Investment casting has a nickname: the "lost wax" process. But what is lost can only be found by students from around the world at one location a year: Pittsburg State.
Pittsburg State is in the middle of hosting its 15th annual Investment Casting Institute, in which a maximum of 30 students each year are guided through the investment casting process — a PSU specialty.
"We're the only university in the U.S. that can host this based just upon the equipment we have. I don't think there are many other schools with the equipment in investment casting," said Russ Rosmait, PSU instructor and Investment Casting Training Center director. "We're the only place in the world for this. It's pretty exciting. It's interesting to see people flying from overseas for our training program."
In fact, of this year's slate of 30 students, two are from Germany, one is from France, and another is from Mexico. Further, the American students come from California on the west to New Hampshire on the east, Michigan on the north to Texas on the south.
Also, Rosmait noted that this year's crop of students features an all-time high for women, with 10 students.
"I think more women are getting hands-on," said Kristen Sustarich, Almont, Mich., of Aristo Cast. "You have more women engineers now, and they probably want to learn the process hands-on instead of a textbook, so they learn better."
The investment casting process sounds simple in theory: create a wax object, then make a ceramic mold around the wax, melt the wax out, then pour liquid metal into the ceramic mold. However, because the devil is in the details, the investment casting course is eight days long to iron out all the details that could go wrong.
Rosmait said that examples of investment casting can be found all over. For instance, he said the large Gorilla statue in Champions Plaza was made with investment casting techniques. Further, investment casting is more frequently used for precision casting.
"It's used in jet engine component parts. Some day, we are all going to need a new hip and a new knee, and we have a student from a bio-med organization that makes hip, knee and medical implants. We have another student from a company that makes jet engines, and everyone in between," Rosmait said.
But the casting course is more important than for just Pittsburg State — Rosmait said it also exposes people from around the world to Pittsburg, Kan., and the restaurants around.
"We've taken [the students] to Chatters, Josie's, Jim's Steakhouse. We're trying to let the community benefit as well, even though we stay in the dorms. We try to get out and about. I'm sure some frequent the bars, as well," Rosmait said.