The production equipment not only made it possible to produce higher volumes of molds, more quickly and consistently, but molds with greater dimensional accuracy and tolerances. And, as the machines’ performances improved, the molding materials had to improve.  Look, for example at the work done in the 1990s,” LaFay related: “That was where we came to understand emission characteristics, and how to use the great quantity of materials available to us. Something that had piqued my attention in the 1970s and ‘80s had been that people used bentonites and coals and other materials to make a good quality castings, but in the 1990s they began to insist on using the same materials but to achieve better casting dimensions, and to have a better environmental record as a result.”

The evolving nature of foundries’ operating priorities has been indirectly addressed in LaFay’s most recent technical paper, co-authored with Nick Richardson, a colleague with Imerys MetalCasting Solutions. Their study demonstrated how a “specifically designed blend” of high-efficiency coals improved casting quality and significantly reduced additive consumption in iron casting production.

Focusing on adapting materials’ applicability and performance for green sand molding proved to be an effective strategy for LaFay. After eight years with American Colloid, and still just 29 years old, he was offered the post as technical director for a rival green-sand materials supplier, Hill and Griffith Co. Leaving American Colloid in 1983 with only congratulations and best wishes ignited LaFay’s sense that the rewards of his career had more to do with his contributions than with his accomplishments.

“The American Colloid guys encouraged (accepting the new position), saying it was ‘the opportunity of a lifetime.’ We’d be competitors,” he recalled fondly, “but they recognized it was a great opportunity for me as an individual. And what I realized was that, the company I was leaving had supported me, and now my decisions had to start supporting others, to start giving back.”   

So, that’s been his approach. “I am a classic example of a guy that got into metalcasting at an early age, and I’ve been a product development guy, consistently, because of the knowledge I gained early from my mentors,” he said.

Here, the timing has been critical, because since the 1980s metalcasting product development has depended increasingly on the industry’s material and technology suppliers. As the foundries’ objectives, priorities, and liabilities changed, they relied more heavily on their suppliers to develop new approaches that would overcome the challenges.

In the professional sense, too, LaFay has worked to improve the opportunities for others to fulfill their individual potential in the metalcasting industry. He has served as president of the Casting Industry Suppliers Association, chaired the Cast Metals Institute, and headed the steering committee for the Casting Emissions Reduction Program. His technological expertise on the critical industrial issues is essential to these projects, but his personal commitment is invaluable to those laboring for progress.