That recognition was still more than a decade ahead when LaFay graduated from Lawrence Tech and started his professional career with American Colloid Corp., the notable supplier of foundry-grade bentonite for green sand molding materials. Even that engagement he credits to his mentor: “They saw an opportunity to pick up a Dr. Buell protégé, and a Ford intern,” he commented.

At American Colloid, the primary themes of LaFay’s technological expertise began to take shape, as his work centered on “the development of inorganic binders, and that was the subject of some of the early papers I completed, and (as I am still doing today) the use of bentonite for green sand molding.”

LaFay makes the insightful comment that the materials involved in green sand casting have not changed fundamentally since the mid 1970s, but foundries’ expectations have changed and so, necessarily, have the ways they use those materials.

“Look at the minerals business, bentonite, bituminous coal, these are products or materials that have been around a very long time, but we’re learning the different ways to use them better, for new generations of production processes and technology,” he said.

In that era, foundries interest in inorganic binders “was ahead of its time,” he continued. “The organic binder technologies (phenolic urethanes, furans) were the most popular methods of the time, but back in the 1970s people were becoming environmentally conscious. They were looking for alternatives. And if you look at the work being done in Germany now, and somewhat here in the U.S., people are looking at these technologies still. But in the ‘70s, it was brand new. People studying inorganic binders were looking way off into the future.”

“But,” he continued, “in regard to bentonite, in those days people were in the process of incorporating new molding machines, DISA and Sinto systems, particularly. So foundries had to adapt their more traditional molding technologies, like slingers, to modern molding machines.”

The higher-volume throughput and faster cycle times of those machine continues to be the standard for green sand foundries, the continuing research and ongoing technical development for sand and binder chemistry involves taking those traditional minerals and adapting them to changing molding methodologies. “Today’s machines are producing molds quicker and faster than they’ve ever done before, with higher dimensional tolerances, and that’s all been possible because of all the work done in the 1970s and 80s. And I was lucky to be in on the very early developments of materials needed to operate with those machines,” LaFay said.