Being a ‘product development guy’, the value of Vic LaFay’s personal commitment to metalcasting technology and industry is enhanced by institutional changes over recent decades.  His longtime affiliation with Hill and Griffith ended when that firm’s green-sand product lines were acquired by S&B Industrial Minerals in 2007 -- a move that gave him an even wider, global community in which to demonstrate his insights to green sand processes.

In the past year, mining and minerals giant Imerys S.A. incorporated the S&B product lines as Imerys MetalCasting Solutions.

“Look at all the consolidation that’s occurred,” he reflected. “When I joined the industry in the ‘70s there were 12 or 14 premix producers. Now, there are two in North America and four worldwide, and these producers can put more resources toward R&D than the 12 could.  So, it may be disappointing to the foundry industry, who have fewer suppliers to deal with, but they have greater resources available to them. Consolidation has made that happen.”

Those resources are critical to the effort of continuing the development of green sand process technology. It is making possible better analysis of the mined material, better refinement of minerals, and formulating products “that we never dreamed about in the ‘70s, in respect to the dimensional tolerance we are getting closer and closer to achieving today.”

This is a point re-emphasized in the paper LaFay co-authored for presentation at the World Foundry Organization recently, that “properly designed” material blends, controlled additions, and careful testing and monitoring of LOI achieved optimal casting surfaces and shakeout results for the iron foundry.

And so, it is on a global platform and with those greater resources that LaFay’s personal commitment to technological progress becomes more appreciated by foundry customers. For them, he is a conduit to the best ideas and practices of metalcasting operations around the world.

“I have many opportunities to publish and present topics, at AFS and WFO, for example, mainly to share knowledge and to absorb it from everyone else. What’s really been great has been the chance to go to places like Brazil and China; I’ve discovered so much similarity of interests and goals around the world. Everyone is so ready to lay their hands on new ideas, new knowledge.

“And we owe it to them to share,” he emphasized. “What they do in China or India, or Europe, we can learn from… and in the same way they can learn from the processes we’ve developed.”   

His role has not gone unrecognized. In 2009, AFS presented Vic LaFay with one of its most esteemed awards, the Thomas W. Pangborn Gold Medal: “For leadership in the technical development of green sand molding and methods which has propelled this technology to meet the future demands of the metalcasting industry through improvements in environmental applications, sustainable raw materials, and foundry education.”

“Leadership” is not difficult to recognize when it’s demonstrated with consistency, and with personal integrity. LaFay – who for decades has also been a leader in the scouting movement – is quite mindful of the importance of good leadership, and how it relies on the responsibility of good people to forego their personal priorities so that individuals may progress together toward their common goals.

In the work of Vic LaFay, the results of his leadership are evident in the improved performances and high-quality castings of foundries around the world, but finds his fulfillment in noting their success. His sense of commitment to mentors and colleagues over decades and even up to the present is always clear. “In my view, it’s part of my ‘existence’,” LaFay reflected. He has achieved the career fulfillment that so many of us imagine, and the rewards are shared by all those sharing his commitment.