WMU team places in top 3 in national castings competition

Contact: Cindy Wagner

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A Western Michigan University team of undergraduate and graduate students was placed in the top three out of 41 universities participating in the 2022 Cast in Steel Challenge Celtic Sword held during the AFS Cast Expo and Congress in Columbus, Ohio. This follows another top three showing of this team at a regional casting competition in Wisconsin.

Team members attending the event included the following:

  • Sean Derrick, Ph.D. student in engineering and applied sciences
  • Juan Foo, graduate student in mechanical engineering
  • Levi Koebbe, undergraduate student in mechanical engineering
  • Rehan Manimaleth, undergraduate student in mechanical engineering
  • Aaron Matthew Martindale, undergraduate student in creative writing

The competition challenged students to use modern casting tools to creatively design and produce a functioning version of a Celtic Leaf Sword. Teams were also required to submit videos of work in progress and a technical report detailing their design and manufacturing processes.

The team used a process to make the sword for the competition that is a core part of Derrick’s doctoral dissertation. The mold was made with a novel hybrid additive-subtractive process using a unique mold material being researched by Derrick aimed toward automated rapid mold manufacture. The sword was the first time the team tried this new technique in both steel and bronze. Up to that point, they had only tried aluminum, which has half the melting temperature.

“So, the sword was an initial proof of concept for use with these high-temperature materials,” explains Derrick of the team’s process. “The biggest takeaway for me is we made a fundamental learning that this process can handle a range of manufacturing materials and temperatures.”

Each team’s sword was evaluated in three rounds. You can watch the judges put the Western team’s sword through the tests in the video above.

  • Round 1: The sword was used to hit a steel conduit, the damage the sword did to the conduit was considered for judging. During this round the sword was used to cut a pool noodle in half, demonstrating the sharpness of the blade.
  • Round 2: Judges each hit a railroad tie multiple times with the sword to see how it could withstand the impact.
  • Round 3: The last test was to see how sharp the tip of the sword was. Ben Abbott, a judge from the History Channel show Forged in Fire, used the sword to pierce a tin can.

“My favorite part of the competition was learning about how to make a casting in steel and learning about the process that we used to create the sword. This was my first time producing a part out of steel and to see it perform well makes me very proud of what we did,” says Koebbe.

Western’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences metal casting minor prepares students to be immediately productive as lab managers, melt supervisors, quality engineers, process engineers or product engineers in the metal casting industry.  A required two-semester senior project focuses on cast metals and the casting industry. Western is a certified school in the Foundry Educational Foundation and conducts fundamental research in new molding processes, materials, testing and casting evaluation at the graduate level.    

Learn more about WMU’s casting curriculum.

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