An unveiling event was staged in October at Weber Metals Inc. in Paramount, CA, to mark the completion of a 60,000-ton forging press designed by SMS Group. The Los Angeles-area forger claims the four-year, $180-million project represents “the world’s largest private investment in aerospace metal forging.” The forger also indicated it will double its total employment to 800 as a result of the new production capability brought on by the new machine.
The press is designed to form oversized parts in aluminum and titanium alloys for commercial and defense aviation and aerospace manufacturing, as well as other industrial markets. According to Weber Metals’ president and CEO Doug McIntyre, the new press addresses today’s manufacturers’ demand for larger, monolithic titanium and aluminum parts that reduce both weight and complexity.
Weber Metals was a scrap supplier that began producing open- and closed-die forgings in the 1940s for then-new West Coast aircraft manufacturing businesses. It has been an Otto Fuchs KG holding since 1978, producing forged parts in aluminum and titanium alloys, mainly for aerospace manufacturing, like aircraft fuselage and wing structures, as well as landing gears. Its forgings are found on business, regional, and commercial jets; military aircraft programs; space programs; rotary aircraft; aerospace engines; land-based power-generation projects; and in capital equipment used in semiconductor manufacturing.
Weber Metals’ forging equipment also includes four open-die presses (rated at 1,200 to 5,000 tons) and five closed-die machines (rated at 1,500 to 33,000 tons.)
For the new operation, SMS Group developed its GUF4-type hydraulic press as a “pit mounted” structure capable of achieving forces of 540 MN (60,000 tons/in.2), with a 6,000x3,000-mm (236x118 in.) die clamping area and a stroke of 2,000 mm (79 in.) Only one third of the 10-story machine is visible above ground.
According to SMS, the steel castings produced for the four-column press weigh up to 350 mt (386 tons), and the machine structure is reinforced by four forged tie rods. An integrated load-balancing feature allows the operators to forge parts to extremely tight tolerances.
The press produces hot and cold forgings, and according to SMS it allows Weber Metals to expand its portfolio of “extra-large premium-grade forgings” into even larger dimensions. It also introduces the opportunity to convert large structural components to lighter materials.
Groundbreaking for the new press took place in April 2014, but construction began in January 2017. The overall capital investment also included a Can-Eng International Ltd. rotary-hearth furnace for heating aluminum and titanium-alloy billets prior to forging.
The first part forged was a main landing gear beam for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Otto Fuchs KG managing partner Dr. Hinrich Mählmann stated: “This innovative technology will literally forge the future for parts made for aircraft and spacecraft.
“This, the world’s largest pull-down forging press, will shape some of the world’s largest monolithic parts from both aluminum and titanium. For Otto Fuchs, this is the third time we have developed the world’s largest forging press, and the second time it has been on Weber’s property,” Mählmann added.