The Investment Casting Institute (ICI) based in New Jersey boasts the only certification program in the industry for investment casting, and people from all over the world travel annually to attend the certification course held at Pittsburg State University.
This summer marks the 18th year the course has been offered at Pitt State. Participants from across the nation and from countries such as Italy, Singapore, and Austria met for the course from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 31 to Wednesday, June 6 for intensive, hands-on training with high-caliber instruction and equipment such as a $160,000 Smart Systems wax injection system donated by MPI.
“(The course) allows you to work in any aspect of metal casting because in our courses that we do here at Pitt, the normal year, we kind of just skim over the top of every subject, but in this class we got eight hours a day to go deep into every single process that goes on making a metal casting,” said Tom Mclennan, senior in manufacturing engineering technology at PSU.
Mclennan walked during graduation in May and will complete his degree upon the conclusion of the investment casting course. He said that while the certification was not a requirement for his degree, he wanted to take the course because of the unique and valuable experience it offers, such as the opportunity Tuesday to engage in the casting process directly.
“There’s a lot more stuff that goes into making a metal casting than just the pouring of the metal, every aspect of it has to be done precisely and accurately in order to get a good finished product,” he said. “Right now we are pulling shelves out of our oven, I think they’re at about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, and then we’re pouring the ceramic shelves full of molten aluminum in order to produce a solid metal part.”
Mclennan will be moving to New Jersey next week to begin a new job with Arconic, a steel fabricator company that produces products such as aerospace equipment and gas turbines.
The certification course is available to professionals currently in the field as well, such as Megan Marler, who works in the engineering department at SeaCast, a Washington-based company that specializes in investment casting.
“My work has been sending people here for years and they feel like it’s a really good combination of hands-on and lecture time to get a good grasp of the foundry industry and the basics of it,” Marler said. “… I am on the shop floor every day working with parts, and so being here has helped me to understand a lot more of why we do what we do at my work.”
Marler said that her job is all about problem solving and that the certification course has been a valuable experience in better understanding how to recognize and deal with problems in the field.
“I think the area that I learned the most from … (was) just learning how to backtrack problems and really getting down to the root of the problem that caused those issues, and I’ll be able to take that back to work and implement it with parts there, which is what engineering is, is finding solutions to problems,” she said. “What I’ve learned here has helped really open my eyes on what possible issues are there and how to find solutions.”
The combination of in-depth training and practical application makes the course an attractive opportunity even beyond U.S. borders. Dearmot Keogh, mechanical engineer at DePuy Synthes Companies, traveled all the way from Ireland to attend the weeklong course at Pitt State.
“If you’re a process engineer in a foundry, you kind of get pigeon-holed into a certain area, be it … pour, be it back-end finishing, so this course gives you a real flavor of the overall,” Keogh said. “I learned a lot about the pour area, about the finishing area … and stuff I wouldn’t know and stuff that’s going to directly benefit me in my job. So it’s a really, really good way to give you a holistic view of investment casting in a foundry, which is something that you want when you get into the industry.”
Even though he was unsure of what to expect at first, Keogh said that the course has proven to be a rewarding experience.
“I guess I was probably a little bit apprehensive coming in, I didn’t know what kind of people would be here, I didn’t know if they would have the same background as me, but yeah we are all young engineers, we’re all process engineers with foundry so we all had that in common and we all have a really good time,” he said.