SECAT Newsletter

Volume 11, Issue 4

Dec 2023 – Winter Issue


Meet the Innovatech Team:

Innovatech Labs, Plymouth, MN is a subsidiary of Secat after Secat purchased the lab in August 2022. Innovatech is a chemistry lab with advanced equipment for characterizing organic and inorganic materials. For our aluminum (and other metals) manufacturers, the XPS and Auger at Innovatech are great tools for examining surface and nears surface chemistry for things like pre-treatment layers, oxide layers, stains, and other surface chemical features.

We have several new faces at Innovatech Labs and we wanted to take a moment to introduce the team.

Milt Mathis, Lab Manager

Dr. Milt Mathis is an R&D professional with many years of experience in developing, characterizing and scaling up several materials and processes for ceramics, polymers and inorganic materials. Dr. Mathis received a PhD from Penn State University in Materials Science and worked for much of his career at the 3M company. Milt was most recently employed as a consultant where he served as an expert in the area of materials process development using microwave energy.

Andrew VanDenBroeke, Analytical Chemist

Andrew VanDenBroeke is an Analytical Chemist and our resident expert on Gas Chromotography/Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS). Andrew is responsible for Innovatech’s GC/MS and Ion Chromatography laboratories. He has six years of analytical experience, primarily focused on GC/MS and graduated from Metropolitan State University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.

Gifty Kpola, Analyst

Gifty Kpola recently joined Innovatech Labs as an Analytical Chemist. Gifty has worked for several chemical companies in the Twin Cities area over the past thirteen years and has vast experience in Good Laboratory Practices and ISO standard testing procedures. Ms. Kpola performs testing in the FTIR, Thermal, IC and GC labs for our customers. Gifty holds a bachelor’s degree of Arts in Chemistry from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

Sandra Carlson, Office Manager

Sandra has worked as an Administrative Specialist in several different capacities over her career, including, real estate, construction, and assisted living. The positions she has held have prepared her for the Office Manager position that she now holds at Innovatech Labs. Sandra is responsible for receiving samples, initiating projects, maintaining the laboratory, and accounts receivable. Sandra provides the lab with a warm and welcoming environment, giving our friends up north a taste of the southern hospitality we try to foster in Lexington.

Gary Smith, Senior Analyst

Gary Smith is the previous owner of Innovatech Labs and is currently supporting Secat by performing XPS and Auger work as required. Gary holds a PhD in Chemistry and had previously owned and managed Innovatech Labs for over 40 years.

Secat Sponsoring 2 Senior Design Projects:

We are fortunate to be sponsoring two Senior Design projects within the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Kentucky this academic year. Secat provided two proposals that were presented to the students and both were selected by the students because of their interest in metals and specifically aluminum metallurgy. Nick Nanninga is the industrial sponsor on one project and Shridas Ningileri is the sponsor for the second project and both projects will rely on Secat’s Nicholasville pilot facility.

The first project is focused on affordably manufacturing aluminum metal matrix composites by use of the hot top vertical direct chill casting process utilized at Secat’s Nicholasville facility. The project team is developing a mechanism to introduce the hardening ceramic phase into the hot top during casting, ensuring that a uniform

distribution of particles is achieved in the billet. Following casting, the students will forge samples on Secat’s 300 T forging press and the forged samples will be evaluated for mechanical properties such as stiffness and fatigue.

The goal of the second project is to develop a test fixture and method for performing testing of safety boots for use in manufacturing facilities that handle molten aluminum. This project is co-sponsored by Granges Aluminum, a global flat rolled aluminum producer that casts and roles aluminum sheet and foil. The boot will be submerged in a molten aluminum bath for a specific duration of time and the temperature inside the boot will be monitored by use of thermocouples attached to the fixture. Secat currently performs flammability testing on fabrics used to manufacture safety clothes and gloves according to ASTM standard F955 “Standard Test Method for Molten Metal Fabric Testing”.

Part of Secat’s mission is to foster training opportunities and help in the development of the future work force of the aluminum industry. Please contact us if you would like to co-sponsor senior design projects at the University of Kentucky in the future (

Inaugural Participants in Secat’s Certificate in Aluminum Metallurgy Training Program, Class of 2023

The first graduating class from Secat’s Certificate in Aluminum Metallurgy program completed their training the first week of November. The students can be seen in the picture below holding their certificates and plaques. Each student manufactured their own plaques throughout the year, from casting the billets, forging the plaques, solution heat treating and aging, measuring hardness and painting/finishing. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of students and we look forward to seeing the impact these men and women have on the aluminum industry. Thank you to the families and companies that sent the students and we look forward to the next group of students in 2024!

Front, Left: Dr. Rudy Buchheit (Guest Lecturer and Dean, University of Kentucky), Iris Cazares-Montes (Logan Aluminum), Cassie Naylor (Logan Aluminum), Jason Beaver (Commonwealth Rolled Products), Dr. Nick Nanninga (Secat), Dr. Judy Runge (Guest Lecturer, Apple-Retired).

Back, Left: John Fentress (Commonwealth Rolled Products), Nathan Hebert (Skana Aluminum), Rodney Dame (Commonwealth Rolled Products), Matt Morell (Pennex Aluminum), Aaron White (Accuride Corporation), and Dana Froehlich (Commonwealth Rolled Products).

Note: We also had some extracurricular activities throughout the year, like going to the UK basketball game with the Secat staff (additional picture below). Pictured below: Certificate class with Secat staff at the University of Kentucky basketball game against New Mexico State University. Go Wildcats!

Training at SECAT!

After a successful launch of our Certificate in Aluminum Metallurgy curriculum in 2023, we look forward to an action-packed training schedule for 2024.

A few highlights include:

· Class of 2024 Certificate in Aluminum Metallurgy, a comprehensive four week (1 week per quarter) technical class covering important aspects in aluminum processing-microstructure-property relationships. Contact Nick Nanninga to register for all four classes. If seats are still available by February 2024, participants will be able to register for individual sessions via direct contact with Secat or through Eventbrite.

· We will be hosting another public session of the popular “Aluminum Rolling Technology Course” presented by our friends at Innoval Technology.

· Secat is offering a new course leading to a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. The course will be focused on projects and case studies that are relevant to the aluminum industry and will be organized and taught by local professionals from Solarity.

· After taking a brief hiatus in 2023, all our legacy classes will be offered as public training sessions in 2024. Lecture-based classes will be offered in-person with a virtual option.

Click HERE or contact us for more details.

People of Interest 

Secat Interviewed Two Employee-Owners at Scot Forge

Dennis Wilkerson, Corporate Alloy Identity Examiner / Metallurgical Technician

Give us a quick overview of your job.

As an employee-owner at Scot Forge, I wear many hats, jumping between multiple roles to meet the needs of our customers. As the alloy identity examiner, I manage the process of ensuring forgings are the proper grade to meet customers’ specific needs. When I wear my metallurgical outsourcing technician hat, I review certification reports to guarantee that high-quality standards are fulfilled. As a data collection analyst, I collect and analyze information to make improvements that allow us to create the industry’s best forgings.

What are some things that happen for you in a typical day at work?

My day is always different, but it begins with collaborations between fellow Scot Forge owners in the metallurgical lab. Depending on the role I play that day, I will work with my team to review and complete testing operations to meet customer demands or collect data for metallurgists to review and make the best decisions on processing.

How does your job impact the markets you serve?

My job impacts the markets we serve in that I help our company optimize processes to create efficiencies and cost savings for our customers. Additionally, I ensure that our forgings, from chemistry to performance, meet our customers’ requirements to ensure part performance and safety, as our forgings play a critical role in supporting our nation, from bridges to semiconductor production.

How do you interact with Secat, Inc. and how does the relationship benefit you?

I recently was able to collaborate with Nick and Shridas on heat treatment processing, which resulted in some changes that Secat implemented successfully, giving positive results that benefited everyone.

• Tell us something about yourself (outside of the industry) that people may not know.

I owned a furniture store in South Carolina. This business venture gave me the foundation for understanding customer service and juggling many different roles, which helps me today as an employee-owner.

David Johnson, Outsourcing Laboratory Technician

Give us a quick overview of your job.

I work for Scot Forge, a more than 130-year-old company that is 100% employee-owned, and I am a member of the Metlab. My primary responsibility is to ensure that our customers’ testing requirements and specifications are met. I do this by overseeing all testing that is required to be outsourced because it cannot be completed in-house. A key part of my job is knowing the testing capabilities and accreditation of our outside test labs and keeping traceability of test samples.

• What are some things that happen for you in a typical day at work?

A typical day starts with accessing the testing workload that needs to go out from all three of our plants. I then package and label the test samples so that they arrive at the outside test facility intact. Once the test pieces return, I receive and review test results before disseminating them to the appropriate employee-owner to continue the validation process of the forging.

How does your job impact the markets you serve?

Oftentimes, the traceability, testing and certification paperwork is more important to our customers than the forging itself. Much of what we manufacture is used in highly demanding applications, from needing to withstand the ocean’s depths to enduring the outer limits of space. So, ensuring our parts meet specifications and requirements through the testing we perform outside or in-house directly impacts infrastructure, space launch, defense and everything in between protecting people and our environment.

How do you interact with Secat, Inc. and how does the relationship benefit you?

We partner with Secat for heat treatment processes. I enjoy the Secat team’s collaboration as we make in-person visits to them and them to us, keeping an open door for communication, which has produced continuous improvement in our testing process.

Tell us something about yourself (outside of the industry) that people may not know.

I served in the Army Reserves for 21 years and retired as a platoon sergeant in an engineering company. From the beginning, the military instilled the importance of attention to detail, accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my Soldiers. I find that same unwavering commitment at Scot Forge as employee-owners work together to forge a better future for those we serve.

Check out more info on our website

Secat Attends REMADE 2023 Annual Meeting

REMADE is a DOE funded institution that supports research focused on development of a circular economy, with thrusts in recycling, scrap reduction and remanufacturing. Secat is currently the lead on a REMADE funded project titled “Development of Computational Tools for Predicting Seam Weld Integrity in Thick-Walled Hollow Aluminum Extrusions.” The project is supporting graduate students at the University of Kentucky and Lehigh University. In October, the two graduate students and PI, Nick Nanninga, attended the 2023 REMADE Member Meeting in Rochester, NY. The two graduate students presented a poster highlighting their progress on the project. The project has enabled Secat to expand our capabilities for billet casting and testing of extrusions.

Group photo above showing attendees at 2023 REMADE annual meeting.

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Aluminum Art

Aluminum in 20th Century Design

On April 23, 2021, the New Orleans Museum of Art opened an amazing exhibition that explored uses of aluminum before it was adopted for technological applications.

Atomic # 13 has an interesting artistic history that can be discovered in this Google You can find the Arts & Culture link HERE!

Do you have a piece of Aluminum Art you’d like to share? Contact us at

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