Clayton S. Barlow – 2021 Steel Intern Scholar
Working with the great people at Waupaca Foundry this past summer was an amazing experience which propelled me to grow as a metallurgist and a professional. Though I was not at a specifically steel-producing facility, as the facility I was at in Waupaca, Wis., produces gray cast iron, I gained knowledge about general ferrous metallurgy, lab procedures and practices, project management and leadership strategies.
Initially, I worked in the met lab to see and perform some of the quality testing that is done there and help where I could. I was able to learn about tensile and hardness testing, metallography, and metal chemistry testing (including Kelmelt and chill wafer spectroscopy and Leco combustion analysis).
As the summer progressed, I was able to take on some mini-projects that helped me prepare for my main project to be conducted at the end of the summer. Between researching and preparing procedures for the main project, I poured chill wedge and thermal analysis cup samples to qualify chill wedge cores and a new SensorLab thermal analysis system, respectively, for use in my main project and beyond.
My main project was the start of a larger Green Belt project being undertaken by the plant’s head metallurgist which intends to improve the cupola charge mixture and explore the effects of a new graphite inoculant. My portion of the project concerned the baseline and initial pig iron reduction studies. The aim was to run two types of thermal analysis samples (white iron solidified with tellurium and gray iron solidified normally) and chill wedges to determine if the reduction in fresh pig iron and 1:1 replacement with remelt had any effects on the cupola or holding furnaces’ inoculation or shrinkage potentials.
The most challenging part of the project and internship came initially in getting the melt department up to speed for the procedures to take and record the samples needed for my project. In past internships I had taken on and executed significant projects, and had worked independently and with others, but I hadn’t yet had to instruct and even lead others in order to complete my goals. Every 24 hours, 144 thermal analysis cups and 18 chill wedges needed to be poured over 4 weeks, and since I could only be around to pour for one shift, I had to figure out how to instruct career foundrymen, who had been working their roles longer than I’ve been alive, on how to do this part of their jobs and convince them it was important enough to do right. After a few hiccups early on during the first high carbon run, I adjusted my approach and tried to work with the guys to make their job easier. As a result, enough samples were taken for the project to move forward and I was also able to meet many more people out on the floor and learn a lot from them. Moving forward, I’ve learned a great deal about leading coworkers and teams, and I know where I need to continue to improve in those areas.
Overall, this internship at Waupaca Foundry has provided me a wealth of new knowledge and experiences and introduced me to some amazing people. I am very grateful to them for the opportunity this summer and for all the lessons and connections I’ll take with me, all of which will propel me forward to a career in metallurgy.