Thomas S. Piwonka
The American precision investment casting industry was developed during World War II and grew steadily during the decades that followed. Today growth of the industry, while continuing, is unsteady with some years better than others. Much of the original business was in the aerospace and electronics markets; today the U.S. industry is generally divided into aerospace and commercial areas for purposes of reporting. Two U.S. investment casting firms are among the 10 largest foundry organizations in the country.
American investment casters have spurred technical innovations in foundry technology. Techniques such as single crystal casting, reactive metal casting, and applications of solidification modeling to casting processing were pioneered by U.S. investment casters. Partly as a result of this worldwide leadership, many large Japanese companies entered into licensing agreements or joint ventures with U.S. investment foundries to acquire American technology in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of these agreements have lapsed today, and the Japanese investment foundries that used the agreements are on their own.
Today there is a viable investment casting industry in Japan, which mirrors the operational philosophy of other Japanese foundries. WTEC's visits to Japanese investment foundries provided insight into the industry in Japan.