Business View Magazine November-December 2018

154 155 THE INVESTMENT CASTING INSTITUTE vocacy.We won’t promote candidates or positions. However, we work very hard to make sure that our members are advised of key factors affecting our business. If there’s a topic of importance, we might publish an article about it; we might hold a webinar on it; so, we would share the informa- tion.We do not lobby, but we do believe we have an obligation to keep our members informed and to support them in having their voices heard.We participate annually in a visit to Washington to meet our representatives with this other trade association that we work with. They have an annual meeting on the hill and we always send a representative to that. But, again, we don’t do any lobbying or advocacy.” BVM: Going forward, what does the landscape look like, in general, for the investment casting industry? Fritz: “The answer to how it looks is different with almost every product type. For example, if we’re looking at aerospace, we see a very strong, healthy, high-growth future. The same is true for automotive. Then, you get to the low end of in- dustry–product that doesn’t have the high-stress, high-temperature demands; things like additive manufacturing are becoming a disruptive technol- ogy,with people printing metal parts to meet their needs. For the most part,we see additive manufac- turing as a key enabler to help us prototype and get to production faster, and we’ve been using it year after year to become faster and more responsive to our customers’ needs to the point that we’ve got additive manufacturing and 3D printing integrated into many of our manufacturing operations. “There’s a lot of money being invested to try and develop that technology for higher-end products. But, quite frankly, 3D printing can’t replace the high- end capabilities of the industry, because not only are you forming a metal part, but it’s the metallur- gical structure that is key and critical to a number of applications.You may have a part that is grown out of a single crystal of metal–one grain.Metal breaks along grain boundaries, so if you can make it out of one grain, you don’t have grain boundaries and you have a very strong, durable part. These are the types of components that end up in the first and second stage of your jet turbine engine; you want to have high-end technology supporting these applications where lives depend on them. And you can’t print a single crystal part; in effect, you’re creating a part with many small grains or crystals, rather than having one single crystal that you’ve grown through a manufacturing process. So, that high-end technology is safe and secure. “We’re also seeing new development in alloys –higher temperature, more durable alloys.We’re seeing advances in better dimensional controls. We have foundries that can maintain tolerances of plus or minus two or three thousands of an inch on product. Leaps and strides have been made over the past 20 years and we expect to see further development as time goes forward. The key thing is controlling and consistently get- ting those results. “We’ve also seen companies reducing scrap or improving yield and producing fully-conforming product to their customers’ drawings with regular consistency.We’re seeing a lot of good movement in that direction. In fact, we’re currently in the process of developing a process control certifica- tion program, where a foundry can be certified at various levels, indicating that they have certain levels of process controls in place, which is a tre- mendous selling point when talking to custom- ers, but more importantly, it provides a roadmap to self-improvement. If somebody can say, ‘We’re gold-certified in Investment Casting Institute pro- cess control standards,’ that will say an awful lot.” BVM: Can you sum up the character and mis- sion of the ICI for our readers? Fritz: “We’re a member-run trade association that is in tune with the industry, its current and future trends.We work, not only with the manu- facturers in the industry, but with the OEMs, the people who are buying the castings, the forgings, the fabrications.We are the voice of the indus- try; although we are not an advocacy group, we are often contacted by government agencies to advise them on our positions on things. Our focus is on educating, growing, and establishing a clear path for the industry to go forward and to prosper. “We bring people together and our members do help each other. If you ask any one of our active members what’s the number one thing they get from the Investment Casting Institute, they will tell you it’s the networking opportunities, the people they meet at the trade shows, the oppor- tunities for collaborative events and programs. We’ve done collaborative work with other trade associations; we’ve done collaborative work with universities.We’re currently formalizing a collab- oration portal, where our members can reach out to each other, to work with each other to drive the industry forward. “We try to stay in tune with the needs of the in- dustry, and put systems and programs in place to meet or surpass the needs of our members, and to help people fix problems that they’ve come across in the past, deal with the current issues, and step comfortably into the future.”