3D Printed Gauges and Fixtures Are Very Effective

Image of 250mc 3D printerVulcan GMS has blogged about our 3D printer, the Stratasys Fortus 250mc, in the past. This machine is an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machine and builds up the parts in layers as small as 0.007 inches using an ABS material.

Normally these types of machines are thought of as “prototype part producers,” but we have found that there are many additional uses for them beyond prototyping for our customers.

Available 3-D printing procedures

Vulcan frequently produces:

  • Assembly fixtures that help align parts so that they go together in the correct fashion.
  • Inspection fixtures so that parts running in a CMM (coordinate measuring machine) can be staged and aligned quickly and consistently.
  • Inspection aids to help verify that the assembly meets the customer requirements.
  • Alignment of fixtures to position labels on components.
  • Verification fixtures to confirm the presences of inserts, holes, proper hardware installations, etc.

3-D printing feedback

The initial reaction we receive when we talk about these uses with our customers is that the printed part cannot be strong enough to handle the loading we will put it under.

However, we have put fixtures in some very stressful situations and they continue to function day after day, which proves that 3D printed tools and fixtures work very well.

Another reaction we receive is the cost seems higher for printed fixtures than other types of fixtures. For simple fixtures (flat plates for example), that would be correct. But the printer allows for complexity at little, if any, additional cost. This makes our 3D printed gauges and fixtures ideal for your gauging needs.

Many of our customers use Vulcan products in higher level assemblies. Let Vulcan help you with your assembly and manufacturing process through the use of 3D gauges & fixtures.

In addition, 3D gauges and fixtures can be produced in a fraction of the time of hard tooling that requires machining.

If you are interested in talking with us about these opportunities further, please contact Vulcan GMS.

Safety First: 1,300 Days Without a Lost Time Accident Does Not Happen By Accident!

Image of SafetyVulcan GMS has surpassed the 1,300 day mark without a lost time accident and this has not happened by accident. Many companies will say they focus on safety or that they put safety first but yet they unfortunately still have lost time accidents. It is one thing to put a sign up that says safety is important and it is an entirely different thing to live it. At Vulcan GMS, we truly live it and put safety first. How did this happen?

Lean manufacturing, 6S manufacturing and visual manufacturing. What do they have in common?  All of these techniques are similar as a method of organizing safety, maintaining it and living it. Anyone that has ever been part of these techniques or has been responsible for these principles in their organization will tell you that the hardest part is sustaining it. You must live it to make it work.  If management simply says this is what we are doing, it will become the flavor of the day and you will not actually achieve your goal.

To succeed in safety, you must have a bottom up strategy of implementation and maintaining the safety culture. At Vulcan GMS we put safety first. This means:

  1. Daily safety meetings with each shift for 15 minutes to discuss safety on and off the job.
  2. Training sessions with your staff and staff leaders.
  3. Specific and general training on manufacturing processes.
  4. Open mic meetings on safety and improvements.
  5. Company supported first aid and health training.
  6. Tracking and reporting on all near-miss incidents no matter how small they are.
  7. Listening to employees and implementing their ideas.
  8. Tracking safety records and reporting on them for the entire company to see.

At Vulcan GMS, we also hold monthly all-employee meetings where all manufacturing is shut down for 45 minutes to share information; which includes a safety section. All employees hear about our safety measures and the message from management is always safety, quality and delivery – in that order. We stress that if someone sees something unsafe, stop the job and discuss it.

Safety is a way of life and not a sign on the wall.

We have plenty of signs on the walls, but they are there to support the way of life we embrace at Vulcan GMS. Examine your organization to look at the little steps to begin or to better your program.  Many little steps become many miles on your safe workplace journey. Vulcan GMS is at 1,318 days and counting! Safety first!

Medical isotope generators essential for nuclear medicine market

Image of technetium-99m generator

The first technetium-99m generator, unshielded, 1958.

Medical isotope generators are used to produce many commonly used imaging isotopes in the nuclear medicine market.

Gallium-68 and Technetium- 99 (Tc-99) generators are very radioactive and require shielding which is typically comprised of either lead or tungsten. These radioactive generators need to offer shielding that allow them to be properly shipped and used in their applications. For this shielding, most companies turn to lead, tungsten or a combination of both metals to provide the best shielding solution.

Tungsten vs. Lead

Tungsten has a density of 17.3 g/cc whereas lead has a density of 11.34 g/cc. However, tungsten costs a minimum of 25 times the price of lead because of the material difference and the processing needed. But it is good to remember that tungsten offers a more robust shield because it is far harder than lead. In many applications, the best solution is a hybrid option where lead, tungsten and other materials are used to provide the most functional and cost effective result.

The Benefit of Multiple Material Use

Through the use of multiple materials, it is possible to cast tungsten or molybdenum inserts into products such as radioactive generator shields and other transport pigs. These shipping pigs can then benefit from placing the highest density material where it is needed most while the lower density lead or steel is placed in other areas which require lower density for shielding or for structural applications.

If you are in need of a shielding container or generator shield for nuclear material including Moly-99, Ge-68 or others, contact Vulcan GMS to review your shielding and transport options.

Vulcan GMS offers flat panel X-ray detector shielding solutions

Image of Flat PanelFlat panel X-ray detectors are the latest and greatest adaption to X-ray imaging. These new flat panel X-ray detectors are to X-ray what the high megapixel digital camera is compared to X-ray film. They are completely revolutionizing.

Today’s flat panel X-ray detectors are thin; taking up much less space while offering real time X-ray imaging with resolution that has never been seen before. The imaging is truly amazing.

However as part of this new technology, there is a need for electronics that were previously not needed. Most electronics do not do well in time under X-ray. It causes them to fail. As a result, many applications use lead, tungsten or steel to shield the electronics while acting as a beam stop.

There are many options to consider based on the needs; including weight and shielding requirements. Vulcan GMS offers many different types of shielding and turnkey offerings to help you with these needs.

Vulcan GMS not only offers the shielding; but we can also provide fabricated frames, plastic shells, components and assembly solutions.

If you have a current project or a design in process that might benefit from a flat panel X-ray detector, contact Vulcan GMS to help you develop a production solution to meet your goals.

What is material creep and the mechanical properties of lead creep?

Image Of Material Creep

Material Creep

Material creep is defined as the continuing deformation of a metal under a steady load. Other factors affect the creep of materials including temperature and alloy under stress. Lead is such a soft metal that creep affects the metal more than other harder metals such as steel, aluminum or brass. Lead is soft enough that it will creep under its own weight in time. Any additional load on the material or an increase in temperature will increase the creep rate.

It is important to consider the impact of lead creep in your design. If the environment that the lead will be used in will have a temperature more than the room temperature, the effects of creep increase greatly. Lead is also not very good at any alloy for providing structural stability. Consideration should be made to support the lead or laminate the lead to a stronger metal for support.

Lead by nature is very soft and creeps in time. Some basic data is listed below. You can also download the data from our Technical Data Library on the homepage of our website.

Pure Lead Creep Rates

Room Temperature, pure lead

Stress in lbs per Sq Inch Creep % per Hour
200 0.5 x 10 ^-4
300 3.5 x 10 ^-4
400 11 x 10 ^-4


Lead Elevated to 150 Degrees F

Stress in lbs per Sq Inch Creep % per Hour
200 6 x 10 ^-4
300 50 x 10 ^-4
400 230 x 10 ^-4


Other Mechanical Properties of Cast Lead and Lead Alloys

Alloy Brinnell Density Tensile, lbs per Sq In Elongation
Pure 4.0 11.36 2,500 45%
1% Sb 7.0 11.26 3,400 16%
2% Sb 8.0 11.18 4,200 16%
3% Sb 9.1 11.10 4,700 15%
4% Sb 10.1 11.03 5,660 22%
5% Sb 11.0 10.95 6,360 29%
6% Sb 11.8 10.88 6,840 24%

Paint and Powder Coating on Lead Is Great Protection

Paint and powder coatings on lead are very effective coatings to protect and encapsulate lead products. Many people do not realize that lead can be powder coated because of the baking process used to cure the powder but it can be applied and provides a very tough coating. Lead is very heavy and soft making it easy to damage. If coatings are improperly applied, paint flaking can occur. There are three types of paint coatings and they have one key similarity: part preparation.

Prepping of Lead Materials

The secret to having a good paint / powder coating bond to lead is prep, prep, prep. In our paint and powder lines, there are multiple steps to ensure a proper bond of which only one is the application of the coating.

By its nature, lead oxidizes when in contact with air. This causes a build up on the surface – which may be hard to see – but it’s there and it gets worse over time. These oxides need to be removed to allow for proper bonding. Depending on the part, this can be done through acid washing, abrasive prep, soaking and wipe down or multiple combinations of these steps.

It is also important to note that any washing solutions will need to be treated because they contain lead. Any abrasive clean up or soaking requires proper lead handling techniques. A certified process is needed to properly handle lead and paint lead to ensure that the chemicals and cleaning agents are properly treated and discarded.

Prep is the most important element for a good coating and paint shops or suppliers that are not set up to handle lImage of Housing 3 ead should not be doing so from a quality standpoint or an EHS perspective.

Powder Coating

Powder coating is the toughest and most durable paint coating that can be applied to your lead parts. Powder coating applies an electrostatic charge to your parts applying a positive charge while the powder is sprayed at a negative charge so the powder is attracted to the part it is coating.

When the part is sprayed with powder, the coating is soft and easy to damage. It requires a baking process to harden the coating. This baking is done in a curing oven with a range of 325 to 450 degrees. Cure times vary by coating and mass. Lead melts at 621 degrees and gets soft under 621 degrees so proper handling throughout the process is key to achieve a quality product.

X-Ray-HousingsThe result of powder coating your lead parts or lead transport pigs is a superior coating that is more durable than any paint coating. Powder typically goes on .002″ to .004″ thick so it is thicker than typical paint coatings. But like wet coatings, powder will still flow into corners like wet coats do causing the powder to be thicker in corners and thinner on flat sections.

Powder coating also allows for some thicker build coatings. Wrinkle coatings occur more with powder coatings than wet coat paint. Powder is also more durable and tougher on lead if parts are bumped. It’s important to remember that paint and powder on a lead part is similar to applying a coating to a stick of butter. The material is very soft under the coating.

Vulcan can apply all major manufacturers of powder to your lead parts. We have several stock options in multiple colors. There are thousands of different types of colors and coatings; some are standard while others may be custom ordered.

Paint Coatings

Image of Wet-Coat-PaintWet coat is a good coating technique to apply paint on lead. This is by volume the highest use in the market. There are thousands of options to chose from and new technology in coating allows for great build up and wrinkle coatings than before. Also many coatings can also be applied thru an electrostatic process like powder which in wet coat lowers application and materials costs.

Wet coatings all have a cure time, each coating is different but most will require an elevated temperature for a duration of time to all for proper curing. Typical wet coatings are applied at .001″ t0 .003″ thickness and they do flow into corners when applied and when curing. This is why dimensions and tolerances are held before paint as coatings can flow before they are cured.

Basic Paint Coatings

For many applications, the best coating is one that simply prevents contact while handling a lead part during customer use or assembly. This can also be described as the “I do not want to touch raw lead” coating.

For applications such as this, Vulcan offers basic paint or primer coatings that are applied to simply cover raw lead surfaces. This can be effective for customer handling during assembly or in applications where a lead part may be exposed internally on a machine and a coating is preferred for future service to the machine so that the lead is not exposed.

This type of coating is also effective when you are painting lead-lined sheet metal applications because the basic wet coat can cover the lead and sheet metal in one process. Remember that in powder coating – and in some paint coatings – curing is needed. Many adhesives that are used in lamination break down at the temperatures needed to cure powder.


No matter what type of coating you wish to apply to lead, proper surface prep is the key element to ensure that the coating will bond properly.

Proper handling of any cleaning solvents or debris created during part cleaning must be handled properly. It contains lead and must be processed by a certified painter. There are multiple coating options including powder, paint and basic primer type coatings.

All of these coatings have good benefits and Vulcan can help you select the best solution to meet your applications needs. Contact us if you have any questions about paint and powder coating.

Vulcan Uses Clear Die Bases in Die Cut Process

Image of Die CuttingOne of the defining aspects of Vulcan GMS is our commitment to continuous improvement. As an ISO certified company this is a core value.

We diligently endeavor to meet or exceed our valued customers’ requirements. However, most people think that this only relates to the physical quality of a part. In fact, Vulcan takes this sentiment one step further. We also apply continuous improvement initiatives to processes in an effort to maximize efficiency. In the spirit of lean manufacturing, cost savings that are derived from continuous improvement activities can be passed on to our customers. In some instances, lead times can also be improved.

One of the most recent areas of continuous improvement has been in our die cutting process. In the die cutting process, sheet lead is used as the feed stock. This sheet lead comes at a premium cost, since the foundry has to convert it from ingot form to an appropriate sheet product. Therefore, it is important to consume the sheet lead as efficiently as possible. Yields are particularly important when parts are made from a specially manufactured sheet lead or a sheet lead that has been laminated with another material like pressure sensitive adhesive or vinyl. While Vulcan may be able to recover the scrap lead, the premium on the cost that was paid for the sheet lead is still lost.

To improve this process, we’ve begun to use steel rule dies with a clear acrylic or polycarbonate base, instead of the traditional wood base. This has allowed us to more tightly nest the cavity pattern each time the die is placed on the lead sheet stock, because the operator can now see through the die. As a result, we can now nest the parts so that the remnant webbing between the parts is 3/16″ or less. Previously, the best that we could reliably accomplish with a wood base was about 3/4″-1″. The operator was estimating conservatively the position of the successive die placements when using the wood based dies since the operator could not see the raw material or webbing.

Vulcan’s success in implementing a solution to this historic issue for our customers’ benefit. We would be happy to discuss if your parts would benefit from this process improvement. You might be surprised. Contact us today!

Vulcan expands its machining department again

Image of Machining Okuma MA-800H

Okuma MA-800H

Vulcan GMS continues to expand its offerings to meet our customers’ needs. We have added an entire department to better serve our customers and offer a higher level of assembly and value to our customer base.

We have specialized in lead and tungsten for years by offering many manufacturing techniques including machining. Vulcan GMS has a full machine shop focused on these materials for CNC machining, CNC turning and CNC router cutting. Vulcan has added a non-lead machining department focused on other metals such as aluminum, mild steel, stainless steel, copper, brass and other metals and plastics.

Vulcan GMS has recently added another new machine to our lineup. An Okuma MA-800H has just been purchased and installed at Vulcan GMS. This Okuma has an axis travel of roughly 50 inches in every direction and a maximum table weight of 4,400 pounds; making it possible for us to produce larger products.

We have a full lineup of casting suppliers offering many metals and alloys using multiple casting techniques. In addition, we can machine from any solid or tube needed to produce your product.  Through our other equipment, we can machine your product from plate as well and offer a full line of services for all your manufacturing demands.

Vulcan GMS is an ISO certified custom manufacturer. Our machining department is capable of producing low to medium volumes for our customers. The addition of this work cell allows us to offer other product types and turn-key assemblies and product kits. In addition to our full machining services with standard and exotic metals in low to medium volumes, Vulcan GMS has a full quality lab with 5 CMMs and all the tools and staff needed to provide any inspection or testing data for your specific needs.

Secondary offerings include:

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.