USA Luge and Vulcan GMS – A Heavyweight Partnership for Decade

You might not easily see the connection: a global provider of components and assemblies to some of the world’s largest equipment companies and a winter Olympic sport that sees sleds and their riders speeding down an icy track at extreme speed. But Vulcan GMS has been a proud supporting partner of USA Luge since 1990, and this relationship will see USA Luge through the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this February and beyond.

It all began more than 25 years ago when Vulcan’s own Chuck Yanke was watching the Olympics on TV and reached out to USA Luge.  He offered to custom create and manufacture lead weights for athletes to use in their suits. These weights could be used to adjust a slider’s total weight to the allowable standard. That’s important in a sport that’s all about speed – luge is the only sport tracked to one thousandth of a second.  In addition, he agreed to provide the specialty weights free of charge.

The team took Yanke up on his offer, and the resulting partnership has lasted for decades. Today, Vulcan GMS not only continues to be the official provider of lead weights to USA Luge, but also sponsors two US Luge members – Emily Sweeney and Brittney Arndt.

What exactly IS Luge?

Luge is the French word for “sled” and, like the bobsled, it was developed as a sport in Switzerland. Its roots go back to the 16th century, but it was not until 300 years later that the first luge tracks were built by Swiss hotel owners to appeal to thrill-seeking tourists.

Luge is one of the oldest winter sports. It involves competitors lying on their backs on a tiny sled with their feet stretched out in front of them, racing down an icy track at speeds exceeding 95 mph – all without brakes.  Often referred to as “the fastest sport on ice,” sliders use their legs and shoulders to steer the fiberglass sleds down the track. Additionally, the average luge run has a vertical drop of 300 feet!  In the first international race of 1883, the race winners reached an average of just 16 mph — which shows what a long way this sport has come. The first international luge race took place in February 1883, and luge was inaugurated as an Olympic sport at the 1964 IX Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

USA Luge reached the Olympic singles podium in Sochi, Russia in 2014 when 2009 World Champion Erin Hamlin, the most successful singles racer in team history, scored a bronze medal. She was also the first American woman to ever win an Olympic luge medal. The U.S. squad will try to add to their Olympic legacy when the 2018 Olympic Winter Games are held in PyeongChang, South Korea.

A Team Like Family

While in PyeongChang, team USA Luge will continue to enjoy not only the financial backing, but the wholehearted fan support of a 155-employee strong cheering section at Vulcan GMS. The mutual friendship between our two organizations means that Vulcan employees feel a personal connection with USA Luge, and see the sliders we sponsor like family. It’s pretty amazing that the world class athletes we cheer for and watch on TV are the same kids that we discovered in slider searches, the same lugers we’ve hosted as guests in our facilities, and the same Olympians who’ve held our corporate flag on a mountaintop in Vancouver.  As Chuck says, “Being associated with the Olympic team is inspirational for our employees. Getting to know the athletes through our sponsorship and their visits brings us into contact with their competitive spirit. I think a lot of that spirit has rubbed off over the decades and become a very real part of what drives us to be our best.”

We’ll be following these athletes with a personal connection and a passion for their performance. Luge coverage begins February 8th. Will you be watching?

Find out when to tune in to USA Luge events at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games by clicking the link below.




Vulcan GMS Celebrates 40 Years

Vulcan GMS was purchased by our current chairman Chuck Yanke in 1978.  At that time, there were just two employees and the company consumed only a couple loads of material per year.  Vulcan was a different place but the company quickly took off.

Today Vulcan GMS does more in sales per day than the company did annually in the first year.  In addition, Vulcan now brings several material loads per week – also more than the entire first year.  Many things have changed but some remain the same, such as our focus on our customers’ needs, responsiveness to those needs and finding innovative ways to solve customer problems.

Vulcan GMS is the market leader in what we do – offering our simple solutions to complex problems.  We pride ourselves on being a partner to our customers, offering multiple solutions through design review.  As Vulcan continues to grow, the scope of the products we can provide our customers has greatly expanded and we look forward to continued growth in the years to follow.

Join us in celebrating our 40th anniversary and put Vulcan GMS to the test to solve your complex manufacturing problems.  We appreciate all of our dedicated customers that helped us get to this point and we are committed to supporting them for years to come.


Vulcan Cleans Up the Neighborhood

Vulcan GMS recently held our annual neighborhood clean up around both of our factories in Milwaukee.  The event was held on a Saturday and attendance was optional for employees. Showing true Vulcan spirt, we proudly had over 60 people attend the cleanup.

Covering roughly a half mile in each direction, our blue crew picked up trash and wind-blown debris, cleaning and beautifying the streets and surrounding neighborhoods. As result of the effort, we filled an entire dumpster with trash that had been littering the streets and natural areas near our factory sites.  Of course after the work was done, some celebratory coffee, donuts and good times were had by all.

A cleaner environment benefits everyone, and Vulcan GMS is committed to caring for our neighborhoods and supporting the Vulcan family. Our company will continue with both charitable and environmental efforts to support local neighborhoods in the future.



The Importance of Giving Back

Be proud. Give back. Pay it forward. Every year in May, we host a special event that reminds us of the importance of these concepts. Our organization continually gives back to employees, demonstrating the importance of giving back and paying it forward. Saturday, May 20, 2017 Vulcan hosted the 6th Annual Vulcan Bowling Tournament at Bluemound Bowl to support the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin.

We raised between $3,000 – $5,000 in donations and host around 75-100 bowlers — friends, family neighbors and suppliers of Vulcan employees. For years our company explored everything from food drives, to team building exercises, to sporting events, but nothing is as fulfilling or successful as this event. Six years ago, when we approached Renee Logee, the Director of Development, Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, she not only guaranteed that all the money raised would stay local and go to programs within our communities to help autistic children, she guaranteed that our contribution would make a difference.

This year we did 50/50 raffle prizes, Vulcan and our vendors have donated prizes, trophies for the top three teams, t-shirts, Brewers tickets, coolers, neon signs, gift cards — the list goes on. We want to thank our two teams of suppliers, and a special thanks to Hank Posnanski of Bluemound Bowl — who has generously donated his time, money and raffle prizes to make this event a huge success.

We have owners who instill giving back and the Vulcan family shares in this support. We look forward to another year of helping those who are less fortunate. While our company is rewarded by having fun and raising money for a good cause, the most rewarding part is handing the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin a donation check for thousands of dollars. We will present that check at our annual USA Luge Catering Event this year at Mitchell Park Pavilion where we will also be recognizing company service awards.

It’s very important for Vulcan, and others, to support not only Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, but other organizations as well. At the end of the day, it’s not about the dollar amount, it’s about generosity, generating awareness and getting involved. It’s critical for companies of all sizes to recognize the importance of giving back.

Safety Goes Beyond Our Door

Every company will tell you that they’re safe; that they have the best practices, procedures and safeguards. But until they actually build a centralized culture around it, all they’re doing is pushing uphill. At Vulcan, we instill corporate safety because safety goes beyond our door.

This mantra is at the hearts and minds of everyone within our organization. It’s the way we do business and it’s part of our DNA. Since inception, we’ve been tracking no lost time accidents and continuously improving how we approach, educate, implement and communicate safety at our facilities and beyond.

It starts with our people. Every month we have meetings where we report company and department totals and we exhibit these on display boards in every building for all to see. It has been 401 days with no lost time accidents.

We track a comprehensive set of parameters. However, the most important thing we track is employee feedback. At the beginning of each shift we have a 15min safety discussion with employees at each location to talk about individual safety and how every person will be implementing safety into their day. We invest the time and the resources in the safety of our people and products to demonstrate this ongoing commitment.

Vulcan also has periodic meetings called open mic — where the entire company gets together and everyone is encouraged to openly share ideas, give comments and feedback on anything they feel could be done better. The management team listens, documents that information, prioritizes it and updates employees on implementing those improvements.

We pride ourselves on being safe inside and outside of work. As a commitment to our employees and a token of appreciation for hitting our 365 day safety mark, Vulcan gifted free fire extinguishers to every employee — reminding them that safety goes beyond our door.

The best way to ensure safety is to never settle for minimum performance and protocols. We are constantly pushing ourselves to be the very best. We practice a lean methodology here that the manufacturing world is well aware of — 5S manufacturing. We took 5S, modified it and now we call it 6S manufacturing — where Safety is the first “S.” Safety is the top priority for our employees and our guests. This mindset also extends to our customers where we regularly offer ideas and suggestions when they send us products and when we review drawings.

Safety impacts our customers the same as it does our organization. We see things from their perspective. Our customers are all at the top of their markets, so it’s critical that safety is a key aspect of everything we provide, and everything they provide their customers with. In many of the contracts we are involved in, there is significant focus on safety, risk and liability. Our customers want to ensure that everything is made properly, delivered to specification and clearly marked. These are things our customers demand of us and we challenge ourselves to go above and beyond with our implementation.

We look forward to our ongoing commitment to safety for our employees, our customers and our belief that safety goes beyond our door.

Vulcan GMS to sponsor USA Luge Slider Search on August 7

Image of USA Luge Slider Search

Vulcan Global Manufacturing Solutions is proud to announce its sponsorship of the USA Luge Slider Search event at the New Berlin Soap Box Derby Track. The event is free and will be held on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016.

The USA Luge Slider Search Program

USA Luge Slider Search is the official nationwide recruitment tour for luge. The free program is open to young adults between ages 9 and 13. According to the official website, the program’s focus is to identify, train and qualify young athletes for the USA Luge Junior Development Team. Since the program began in 1985, it has produced 22 Olympians and almost 90 percent of the current junior and national luge teams came from the Slider Search program.


The Slider Search Event

During the USA Luge Slider Search event in New Berlin, Wis., there will be three two-hour sessions. The date is Sunday, Aug. 7, and the session times are 9-11 a.m., 12-2 p.m. and 3-5 p.m.

The event will be held at the New Berlin Soap Box Derby Track, 5100 S. Small Rd, New Berlin, Wis. The track is located off Beloit Road, near the I-43 and Moorland Road intersection.

For More Information

If you have any questions about this upcoming event, please feel free to contact us. We hope you will join us for this family fun event!

The complexity of machining lead and lead-based products

Image of Lead_shieldingMachining of lead-based products is difficult due to the soft nature of alloys. The pressure from the fixtures and cutting tools on lead-based parts can cause a product to be out of specification. Therefore, the handling of these products is critical.

How we handle lead-based products

One way to address this problem is to add antimony to these lead-based products. In some cases, tin can be added as well to increase the mechanical properties and rigidity.

To better serve our customers, Vulcan GMS casts lead blocks to the exact size we need to machine the customer’s product. By having our own foundry, we can optimize the size and expedite the raw material for our machining business unit. This is a key element that separates us from your local machine shop that must wait to acquire the lead materials needed. Also Vulcan can cast finished shapes or partial cast shapes to allow our customers the best overall value.

The problem with lead machine chips

When the local machine shop tries to machine lead, they will need to purchase the raw material and, after machining, they are then left with the machine chips. Lead is a hazardous material that should not be processed or machined unless you are an approved manufacturer that has environmental licenses and approved processing methods.

Lead machine chips cannot be disposed of like aluminum or steel chips. They must be processed by a certified company that can convert and process the chips. Vulcan GMS is able to melt and reuse all of our own machine chips internally in our foundry. This ensures our customers a closed loop cradle to grave approach in the manufacturing of their products. In addition, we do not need to charge our customers for a block since we can make the block and reclaim the chips. Our customers only pay for what is needed in the product.

If you are in need of a machined lead part, consider your options and choose Vulcan GMS for your machining needs. Do not let your liability be in your vendor’s mishandling of lead products.  Choose a certified lead manufacturing company such as Vulcan GMS for all your lead machining needs. Contact us today.

Vulcan GMS expands its facility for new offerings

Image of Vulcan FacilitySince our founding in 1978, Vulcan GMS has continued to expand and develop new capabilities.

When we began, Vulcan was a mere 15,000 square foot facility with three employees. Much has changed since then. Today Vulcan has more than 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space and more than 160 employees worldwide.

A company of “firsts”

In the beginning, Vulcan Lead (our name at the time) made simple lead parts. Today Vulcan Global Manufacturing Solutions provides some of the most demanding products and assemblies in the industry.

Throughout our history, Vulcan GMS has had many “firsts” in technology. Our drive for quality and our focus on growth through customer satisfaction has been the cornerstone of our evolution. As the first nonferrous foundry of our kind to become ISO certified, we are a leader in high-quality manufacturing.

New offerings drive facility expansion

As Vulcan has expanded our offerings in materials and capabilities, we have also continued to grow our manufacturing space to meet the new demands.

In February, Vulcan expanded again – this time in our machining and assembly areas. We have taken over the adjacent building to allow us to add more equipment and new and improved assembly work cells. The addition will allow better efficiency in our demanding markets including medical, security and aerospace.

While we are still focusing on our niche capabilities, we are excited to offer other machining and manufacturing with other metals and plastics. It allows us to give our customers higher level components, assemblies and kits.

We would like to thank all of our customers whose continued business and growth opportunities have brought us to this point. We look forward to more continued growth to support our valued customers’ future needs for many years to come. Please contact us for any new ideas or projects.

How to choose the best joint design for your radiation shielding project

Radiation shieldingImage of lead burning joint design is a key benefit of lead and lead lining. There are five primary methods of shielding in joints between mating parts in a design. Each joint design has its own benefits and cost based on the requirements and geometry of the part. Hopefully this outline will help you to discuss and/or select from the different options of joint design.

Five different types of joint design for radiation shielding projects

Butt Joint: This joint is the most basic one. With this joint, two lead sheets are abutting each other. While it is the least expensive option, there is a straight path through the part or wall section allowing radiation to potentially leak.

Image of Overlap JointsOverlap Joint: This type of joint is where a sheet of lead is laid over another for a set length to give you two times the thickness of shielding in that area. This works well to prevent seams and shield radiation, but you will need the space for the lead thickness to be double the thickness in this area. Also this can only be done with thinner lead sheets. Lead plates that are thicker or those with antimony cannot be formed to the tight sheet you are trying to overlap.

Step Joint: A step joint is one where the part has been machined on the edges to allow the matting part to seat into the next part which offers uniform thickness. For example, in a half inch lead plate, a step joint may be one inch wide and cut down a quarter inch to allow the next plate to sit upside down into this one. The joint then looks like stair steps, which provide uniform wall thickness to prevent radiation leaks.

Offset Joint: This technique is used when the sheets or plates of lead are thinner than the total thickness and the butt joints are staggered in the design. This means there are no joints in the same place and the next layer of lead sheet covers the joint on the prior layer.

Weld Joint: When the seam in a lead part is welded or burned together, it is referred to as a weld joint. Filler lead is used to fuse the joint together. This method can offer a weld that provides great radiation shielding with no joint left when complete.  The weld shields because it is the same alloy as the part. This technique does not add wall thickness because the lead weld joint is the same thickness as the base material. This technique can also aid in bonding the lead to other metals like aluminum or sheet metal.

Joint covers & corner strips

If there are butt joints, some designs will require lead strips to be used in the design to cover them. These can be welded, glued or attached in the design to shield. Also through forming or extrusion, corner strips can be made to cover corners and edges to prevent radiation leaks. This works well in X-ray cabinets.

Radiation shielding is a great process to finish your project or parts. But it’s important to carefully consider which joint design you should choose to ensure that no issues – such as leaking – occurs in the final product.

Contact us today and we will help you determine the best joint design for your radiation shielding project.

The Technical Dictionary of Lead Casting Terms

Image of Lead CastingWhile you may know generally what it is and understand a little bit about the process, lead casting truly is both a science and an art. So we have decided to share with you our “Technical Dictionary of Lead Casting Terms.” We hope this will demonstrate the intricacy and the complexity of the lead casting process.

Technical Dictionary of Lead Casting Terms

Porosity: This term refers to the measurement of voids in a casting. Porosity is typically caused by air pockets in a casting where the wall is not 100 percent metal. There is no such thing as a porosity-free casting; but it can be controlled and limited. All castings have some level of porosity which can lead to radiation leaks in shielding products.

Cold Flow: This is a term that is used to describe when the metal solidifies to fast or in different segments causing cooling lines. The surface of a product will have lines in it and some of them could sink into the part. This is caused by not having the tool or metal hot enough or controlled enough to maintain temperature throughout the pour. Cold flow can lead to the wall not being consistent and radiation leaks in shielding products.

Sink Hole: This term is used to describe a void that forms between cold flow and porosity. It will appear like a hole in the metal. It is also the result of problems with temperature control. If there is not enough heat or if the heat is not maintained in the pouring process, sink holes can form in the metal.

Turbulence: Metal flows into a tool and each time the metal changes directions, it swirls causing turbulence. This swirling (turbulence) of the metal leads to porosity and the less turbulence there is, the better the casting. Turbulence also leads to freeze off (solidifying) which is where the metal swirls and touches the walls of the tooling and can begin freezing (solidifying). When this happens and molten metal flows around metal that is freezing, you get porosity pockets. Through tool design and metal flow, the goal is to reduce turbulence.

Gate: The fill area where molten metal is poured into a tool to create a part is called a gate.  The gate is generally shaped like a cone to keep head pressure on the metal in the tool. This conical shape also allows molten metal to feed the shrink (see definition later in this post) on the metal. The gate is on top in a gravity casting, but in a die casting it can be in multiple locations. The gate is generally cut or machined off to yield the final shape of the part. By design, the gate usually contains more porosity so when it is removed, the porosity is also moved out of your finished part.

Riser: Air will get trapped inside the tool if you simply pour molten metal into it. Risers are used in specific locations inside a tool to allow air to escape and ensure metal flow through the tool. The channels on top of the tool allow air out as metal flows out of the main chamber into the riser. The risers allow better metal flow to reduce porosity in the finished part. They are cut or machined off in the final stages of production.

Runner: A runner is a channel that allows metal to flow through it. Runners are more common in die casting because they are the pathway where the metal flows into the tool and into the part cavity. In die castings, they are broken off or trimmed off at the end of the process. Runners can also be used in some gravity cast parts to aid in metal flow. They are typically used when multiple fill locations are necessary at one time.

Core: A core is a piece of the tool that makes the internal shape.  If you consider a bottle as the finial part the core would produce the ID of the bottle while the rest of the tool generates the rest of the design.  Tools are also called patterns and a core would insert into the tool and seat allowing the core to make the internal geometry.

Alloy: The alloy is the metal composition that is used in a casting. In lead casting, pure lead is used but alloys with antimony are more common such as 1%, 2%, 3%, 6% antimony (balance lead). The addition of antimony helps metal flow and adds strength to the metal.

Shrink: Metal shrinks when it cools from molten to solid. The metal will shrink onto cores and pull away from the walls of the tooling. In complex geometries, parts will shrink in multiple directions at once and can pull themselves apart. Shrink needs to be added in tooling design to yield products to the desired shape and tolerances.

Draft: Draft is the angle that is added to the part and in turn the tool which allows the part to be removed from the tooling. Without draft, parts would not be able to be extracted from the tooling.

Up Casting: The process in which metal is poured into the tool through the gate and then into a runner that goes to the bottom of the part and feeds into the bottom of the part geometry. This technique helps to reduce turbulence in the flow of metal into the chamber. It can be a good way to ensure a good pour based on the part’s geometry.