on oven hangers and stacking them.
With the robotic cells, an operator performs two tasks rather than five for a total of 1,200 tasks per hour.
The robot removes the cores from the definer, washes and removes excess water from them and places them on the oven belt.
This allows the operator to pay more attention to quality control.
Pagel said the design of the automated cells was the result of time and ergonomic studies, while examining safety and material handling issues.
Engineers, operators, safety, electrical and maintenance staff contributed to the design of the automated cells.
“We had meetings with focus groups and mocked up work cell,” Hardel said. “Basically, we wanted to prove that what we put on paper made sense.”
Hardel noted the foundry also had 3D models of the proposed plant designs online that contractors could access.
The 3D models were color-coordinated, so ventilation and electrical conduits could be identified.
“It streamlined the bidding process,” Hardel said. “As the 3D model was made, we could see if things fit together or if they collided.”
“Instead of building then discovering a problem, we could accurately eliminate those problems before work began,” Pagel said.
The construction projects have resulted in increased productivity and efficiency, as well as making the work environment safer and more comfortable at the foundry.
Waupaca Foundry also earned AFS’s Best in Class Casting Award for a suspension component for the automotive industry.
The foundry converted the component from aluminum to a high-strength ductile casting.
Waupaca Foundry reduced component weight by 25 percent, reduced cost and exceeded performance requirements.
In 2016, Waupaca Foundry, the leading supplier of iron castings in North America, merged with Hitachi Metals, an $8.5 billion metal products and materials company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.