ASME-Landmark:Wyman-Gordon 50,000-Ton Hydraulic Forging Press


An early indication that advances were needed in forging technology came during World War II, when examination of captured German planes revealed large forgings of magnesium—forgings much larger than those possible under Allied manufacturing methods. Although magnesium was one-third lighter than aluminum, it was a difficult substance to work with, as under the impact of heavy hammers, magnesium tended to rupture. It became apparent that the Germans made their magnesium forgings with presses larger than any previously thought practical.

After World War II, two factors soon pushed the U.S. toward heavy press production: First, the growing interest in supersonic aviation, and the rumblings of the Korean War. The outgrowth of the need for larger, stronger aircraft parts was the Air Force Heavy Press Program. Air Force Lt. Gen. K. B. Wolfe, one of the team who had visited post-war Germany to inspect the presses, was the originator and prime motivator of the program.

The program called for two 50,000-ton presses, one at Wyman-Gordon's Grafton plant and the other at Alcoa's plant in Cleveland. The machines were designed and built by the Loewy Construction Company, and operation began in October 1955.

"The 50" was a startling engineering feat — it was, at the time, the largest machine ever built. Foundations go 100 feet into bedrock, which was believed to be the deepest excavation for a machine ever made in the United States. Elevators run from the pits to the working floor of the shop. Among its contributions was the development of the new jetliner Boeing 747 in the 1960s. See ASME website for more information