Lead and tungsten make ideal counterweights

Image of Aerospace Counter WeightsMany types of equipment require balancing or counterweights to allow the system work properly. Counterweights can be simple steel plates or they can be designed with complex geometrics because of the compartments in which they need to be placed. When you are designing a product that will require counterweights, there are many factors to consider.

  • How much counterweight will you need?
  • How much space does the application have?
  • Are there benefits to reducing the space or size of the counterweight?
  • Are there benefits to adding more weight to the counterweight compartment?
  • Is the counterweight going to be a freestanding part or will it be inside a compartment as one assembly?
  • Will the counterweight(s) need to be removed or will there be trim balancing needed?
  • What are the mechanical properties needed of the counterweight and what environment is it going into?

There are many options for counterweight designs in geometry and material. Steel is a good option; but in many cases it alone cannot attain the goals so other metals such as lead or tungsten must be used.

Aluminum density 2.7 g/cc
Steel density 7.85 g/cc
Lead density 11.34 g/cc (31% more dense than steel)
Tungsten density 19.3 g/cc (59% more dense than steel, 41% more dense than lead)



Lead is a good option that allows steel shells or other components to be filled since lead melts at a relatively low temperature. Lead can also be cast into shapes allowing it to be poured into a tool providing a lead weight that can be installed into a specific geometry. Lead costs more than steel but it carries a density that is roughly 31 percent more than steel. Lead counterweights can be painted or powder coated to cover the lead for handling purposes and the cost allows lead to be an excellent counterweight.


Tungsten is a sintered metal starting from raw APT powder. After sintering, tungsten is then machined to produce finished shapes. Tungsten is more expensive than lead, but it is 41 percent more dense than lead. Most applications that use tungsten counterweights are smaller with very specific geometries. This makes it ideal for small compartments or in applications where greater mechanical properties are needed over lead.

Some counterweight applications include:

  • Medical equipment
  • Bridge counterweights
  • Aerospace
  • Rotating products
  • Industrial applications
  • Fork Trucks & Lifts
  • Bridge Weights
  • Elevator Weights
  • Sonar Weights

Metal Densities

Material kg/m^3
Antimony 6,690
Zinc 7,000
Chromium 7,200
Tin 7,310
Manganese 7,325
Iron 7,870
Niobium 8,570
Brass 8,600
Cadmium 8,650
Cobalt 8,900
Nickel 8,900
Copper 8,940
Bismuth 9,750
Molybdenum 10,220
Silver 10,500
Lead 11,340
Thorium 11,700
Rhodium 12,410
Mercury 13,546
Tantalum 16,600
Uranium 18,800
Tungsten 19,300
Gold 19,320
Plutonium 19,840
Platinum 21,450
Iridium 22,420
Osmium 22,570

Please contact us for any of your counterweight needs.

Metal spinning a great process with low tooling cost

Metal spinning is an old process that fundamentally has not changed all that much since it was introduced into the manufacturing process.

The process uses a tool that becomes the inside form of your part. This tool looks like the part that is being made. In the spinning process, the metal blank is pressed against the forming tool and then the tool and the blank rotate. Once the part is spinning, a series of roller balls are used to apply pressure to the metal blank causing it to move and conform to the inner tool shape.

Generally there are multiple roller balls used – all with different wheel diameters and shapes. This allows the part to have different radiuses applied and different surface finishes applied. The spinning process is an excellent process with relatively low tooling cost that allows for low and medium production volumes.

There are many metals that can be spun including – but not limited to – aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, tin and lead. Some metals will harden through this process and require spin forming in multiple steps. During this process, the hardening is removed from the metal to allow it to flow properly. However, parts may also be hardened after spin forming to increase the strength of the part for your specific application.

Image of Metal SpinningProduct types

  • Cones
  • Dishes
  • Air Inlets
  • Cylinders
  • Rings
  • Flanged Parts
  • Tank Ends
  • Funnels
  • Aerospace Parts
  • Lighting
  • Medical
  • Industrial

If you have any questions or need more information about metal spinning, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What can brazing do for you?

Image of BrazingBrazing would seem like a simple process, but it is inherently complex. Brazing is typically used to join either thin wall materials of the same type or because it allows the joining of dissimilar metals in the process. There are two basic forms of brazing: dip brazing and oven brazing. Your specific application will dictate the brazing process that is required.

Dip Brazing

Dip brazing is a process where component parts are developed to fit together through a joint which is the interface between two component parts. Components are pre-cleaned to remove any debris or oxides from the processing. Parts are either tac welded or fixed to hold them in position. Then all the joints are prepared with a braze putty. Braze putty is unique to the metals being brazed and will vary from application to application. This putty is filled around the joints and the parts are then loaded into the braze fixture.

In dip brazing, the parts being brazed will be heated in an oven to get them to an elevated temperature. At that time, parts are then removed from the preheated oven and placed in a salt bath that is heated nearly to the melting point of the base materials where the metals become soft. The braze putty melts and begins to flow through the braze joint. The salt bath helps hold the part in the bath by applying pressure to the assembly to help hold its shape. After a specific period of time, the parts are removed from the bath and drained of all fluids while cooling. The result is a fully fuzzed assembly. Some cleanup of braze alloy is typically needed.

Image of brazing partsOven Brazing

Oven brazing is a process where component parts are developed to fit together through a joint which is the interface between two component parts. Components will be pre-cleaned to remove any debris or oxides from the process. Parts are either tac welded or fixed to hold them in position and all the joints are prepared with a braze putty. This putty is unique to the metals being brazed and will vary from application to application. It is filled around the joints and then the parts are loaded into the braze fixture.

In oven brazing, the parts being brazed will be heated in an oven to get them to an elevated temperature where braze putty begins to flow. The fixture is what holds the parts in place while brazing, but the best designs use mechanical means to hold the materials in place. Parts are maintained at an elevated temperature for a defined period of time based on joints, size, volume, etc. to allow for the proper temperatures to be achieved and held for the defined timeline.

In the oven brazing process, it is key that the parts are cleaned, that the putty and fixturing is correct and that the oven for the brazing is cleaned correctly so it is accurate enough for the application. Inaccurate temperature control or an unclean oven will result in a failing joint.

Benefits of Brazing

  • Joining of thin wall materials
  • Liquid & vacuum tight braze joints
  • Multiple pieces can be joined at one time
  • Process control compared to other techniques that may be operator controlled
  • Good tolerance controls
  • Dissimilar materials can be brazed together
  • Cost-effective solution

Critical Criteria for Brazing

  • Joint design
  • Braze alloy
  • Fixture design
  • Part pre-cleaning
  • Oven cleanliness (oven braze or preheat in dip braze)

Vulcan GMS has been providing brazed assemblies to our customers for more than 20 years. We have an expert team that can help you through the process and ensure your product is successful.

In addition, Vulcan GMS also can produce the machined or fabricated components for your assembly as well as offer you a one-stop shop for your machining, spinning, press forming, fabricating, assembly and brazing needs for your specific application. Contact Vulcan GMS to learn more.

Have you ever thought about trying luge?

Image of LugeSo where in the world do these luge “experts” come from anyway? Luge is not exactly like baseball or football at the local high school. So how does someone get into the sport?

The answer is simple: You try it. USA Luge has several events coming up this winter season and anyone of the proper age and with a little training can try their best from basic slides to some with more complex turning and maneuvering. Take a look at the list of events for this season.

No snow? No problem

Image of Sliding on WheelsSo what happens if you are in part of the country that does not get snow or if it is summer time? You can still try it. How do you try luge without snow? Take a look at the USA Luge Slider Search page on the website. USA Luge will be holding several events in 2015 where wheels will be added to sleds and custom tracks will be set up to test your abilities. With a little training and coaching, people are able to try the sport and figure out how to handle a sled. Would you believe that some of the best USA sliders began on sleds with wheels?

Sliding doubles depends on nonverbal communication

Once you have hit the test hills and you think you are qualified for the fastest sport on ice (which by the way can hit speeds of up to 95 mph and where you are being timed to the thousands of a second), it’s time to share one more fact.

If you are sliding doubles, the smaller person is on top and can see but cannot steer the sled. The larger person is on the bottom and can steer but cannot see. So when you are ready to pull upwards of 5 g’s in the turns and up to 95 mph on the straightaway, remember to maintain the most aerodynamic position in your custom-made aerodynamic suit. You have to rely on nonverbal communication as a team to make it to the end one thousands of a second faster than the competition.

Don’t blink or you may miss it

Whether you think you have what it takes to be a slider or just want to follow the sport, you cannot go wrong. Luge would seem like a simple sport – like kids sliding on a local sledding hill; but there is so much more involved. From the visualizing of the track to picking the path to the strength to hold 5 g’s in a turn without getting off that path, the goal is always to get to the track’s end as fast as possible.

USA Luge is the fastest sport on ice and the more your learn about it, the more amazed you will be. Follow USA Luge  and find USA Luge on the track. But don’t blink or you could miss the fastest sport on ice!

Holy Macaroni, Batman! Vulcan does it again!

Image of Macaroni and Cheese Vulcan GMS

Vulcan GMS is a Milwaukee-based company with more than 35 years of roots in our community. Vulcan has always given back to our community and, in recent years, we have teamed up with the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee to help feed local families in need. In 2013, Vulcan GMS made a donation of 3,200 pounds of food to the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force.

When Vulcan approached the Hunger Task Force about their needs, we were told that they could really use macaroni and cheese this year; 3,500 boxes to be exact. When Vulcan heard about this need, we took it upon ourselves as a challenge to make it happen. The Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee wanted to have these donations for the Thanksgiving holiday season which meant that Vulcan had three weeks to complete the challenge.

Vulcan turned this food drive into a company challenge by offering vacation days to employees as an award for donations. During the three-week challenge, updates went out to all employees about which departments had supplied to the drive. Through this approach, we created a friendly competition.

At the end of the food drive, Vulcan GMS was extremely proud to present the Hunger Task Force with a donation of more than 7,000 boxes of macaroni and cheese (more than twice the need!) by the deadline date. This is yet another example of why Vulcan GMS is a special place to work and our employees truly make a difference.

The photo above shows less than half of the total macaroni and cheese that Vulcan donated to the Hunger Task Force. The amount shown was enough to unpack and repack for the photo. The photo shows Vulcan employees Ricardo Rodriguez with 8 years of service, Steve Gamel with 36 years of service, Hector Rivera with 7 years of service, Richard Moreno with 7 years of service and Matt Macur with 15 years of experience.

If you would like to help out the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, please visit their donations page.

Considerations for Radioactive Shipping Pigs and Systems

Image of Shipping PigsWhen designing radioactive shipping packages, there are several key elements that need to be considered. There are many considerations when developing a shipping pig and transport system for that pig. Oftentimes the entire scope of the needs and design are not considered even though they are critical to ensure that the pig and over pack function as needed both in your site as a manufacturer / pharmacy and in your customer’s site ( pharmacy / hospital).

Below are some of the most common key elements to consider for radioactive shipping packages.

  • How do you want to ship; Yellow II or at another radiation level?
  • What isotope are you shipping? What is the maximum activity that you will be shipping?
  • What is the maximum weight you want to handle and what is the ideal weight?
  • What is the maximum and minimum size of your over pack?
  • Do you require the shipment to be transported at a specific temperature?
  • What are the weight, size, and handling limitations or concerns of the site receiving the package?
  • What vial or syringe will you be shipping?
  • How will the user connect with the package and shipping pig?
  • Is this a one-way pig or will you reuse it? (The answer to this question determines the best materials to use in the pig and over pack.)
  • How will the receiver of the package return the used system if it is being sent back? What will you do when you receive the system back?
  • How many packages will you need in rotation to serve your customer base?
  • What type of ergonomic issues should you be aware of both at your site and at your customer’s site?
  • What interface issues should you consider in your hood or hot cell?
  • Are you buying a shipping pig or the complete shipping system? Who will handle the DOT and IATA certifications?

In addition, you should consider whether you want to purchase the pig only or source out a completely certified shipping system. The system can easily be broken into two portions; the pig and the over pack. You need to consider if you have the resources to develop both portions, one portion or none. If you have limited experience in this area, you may be surprised by the amount of time and consideration needed to develop the best shipping system.

Vulcan GMS designs and develops shipping pigs and shipping systems. We can help you through the entire process. We designed and built many different pigs and shipping systems for our customers and we can help you through every step either as the a build to specification supplier for your design or for your design partner to develop a pig or system that fits your needs. If you have any questions or if we can be of assistance simply contact us to talk further.

3D Printing for Any Application – Even Halloween?

Image of 3D Printed Skull3D printing has come a long way and the detail that can be attained is amazing.

3D printed parts begin as 3D models from a modeling software such as Solidworks. This software allows the user to construct a part or object on a computer in a three-dimensional world instead of the old 2D from years ago. This 3D computer model provides all the details needed to construct the object. A 3D printer then uses this computer generated 3D model to produce the 3D part.

A 3D printer like Vulcan’s Fortus 250 printer uses ABS plastic to build up material in .007″ increments. The machine uses ABS wire much like fishing line that is fed into the head of the machine where it is pushed through a nozzle that heats the ABS and melts it; dispensing it in very accurate amounts. The 3D printer has multiple axis that control the position of the nozzle where the plastic is melted. The 3D printer functions in the same method as a machining center where the cutting tool moves around the material based on the 3D computer file. But instead of removing material, it is building up material in very small increments.

A 3D printer builds up from a platform in the machine. Since 3D printers build up from nothing, some geometries require extra support. When building certain shapes, sections of the part will be suspended in open air so they require support material to hold them in space. Without this support material, the part would collapse or be built out of tolerance. In a machine like the Fortus 250, a dissolvable plastic is also used in the construction to support the part. This plastic is simply called support material. The support material holds the ABS while the part is built to fill cavities and open areas so the part can continue to be built from the ground up. Once a part is completely printed, the part is soaked in a solution that dissolves the support material off the ABS plastic and you are left with the desired 3D part.

Vulcan GMS recently printed a couple of samples of the skull shown with this post to demonstrate to our customers the detail that can be attained through this process. The skull fits in a 4-inch cube and has exceptional detail in its design and build. This part took 13 hours to print in the Fortus 250 and was a great demonstration piece for Halloween.

Contact Vulcan to learn more about 3D printing or to discuss your specific printing needs and how one of our 3D printers can be put to work for you.

Lead batteries most recycled products in the world

Image of Lead BatteryLead is one of the most widely recycled materials in the world. Today 80 percent of the world’s total consumption of lead is in the use of lead acid batteries where the primary demand is in the automobile industry.

The battery has had a great track record of recycling. Since 98 percent of battery components can be recycled so the battery is a true success story in recycling. In some countries recycling rates are as high as 100 percent. In the United States alone, there are more than 99 million batteries made per year and over 96 percent of those are recycled. In fact, as you can see by viewing the chart below, the lead acid battery is the most recycled consumer product in the world!

Image of Recycling RatesAccording to a document entitled “The Facts About Lead: The Energy Solution” created by Battery Council International,  a battery is separated into three components during the recycling process. First, the lead is smelted and refined for new batteries. Then the plastic case is cleaned and molded into new battery cases. Even the used acid is recycled during this process.

Recycled lead is much cheaper and more efficient to produce than raw ore. It is estimated that it takes 25 percent or less of the energy to produce recycled lead material compared to that of raw ore.

As the processes of recycling have improved through the years, these numbers have also improved. This makes lead a wonder because of its great success in the recycling world. Today the lead metals market is centered around recycling which actually drives the metal prices.

If you’d like to learn more about lead battery recycling, you can visit Battery Council International’s website. You can also view and/or download the council’s “Facts About Lead” document below. Be sure to take a look at the graphic in the document from Battery Council International to get a better understanding of the recycling process for lead compared to plastic and other recyclables.

Download (PDF, 937KB)


The origin of our name Vulcan GMS

Image of Vulcan GMS logoPeople often ask if Vulcan GMS was named after Star Trek and we can assure you that is not the case. The name Vulcan actually comes from ancient Roman mythology.

The god Vulcan (the Greek deity Hephaestus) was the god of fire, metalworking and craftsmanship. Vulcan was the son of Zeus and Hera and he is often shown with a hammer working metal in a fire or around a fire. Vulcan is also sometimes called Mulciber (the smelter).

Vulcan often crafted swords and tools for god and heroes. Vulcan became a master Image of V for Vulcan GMScraftsmen and built many tools for the gods on Mount Olympus. Vulcan was the builder of thunder bolts for Zeus and armor worn by the gods. It was believed that Vulcan had a workshop in a volcano where he taught humans the art of crafting metal, forming metals and other arts in metal working.

Every year Romans held a festival called Vulcanalia to honor Vulcan. He was honored for all of his gifts and teachings to the gods and mankind. With stories like this, it is no wonder the founders of Vulcan GMS chose this name to represent what we do.

Vulcan GMS is a manufacturing company that uses many different types of techniques to produce products including metal melting (casting), which is the service responsible from our initial growth. Since then, Vulcan has evolved and now offers many different manufacturing techniques and metals; but we have stayed true to our roots with our name and logo. Take a look at our logo and you will see that we still depict the god of Vulcan in the “V” of our name.

Supply chain and kitting solutions reduce waste costs

Image of Sample PartThese days businesses are trying to run as lean as possible and therefore more demands are placed on the employees. When it comes to keeping your business running, the requirements are pretty simple from your supply chain. You require good products, on time with the flexibility of suppliers to work with you.

All too often this means that buyers and materials managers are trying to improve their throughput. However, to keep costs down, an organization might have to reduce total head count. So how can improvements be achieved with all the requirements and purchase orders that need to be issued and managed?

The cost of a purchase order

What is the cost of issuing a PO? This question has been asked by many but it is hard to answer. According to Supply Chain Digest, this cost could be as much as $506 per order. That cost is an intangible one that gets wrapped into a company’s overhead costs.

In addition to placing the order, what happens when schedules change and those POs need to be changed and inventories managed? What is this cost?

Aside from issuing a PO and the associated costs, companies often overlook other costs connected with POs such as incoming inspection, freight costs, internal moves, etc. How do these aspects affect the basic principles of lean production?

Where is the waste and how do we get rid of it?

The seven forms of waste in an organization are:

  1. Overproduction
  2. Waiting / Que Time
  3. Transporting / Moving
  4. Inappropriate Processing
  5. Inventory / Excess Inventory
  6. Excess Motion / Disorganization
  7. Scrap / Rejects

Having assemblies made on the outside is a great way to reduce waste costs, but what happens when there is not a clear “assembly”? The answer is product kitting. Kitting is the concept of reducing your purchases into product kits that make sense with key suppliers.

Image of QualityIf you have key suppliers that provide products, explore what else they could provide in a package of products that could help your business in your manufacturing cells or assembly process. For example, if you have a product with 100 part numbers in a bill of materials (BOM) and they are in three main categories such as machined components, electrical components and fabricated components, try to consolidate the other purchase products into product kits that make sense from these key suppliers. You may require items such as nuts and bolts, inserts, gaskets, etc. You can make kit part numbers where your suppliers provide all the needed hardware in kit packs that fit your assembly process. This will reduce your overhead costs to manage hundreds of POs, suppliers, schedule changes, inventory, waiting and more.

The kitting concept is simple but few organizations actually make the move to true product kits. At Vulcan GMS, we manufacture many different types of products and assemblies but kitting is really where you can truly reduce waste and the cost associated with it.

When it comes to kitting, the age old quote of “work smarter not harder” rings true and should be applied to your business. Step back from the day-to-day to consider the concept wherever you can. The elimination of waste can be monumental once you begin.

In the sample BOM at the beginning of this post there could be 10 or more suppliers to provide these 20 component parts. This means:

  • 10 RFQs
  • 10 POs issued
  • 10 freight bills
  • 10 POs to track and monitor
  • 10 incoming inspections
  • 10 sets of separate paperwork and certifications
  • 10 sets of ROHS compliance documents for your hardware
  • 10 sets of inventory to enter into your system
  • Possible inventory mismatch or shortages
  • ETC.

The point of the example above is to show how much overhead cost actually goes into an assembly. All of this cost and time is absorbed into your organization whether you recognize it or not. By changing your sourcing perspective to move toward assemblies or product kits, overhead costs can be drastically reduced.

In the example above, this could be an assembly of a kit where one supplier provides as complete. Putting all of these items in this BOM above into a kit or assembly would put all of these parts within one source which would mean:

  • 1 RFQ
  • 1 PO issued
  • 1 freight bill
  • 1 PO to track and monitor
  • 1 incoming inspection
  • 1 set of separate paperwork and certification
  • 1 set of ROHS compliance documents for your hardware
  • 1 set of inventory to enter into your system
  • Reduced costs, reducing your time to manage suppliers, reduced tracking, reduced freight, reduced inspection, reduced inventoried part numbers, etc.

Contact Vulcan GMS to learn more about how we can help you in your lean journey through new ideas.