Meehanite Conference 2014

Executives from three foundries in South Africa, licensed for the Meehanite process, held a conference at the Hunters Lodge in Rustenburg, Gauteng in March. The conference was sponsored by the local Meehanite franchisee, Meehanite Africa and Castings Materials, which is headed up by Desmond Wiggill.

The conference discussed current and future trends both locally and abroad. The guest speakers, Dr Dale Edwards from the UK and the current President of Meehanite Worldwide Pekka Kempanian of Finland, addressed the participants on the Meehanite Organisation Worldwide, the use of meehanite castings and other future high tech castings.

Meehanite Africa and Castings Materials assists in the marketing and selling of Meehanite castings in South Africa and countries outside of our borders.


Currently there are four Meehanite Licensees in South Africa. The Franchise agreement covers the entire African continent. The four licensed foundries in South Africa are ArcelorMittal, John Thompson Boilers (A division of Actom Pty Ltd), Lusafrica Founders and BP Wiggill Engineering Foundry.

The History of Meehanite
The origins of Meehanite may be traced back to work carried out in the 1920’s directed towards reducing the annealing time of blackheart malleable iron. In the USA, Gus Meehan reported that grey iron, exhibiting high strength and structural uniformity, together with excellent machinability, could be produced by adding calcium silicide to molten, white iron. He proceeded to call this new material Meehanite Metal and applied to patent its method of manufacture and to license foundries to produce it. On 4 January 1924 a patent was granted and the Meehanite process was born.

In Europe a parallel investigation was conducted by Oliver Smalley, a distinguished graduate from Sheffield University, who reported on the influence of alkaline and rare earth metals such as calcium, magnesium, barium, and cerium on the graphite structure in cast iron. By 1926, Smalley was able to demonstrate that the form and quantity of graphite in cupola melted cast irons could be controlled to achieve tensile strengths of up to 400 N/mm2.


Michelle Jacobs, Des Wiggill and Barbara Lollastrini


Brian Wiggill and Pekka Kempanian

In the early years, from 1926 to 1929, only one type of “Meehanite Metal” was produced. This was known as type GA, meaning: for general engineering use but of class graphite with a 345 Mpa tensile strength.

From a designers’ point of view, the development of Meehanite presented a choice of materials having not only superior properties to normal grey cast iron, but also much greater reliability. Traditionally, cast iron was viewed with considerable suspicion, due to its reputation of unreliability; iron castings were frequently criticised for being either too hard in thin sections, or too soft and open-grained in heavy sections. The advent of the Meehanite process was set to challenge this lack of uniformity, although it was not a situation that could be changed overnight.

The need for better organisation and the development of other grades of Meehanite was recognised. The early part of 1929 was devoted to the development of control practices, the development of chill and wedge tests from which the relation between the critical casting thickness and process can be quickly and accurately controlled. Of the many other good fundamental practices was the development of Caloytm, which is still produced and added to the metal mechanically.


Pavel, Lindsay and Paul Coelho

It was also appreciated early on that, notwithstanding the importance of thorough chemical and mechanical testing, this merely represented the past history of the melt and only served to record the status of a production batch of castings.

A system of documentation was evolved that would not only serve to record test results, but also to analyse them statistically and give advanced warnings of departures from working practices. Meehanite was set to become the international quality leader in the field of iron castings’ production.

Since 1924, the whole concept of Meehanite has been based upon technical innovation, the patenting of the results thereof, and the use of the processes developed by the licensee foundries. Meehanite licensees are thereby provided with the technical means to keep in the forefront of manufacturing developments. Following the original patent on the use of calcium silicide, a stream of others followed, on metal processing, metallurgical plants, nodular iron production, and ultrasonic testing.


Phumudzo Muthaphuli, Rob Lollastrini and Leslie Mokadi

The method of adding the calcium silicide – the inoculation process, is still practiced today, after nearly eighty years.

A development programme, which still exists today, was initiated to increase the number of Meehanite Metal specifications. Presently the range of Meehanite metals has been expanded to over fifty different types and will soon be available on the internet.

Meehanite Metals Corporation
In 1926 Oliver Smalley and Gus Meehan joined forces and formed the Meehanite Metal Corporation.

In 1928 the Meehanite Metal Corporation employed Oliver Smalley, to develop other physical properties of Meehanite not covered in the GA range and to develop and promote Meehanite replacements for lower tensile grades on a precise control basis.

In 1939 William (Bill) H Moore, also a distinguished graduate from Sheffield University, was employed by the Meehanite Metal Corporation. He had previously worked in his father’s foundry, Standard Brass, in Benoni, South Africa. Bill intended to rejoin his father in Standard Brass after gaining experience from Meehanite in the USA, but this never came about, Bill eventually became President of Meehanite Worldwide and his passing in November 1989 left the iron foundry fraternity much poorer off.


Marinette and Paul Marsden

In 1959 Harry W Kessler, who during the 1930’s had been involved in Meehanite, purchased the Meehanite Metal Corporation from the Hamilton National Bank of Chattanooga where it had been part of the Meehan estate held in trust by that bank. Harry was known as the millionaire metallurgist and also referee of heavyweight boxing world championship matches (mainly contests involving Rocky Marciano).

In 1986 Bill Moore persuaded Mr Lehtonen of J.O.T. Group of Companies in Finland, to buy the Meehanite Worldwide franchise from the Kessler family.

The current President of Meehanite Worldwide is Pekka Kempanian of Finland.

With the close South African connection, Desmond Wiggill, who for many years owned the W.D. Wiggel Foundry in Boksburg, owns the Meehanite franchise for South Africa.

Meehanite Africa and Castings Materials operates with an Advisory Board, which was established in 1985. The constitution of this structure, as revised in 1996, allows one seat for each licensee foundry; the Chairperson is nominated by the licensee representatives and serves a term of 2 to 4 years. The Advisory Board meets tri-annually to discuss developments within the Worldwide Meehanite Association.

The Advisory Board regulates the South African licensee foundries. It sets out parameters for these foundries to be licensed and periodically undertakes audits of each foundry to validate compliance with defined Meehanite practices and procedures.


Dr Dale Edwards, John Davies and Mike Low

Meehanite Africa and Castings Materials assists in the marketing and selling of Meehanite castings in South Africa and countries outside of our borders.

What Meehanite has become
Meehanite is not simply a range of high quality engineering materials. The ramifications of the Meehanite process are such that it pervades all aspects of casting production to create a total manufacturing system. Licensees undertake to meet the most stringent casting standards in order to uphold the Meehanite quality ethic.

  • Meehanite is an organisation comprising a worldwide network of licensed foundries sharing co-ordinated development and interchange of technology
  • Meehanite is a full range of material types, developed to suit all casting applications
  • Meehanite is a metallurgical process, which controls the degree of nucleation and the solidification behaviour of cast irons, ensuring that the castings have dense, fine-grained structures, with good machinability
  • Meehanite is a practical quality assurance system, geared to the advancement of casting standards
  • Meehanite is an information service, communicating product development and technological interchange to the mutual benefit of foundry and customer alike
  • Meehanite provides a service to casting users, designed to optimise casting performance
  • Meehanite is a vehicle for sales promotion
  • And, finally, Meehanite is a registered trademark, recognised internationally as a label of quality.