From humble roots to global aluminum industry powerhouse
Wagstaff, Inc. is a family owned, American engineering/manufacturing leader in the global aluminum industry. Innovation, service, integrity, and quality are the foundational cornerstones underpinning 75 years of successful industry leadership.
It all started in 1946 in a pump house behind George Wagstaff’s family home. That first year, George, a skilled machinist, used a war-surplus lathe he had traded work for to make sub-contracted parts for another machine shop. During the day he worked at the lathe and during the night he worked at the Kaiser Trentwood Aluminum plant. Over time his hard work paid off allowing him to purchase a second lathe and expand his machining business.
Today, Wagstaff, Inc. is the recognized leader in the design, development, supply, and service of the systems and equipment required to produce primary aluminum ingot and billet using direct chill (DC) casting methods in casthouses around the world.
The entry into the aluminum industry occurred when George’s oldest son, Bill, fresh with an engineering degree, joined the business in 1958. Kaiser Aluminum needed spray boxes built for their Mead, Washington plant. The spray boxes presented both engineering and manufacturing challenges, requiring some 7,000 precisely drilled water holes. Their ultimate success with the spray boxes set the direction of the company. Over the next several years, Wagstaff built more of these boxes, further refining the design and processes until they had produced an integral jacketed sheet ingot mold from a solid block of aluminum; creating the first direct chill ingot mold.
In 1968, Bill’s brother Frank and his Ph.D. in ceramic engineering joined the company. The two eventually purchased the company from their parents with the promise to build on the core belief that if they continue to build quality products and give exceptional service, the business would thrive.
It wasn’t long before they produced another industry changing breakthrough with the invention of the MaxiCast™ Hot Top Billet Casting System. This allowed casters to produce more billets per cast in their existing casting pits while requiring less time and fewer personnel. Within a year, the Wagstaff AirSlip® Air Casting Technology was developed and patented. This became the industry standard mold for producing the highest quality billet, and remains so today.
Over the next several years, as the business and number of personnel grew, Wagstaff expanded their range of casting technology products to include metal level control systems, the AutoCast™ automated casting control system, the Wagstaff ShurCast™ casting machine, and many more innovations to enhance casthouse maintenance and operations procedures.
In 1986, Wagstaff opened a new Research and Development (R&D) facility fully staffed with technicians, craftspeople, engineers, and metallurgists. The company invested heavily in a robust, globally dispersed Technical Service group to provide customers with technical assistance in troubleshooting, startup, maintenance, and alloy development. Product specific training was developed and tailored to meet individual customer requirements, including supervision, installation, and commissioning of Wagstaff casting equipment.
A major investment in new facilities took place in 1992, when Wagstaff built a manufacturing, sales, and service facility in Hebron, Kentucky. This location provided more efficient access to the many aluminum producers in the eastern U.S. and expanded the capabilities for the refurbishment of molds, starting heads, and billet casting tables. Wagstaff also expanded further into foreign markets with the opening of a European office in Hamburg, Germany to provide better service for European customers.
Significant research and development continued on new and innovative ingot molds, producing the Wagstaff LHC™ Low Head Composite Mold for casting sheet ingot. This was followed closely by LHC™ with VariMold™ Adjustable Ingot Casting Technology, which gave LHC casters the flexibility of casting multiple ingot widths through one mold. The Epsilon™ Rolling Ingot Casting Technology mold was introduced as a flexible ingot casting platform that required a less demanding casting environment.
On the billet side, Wagstaff was keen to offer a more adaptable and economical alternative to the flagship AirSlip mold. The result was NuMax™, a serious upgrade from the original MaxiCast mold but with a design and new features that provided billet casters with a mold capable of producing billets with minimal inputs compared to AirSlip Technology. Wagstaff’s AutoFlo™ Casting Gas Control System was introduced in 2007. This system provides precise gas mass flow management independently to each AirSlip billet mold throughout the entire casting sequence.
Significant breakthroughs have been made in aerospace alloy applications. For advanced alloy aerospace applications and larger billet diameters, Wagstaff developed the ARC™ billet mold technology. These molds are capable of producing billets up to 48 inches in diameter, typically used for strong alloy forging applications. For aerospace applications in the rolling ingot arena, Wagstaff developed the Epsilon™ Ingot Casting System for Aerospace Alloys as an advanced, specialized system specifically to cast strong alloys for commercial, aerospace, and military applications.
Continuing its strong commitment to ongoing R&D efforts, Wagstaff completed a state-of-the-art, full-scale research casthouse outfitted with a production-sized casting pit; 60,000 pound furnace; and advanced water quality, metal filtration, and automation systems. Commissioned in 2015, the center not only serves experimental casting research, but is also utilized for showcasing new technologies and training customers.
In 2015, Wagstaff hosted Casting Confidence Week, bringing together aluminum casters from around the world for a week of technical presentations, hands-on workshops, and interactions with industry peers. As with the many prior user’s conferences and workshops that Wagstaff has hosted, this one provided an excellent source of current information, expertise, and industry networking opportunities.
In 2020, Wagstaff brought APEX™ Rolling Ingot Casting Technology to market. APEX incorporates a fully automated, fully adjustable mold that all but eliminates ingot butt swell. Using Wagstaff’s sophisticated, recipe-controlled flexing of the mold throughout the entire cast APEX results in flatter ingots, less butt crop, and faster casting speeds.
Most recently, Wagstaff developed an automated casting sequence for the AutoCast Casting Control System that can be started from the Operator Control Console located at a safe distance from molten aluminum on the plant floor. Each sequence in the cast is handled by the automation built specifically for aluminum casting. This functionality advances the company’s goals to increase operator safety and to minimize personnel exposure to molten aluminum
In 2021, Wagstaff commemorated its 75th anniversary. Company leadership is now in the capable hands of Bill’s daughter, Barbara Wagstaff Parkes (President), and son, Michael Wagstaff (Chairman of the Board). Subsidiary facilities in multiple locations around the globe bolster the company’s worldwide presence. State-of-the-art R&D facilities ensure continued industry innovation and leadership. Recently expanded manufacturing and engineering capabilities promise continued quality, service, and customer satisfaction.