The machines that made the Jet Age

The machines that made the Jet Age
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Well, one of the many- giant forging presses, also has links to other
giant-metal goodness, such as-
details on 'the fifty'
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and an online 1919 book on the Mesta Machine company which made 'the
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The before-and-after pics of huge titanium forgings (15 feet by a
foot) alone is worth the trip... (unless it's mislabeled and is
'merely' aluminum)
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I thought the conclusion was particularly interesting as well.
The (Mesta) company went under in the mid-1980s. It is not unambiguously bad that it and the rest of American ultra-heavy manufacturing are gone. But it?s not unambiguously good, either. Conventional wisdom would say that the industry went to less-developed nations, freeing American resources for higher-tech pursuits. In fact, the only companies today capable of producing Heavy Press-size equipment are in the backwaters known as Germany and Japan, with companies in Russia, Korea, and China rapidly catching up and the UK actively rebuilding its top firm, Sheffield Forgemasters, through cheap government loans. Just last year four Japanese companies joined forces to build a new 50,000-ton press for the aerospace and power industries, and while I was working on this piece China Erzhong, a nationalized conglomerate, announced that it will build an 80,000-ton press ? the biggest ever ? to support its nascent aerospace industry.
Now is not the time for America to build new forges: eight really is enough. But the original heavy presses, which have lived far longer and spurred far more innovation than was ever imagined, set an example that I think might yet be followed. Big machines are the product of big visions, and they make big visions real. How about a Heavy Fusion Program?
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Interesting. But I think that article misses an important detail: The idea that we can't have a 747 without a B-52 misses the fact that technology and tooling intended for military use is frequently restricted from commercial use. So we get a forge that can stamp out an F-15 Titanium bulkhead. But you can't use it for (unrestricted export) commercial parts.
Back when I was at Boeing (during the era of their B-2 subcontract and fighter bid) they built a beautiful autoclave for curing composite structures, including the B-2 wing parts. But due to the limited and lost contracts, most of the time it sits idle. And I don't think its big enough to do 787 wings. So they are built overseas.
If you want to support such tooling economically, you've got to keep it working. But if Boeing wanted to use its autoclave's idle time to build racing yacht hulls, for example, the DoD clearances they'd need would kill the project.
According to a few friends in the yacht business, the state of the art composite autoclave, capable of curing much larger parts (hulls around 50 meters long) is in Singapore, IIRC. That's one reason work will continue to go overseas.
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Paul Hovnanian P.E.
_VERY_ good and overlooked point...when I was consulting at the DOE facilities in Oak Ridge, there was installed/operated a very large multi-axis shaker table for centrifuge program development/testing.
When the centrifuge program plug was pulled, we worked for a couple of years to try to get enough clearances lifted to be able for DOE and the operating contractor to sell time on a state-of-the-art, world-class facility. Never happened--despite there being absolutely nothing classified in the facility any longer, simply the work to get non-Q-cleared clients into the facility was insurmountable obstacle. It still sits there, a mouldering away... :(
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But it's also why they don't build B-2s in Singapore.
Companies that get all those juicy defense contracts sometimes forget that there's an upside and a downside.
Reply to
Ed Huntress

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