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An 8,000 Ton Giant Made the Jet Age Possible

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the moar-power dept.

United States 307

Hugh Pickens writes "Tim Heffernan writes that when 'The Fifty,' as it's known in company circles, broke down three years ago, there was talk of retiring it for good. Instead, Alcoa decided to overhaul their 50,000-ton, 6-story high forging press, now scheduled to resume service early this year. 'What sets the Fifty apart is its extraordinary scale,' writes Heffernan. 'Its 14 major structural components, cast in ductile iron, weigh as much as 250 tons each; those yard-thick steel bolts are also 78 feet long; all told, the machine weighs 16 million pounds, and when activated its eight main hydraulic cylinders deliver up to 50,000 tons of compressive force.' The Fifty could bench-press the battleship Iowa, with 860 tons to spare, but it's the Fifty's amazing precision — its tolerances are measured in thousandths of an inch—that gives it such far-reaching utility. Every manned US military aircraft now flying uses parts forged by the Fifty, as does every commercial aircraft made by Airbus and Boeing making the Jet Age possible. 'On a plane, a pound of weight saved is a pound of thrust gained—or a pound of lift, or a pound of cargo,' writes Heffernan. 'Without the ultra-strong, ultra-light components that only forging can produce, they'd all be pushing much smaller envelopes.' The now-forgotten Heavy Press Program (PDF), inaugurated in 1950 and completed in 1957, resulted in four presses (including the Fifty) and six extruders — giant toothpaste tubes squeezing out long, complex metal structures such as wing ribs and missile bodies. 'Today, America lacks the ability to make anything like the Heavy Press Program machines,' concludes Heffernan, adding that 'The Fifty' will be supplying bulkheads through 2034 for the Joint Strike Fighter. 'Big machines are the product of big visions, and they make big visions real. How about a Heavy Fusion Program?'"

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now technology (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003231)

We see various technologies come and go, one hit wonders, ephemeral vapourware and promises of the next big thing.

When I read this, it made the engineer in me happy to think some things last longer.

Re:now technology (0, Flamebait)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003251)

The only trouble is... it won't blend.

Re:now technology (5, Insightful)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003385)

It IS the blender.

Sometimes (1, Redundant)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003237)

Bigger is better

Wow! (5, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003241)

That's something completely fascinating that I never knew before! It's days like this that remind me what it was like to be young - when everything was new and exciting. Thanks, internet!

"On a plane, ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003245)

... a pound of weight saved is a pound of thrust gained."

Really? So if I throw two snakes out of the window, the engines will provide one pound more of thrust?

Re:"On a plane, ... (1, Funny)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003463)

Really? So if I throw two snakes out of the window, the engines will provide one pound more of thrust?

You're doing it wrong - you have to throw the snakes INTO the plane ... the thrust is from all the H1Bs then jumping out.

Re:"On a plane, ... (3, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003561)

Relative to the weight of the plane, yes, it would be the same as adding two more pounds of thrust, though you'd gain a slight advantage in maneuverability due to less mass.

Actually not every... (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003249)

There are Airbus and Boeing planes built using parts made by the lower capacity presses used while this one was unserviceable or down for maintenance...

Re:Actually not every... (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003263)

Ahh the FA extends the comment made out to all presses in the Heavy Press Program - the summary is wrong.

Airbus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003737)

Is it really true that Airbus uses products from this mill on a regular basis? I would think that would be highly unlikely with so many European partners involved.

Summary contains entire article... plus some? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003255)

TFS includes almost the entire content of TFA. On the other hand, the provocative "lacks the ability", "big visions" and "heavy fusion" comments all seem to be figments of the submitter's imagination, as none appear in the article.

Re:Summary contains entire article... plus some? (2)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003567)

Maybe the submitter thinks that a "big enough" press will be able to do "heavy fusion?" Never mind that "big enough" in this case would be ~ the size of a dwarf star ...

Re:Summary contains entire article... plus some? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004119)

Heck, I'd settle for putting a lump of coal into it, to get diamonds, just like Superman.

The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Insightful)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003257)

Modern planes, and other transport/engineering structures, are moving to composites. Which are layered, printed, sometimes pressure baked and squeezed into form. But no longer forged on this scale.

While these machines are awesome, I've wandered along a car body stamping line and watched plates go from a flat sheet to a car door in 100meters, they are becoming less necessary to us. They will still be needed, of course, for some jobs where only such a monster can help, but I think the US should look on these as potential future museum pieces, with nostalgia for a bygone age of megaengineering, rather than a source of future industrial dominance.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003321)

Oh do shut up already.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Insightful)

guises (2423402) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003445)

I know very little about metal working, but it seems to me that when you have the capability to do something unique it would be foolish to give up that ability. Even if a new process comes along that is faster and cheaper for most purposes.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Interesting)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003457)

While in many applications it may be possible to replace metal with composites, there are always going to be corner cases. It wouldn't be too big a deal to lose one of these 50-kt machines, but losing the capability worldwide is another matter.

I'm reminded of a story a while back [slashdot.org] about there being only one company worldwide that can cast nuclear reactor vessels.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (-1, Troll)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003825)

I remember a recent story that a second company, Sheffield Forgemasters, sought and obtained a government-backed loan to build their own open die press capable of working forgings as big as those of Japan Steel Works -- so far, the only company in the world capable of making containment domes for nuclear reactors.

The deal fell through when a conservative government was elected, who, in a fit of hand-flapping autistic pique, took the loan away from them. You see, heavy industry and the North are 'working class', and the Tories lah-de-dahs and their privately educated soggy biscuit friends HATE anything which could be seen as working class.

Wreckers.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003493)

Composites aren't going to replace everything. Landing gear and landing gear mounts, engine mounts, critical bulkheads, etc. will still be made of forged metal for a long, long time. Even with additive manufacturing techniques, forging will still be necessary because the forging process itself is what puts the strength in the parts.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (4, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004179)

This is what I've been wondering about with 3D printing... From what I've seen, current additive 3D printing has been with plastic, though I'll admit that my knowledge is sketchy.

Seems to me that it would be a simple matter to use 3D printing to build a model for traditional metal casting methods. But as mentioned, none of that gives you the strength of forged metal. So is there a way to combine 3D printing with casting and some sort of "generic" forging process?

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Informative)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003585)

Apples and oranges. This type of forge isn't used for basic structure but high strength parts. While some parts can be redesigned for composites the materials aren't interchangeable. The only other process like it is using explosives to create exotic alloys but that process only is practical on a small scale. It reminds me of old battleships. People don't realize that some processes can't be duplicated today. Working with large scale multi-ton parts is old technology and tough to replicate. Another example is high performance submarine propellers. The US has the only mill in the world that can produce the propellers used in high speed silent running. Composites aren't a magic product that replaces everything that came before it. If they were then why isn't anyone making engine blocks out of them? They have their uses but they have their limits as well.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Informative)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003725)

Composites aren't a magic product that replaces everything that came before it. If they were then why isn't anyone making engine blocks out of them? They have their uses but they have their limits as well.

I present to you the carbon fiber engine block.

http://www.thecarbonfiberjournal.com/?p=770 [thecarbonf...ournal.com]

Re: carbon fiber engine block (5, Informative)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004005)

http://blog.caranddriver.com/is-this-the-engine-of-the-future-in-depth-with-matti-holtzberg-and-his-composite-engine-block/ [caranddriver.com]

This article goes into a little more depth. The block is actually a combination of aluminum and carbon. The parts that see the highest stress and highest temperature still have to be metal.

Also, this engine was announced a year ago, and I haven't been able to find any links to people actually driving one.

Re: carbon fiber engine block (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004209)

Wouldn't it make more sense to put steel sleeves into this, and as you say, other metal parts into high-stress areas? Philosophical purity has little (but not no) place in the real world.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40004007)

I present to you the carbon fiber engine block.

http://www.thecarbonfiberjournal.com/?p=770 [thecarbonf...ournal.com]

Interesting, but no way I am putting one in my GTO.

Nodular cast iron is a composite (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004123)

In fact, the nodular cast iron of which many engine parts are made, is itself a composite. The iron (a metal) contains nodules of graphite (carbon) which are roughly spherical and give it a combination of strength and ductility. Although it isn't as strong as a steel forging, nodular cast iron is very versatile and can be cast easily. When I was involved in a British Government kickstarter project over 20 years ago, one of the key objectives for future manufacturing that was identified was a way of producing cast parts in strong materials economically to near finished size, i.e. to eliminate the need for forging.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004107)

The US has the only mill in the world that can produce the propellers used in high speed silent running.

Didn't Toshiba get in trouble years ago over exporting high-quality CNC mills to the USSR for exactly this?

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003621)

Printing cannot match the resulting material strength and production speed of forging.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (2)

damburger (981828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003667)

I'm sorry, but I can't see any evidence that what these machines can do can be replicated by additive processes.

Yes, additive manufacture is great, but it isn't a universal construction technique. Don't forget please, that the last country that thought you could just dump heavy industry and replace it with small scale operations didn't do very well. [wikipedia.org]

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003673)

They will still be needed, of course, for some jobs where only such a monster can help,

Yeah, like TFS (seems to) suggest:

'Big machines are the product of big visions, and they make big visions real. How about a Heavy Fusion Program?'"

I just wonder if 50,000 tons would be enough, though.

(ducks)

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (0)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003941)

..only used for a large number of US planes ...

Obviously no-one else made jets, so did not need an equivalent machine ... like Russia, UK, France, China, etc .. etc .. etc ...

If you want one of these I'm sure China has a couple to spare ...

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004027)

And will let other countries build military hardware with them?

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (5, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004017)

Modern planes, and other transport/engineering structures, are moving to composites. Which are layered, printed, sometimes pressure baked and squeezed into form. But no longer forged on this scale.

While these machines are awesome, I've wandered along a car body stamping line and watched plates go from a flat sheet to a car door in 100meters, they are becoming less necessary to us. They will still be needed, of course, for some jobs where only such a monster can help, but I think the US should look on these as potential future museum pieces, with nostalgia for a bygone age of megaengineering, rather than a source of future industrial dominance.

Even a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry would help you understand how you're wrong. There are fundamental differences at the atomic level between things that are cast, forged, and "printed" in the manner that modern metal-based 3D printing works. The Venn diagram of things forged metal is good for and composites are good for has some overlap, but not a lot.

Thankfully, the engineers who are actually building things know the difference.

"At the atomic level" is incorrect (4, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004215)

I think you mean "at the molecular or crystallographic level". Certainly where steels are concerned, the difference between forging and casting has a lot to do with grain structure as well as the pearlite/ferrite mix, and it is these that determine ductility, modulus, ultimate yield and so on. Chemistry has very little to do with it, a rudimentary knowledge nothing at all; irons of the same chemical composition can have very different properties indeed based entirely on the production processes applied to them. This is why welding by the uninstructed can be so dangerous: random heat treatment of steels (and aluminum alloys too) can have drastic effects on their behaviour.

Re:The future will be printed, not forged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40004089)

You must be a republican *lower case intentional.

Additive manufacturing? (5, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003261)

This thing is neat and maybe that's the best way to do things. But I thought Boeing was talking about additive manufacturing. I know they have ways of making titanium parts using additive manufacturing. I don't know if they're as strong as forged parts. But once that's cracked this forging process should become obsolete in aerospace. After all, why use solid pieces when you can have pieces articulated down to the level of bone. Fine latices of metal interwoven to build parts that have strength to weight ratios similar to what we see in nature. Sure, metal is stronger then bone. But bone is made out of relatively weak materials. If you build something with the same structure out of metal you could get something very strong and very light.

Still, very neat machine. I wonder if the Chinese have such a thing and it sounded like the Germans might?

It would be interesting to know if these machines are critical to a heavy industry economy.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (5, Informative)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003273)

The Chinese have started building an 80,000 ton forge press

http://aciers.free.fr/index.php/2012/02/02/china-has-started-the-building-of-an-80000-ton-press-forge-us/ [aciers.free.fr]

Re:Additive manufacturing? (5, Funny)

PeterP (149736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003613)

How long until I can buy one at Harbor Freight?

Re:Additive manufacturing? (4, Funny)

beltsbear (2489652) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003735)

How long till harbor freight uses one (of any size) to make it's tools?

Re:Additive manufacturing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003981)

hello welcome to cast city , population you!

Re:Additive manufacturing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003631)

Yeah, but it's full of lead and breaks a day after you get it home.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003283)

A comment from the article mentioned this link [aciers.free.fr] about a new Chinese forge that is even bigger.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003429)

Sintered powder metal parts are not only not as strong as forged parts but their failure mode is to snap suddenly instead of bending. In car-land we saw this happen to the 7.3 liter powerstroke in 2001, where Ford went from the forged rods used in the pre-powerstroke International-Navistar 7.3 IDI turbo motor to a new powder metal rod chosen for lower cost. Not only is it not forged (cheaper) but instead of machining caps they are simply cracked off and then they get a cleanup pass, maybe. Unfortunately, they are about 10% more likely to fail and when they do, they are 100% more likely to break utterly rather than simply bending. This is not a solvable problem for steel, because forging creates the grain structure which produces the strongest parts, at least in steel. Ti may be different; don't know.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (5, Informative)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003513)

The laser Ti benificiation is the strongest additive manufacturing process available at the moment, and even it is very brittle because of the thermal stresses formed when it is produced. These are because as the laser melts the particles they are much hotter than the parts it is bonded with, and as they cool they shrink causing lots of stresses all throughout the material. That said, being able to make a ball inside of a socket during the manufacturing process is quite useful sometimes... not to speak of woven Ti mesh for grafts and such.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003713)

Boeing was talking about using it to make airframe parts.

They described a similar problem in that the metal is at different temperatures during the creation. They said they managed that by somehow controlling that temperature throughout to certain tolerances.

Maybe they exaggerated. But they seemed to imply they had it.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (2)

machine321 (458769) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003953)

My understanding was that sintered powder forged metal rods with cracked end-caps were stronger than their standard counterparts. Ford's been using them in gasoline applications since... 1993? Whenever they introduced the 4.6 modular engine in the Mark VIII. They used them because they could make an equal-strength, lighter, less-expensive part, which sounds like a win to me. Of course, I'm not an engineer, so maybe I've been sold a bill of goods.

The only good article I could find was this [findarticles.com] , but I'm guessing that's probably biased.

Re:Additive manufacturing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003441)

As I understand it, additive manufacturing is somewhat akin to welding; welding on a near molecular level but welding nonetheless. As such, forging will be much stronger of a process as the heat and pressure involved reinforces the work. On the other hand additive manufacturing is going to be orders of magnitude more precise than forging. It really depends on what you want to accomplish. The different processes will complement each other but one is unlikely to supplant the other.

Sometimes you need welding, sometimes forging, sometimes composites. In the end it's all about using the right tool for the job. Why limit yourself to just a hammer when you have a whole box of tools at your disposal?

Fascinating .. but .. (0, Troll)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003319)

.. I wish America (and all other non-conformists) would get with the metric standard. Did anyone else sigh at the following statement?

What sets the Fifty apart is its extraordinary scale. Its 14 major structural components, cast in ductile iron, weigh as much as 250 tons each; those yard-thick steel bolts are also 78 feet long; all told, the machine weighs 16 million pounds, and when activated its eight main hydraulic cylinders deliver up to 50,000 tons of compressive force.

According to WP [wikipedia.org] , there are different "tons" out there. The terse "ton" or "tonne" should mean 1000kg everywhere. When used in terms of poundage, the appropriate terms are apparently "short ton" (US, 2000 lb) and "long ton" (UK, 2240 lb).

It makes it all the more annoying when people steeped in science and logic continue to pander to these archaic systems instead of phasing them out :S

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003351)

But is far easier to use for baking... On the other hand it seems like part of the nation is starting to convert:
Metric System Thriving In Nation's Inner Cities [theonion.com]

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003419)

.. I wish America (and all other non-conformists) would get with the metric standard.

America will switch to Metric once everyone standardizes driving on the right side of road in the left side of the car and the entire world standardizes on English as their language.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003483)

If there were only two countries that drove on the left-hand side of the road, or only two countries that didn't speak English, then I'd imagine that there'd be some pretty heavy international pressure for them to get in line with everyone else. Even if the pressure was more subtle, such as imported vehicles costing more as it's a different model to the entire rest of the world...

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003527)

Yeah, because that would be a logical choice for the rest of the world. You do realise that the US is much smaller than the rest of the world combined?

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40004051)

You do realize most of the world drives on the Right with the car steering wheel on the left.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003685)

Ok, we'll do that once you guys switch to using International English.

Sincerely,
The Rest of the World

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (2)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003557)

I dont know why you are using the UK as the standard... being that it is the only country I'm aware of that still uses the "stone" as a unit of weight measurement.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003895)

Where am I using the UK as the standard? They are just as ridiculous with their units as the US. I want a metric system to be used as the standard everywhere.

I see that I've been marked as a troll by all the american mods :D I for one could not envisage the scale of the machine thanks to the units used.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (0, Flamebait)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003965)

USA is the only country that uses MM/DD/YYYY
USA is the only country that still uses it's own form of imperial (not the same as anyone else)
USA is the only country that does not understand 24hr time ...(except the Military)
USA (and others in NANPA) is the only country that does not have ITU international dialling

etc .. etc ... Large rich arrogant country will not update to be compatible with the rest of the world ...

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004145)

No, a large rich arrogant country with a lot of infrastructure built around its standards that would cost a fortune to change.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003577)

How about 250 megagrams?

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003647)

But a short ton is a tonne, to 1 significant figure, and a long ton is even closer. When talking casually in gross terms (components weighing "as much as 250 tons", or press capacity), it really doesn't matter at all.

Re:Fascinating .. but .. (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004217)

Why the downmod? The guy is right: even though /. is us-centric, such a boondongle of units makes the whole text unclear.

One day, the US will switch to metric. And that will be a good day.

The most depressing thing is (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003331)

that the US does not have the capability to make another such press. Or that the US lacks the ability to return to the moon. Or so many other things that the US used to do.

Now instead of Nasa working to get us further in space we have Nasa working on cooking the books to "hide the decline" so they can help push through laws which will make getting back to the moon even harder. Instead of Hollywood promoting the kind effort needed for such projects, you have Hollywood pushing the actors to pose naked to prevent killing animals that workers on such projects need to eat to keep their energy up.

Seems like we've lost our focus. I wonder of China or India will do so in fifty years time when they run things and we are the third world nation.

Re:The most depressing thing is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003361)

What a load of nostalgic poop, mixed in with childish nonsense.

"actors to pose naked to prevent killing animals that workers on such projects need to eat to keep their energy up."

Seriously, dude?

And we don't go to the Moon because we've already been there. We know what's there. Nothing. It's a harsh, hostile vacuum. We don't need large symbolic gestures anymore. Let the other countries play catch up to empty gestures if they want. They'll find the same things there the Americans did. Nothing. A vacuum. It's not like the Chinese, *if* they manage to get there, will suddenly find streets paved in gold with cupcakes floating around and puppies and rainbows.

The Moon is a deserted wasteland.

We probably also lack the capability to build really large Victorian steam locomotives. So? Are you saying people are stupid? If we need to, we will. Obviously someone will maintain this press.

Re:The most depressing thing is (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003437)

The Moon is a deserted wasteland.

You mean the grapes are sour. Even you should accept that, despite the moon being a wasteland, it useful to know how to reach it. Even if for some reason we wanted to I dont believe we currently have the capability to.

Re:The most depressing thing is (1)

murdocj (543661) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003517)

We know how to reach the moon. If for some reason it was necessary to land men on the moon, we could implement a program that would get us back there. Instead, we have rovers on Mars with another huge rover on the way there, a Saturn orbiter, a probe to Pluto, a Mercury orbiter, an asteroid orbiter, ....

I sure as hell wouldn't trade all of that for a couple of guys walking around on the moon again.

Re:The most depressing thing is (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003587)

"The Moon is a deserted wasteland."

Indeed.

Fix it. Throw enough billions at the project, and get a semi-sustainable base up there. It'll be handy for astronomy, national pride and construction of spacecraft for going further.

Re:The most depressing thing is (1)

N!k0N (883435) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003881)

And we don't go to the Moon because we've already been there.

And what if the monarchs of the old world felt the same way about the new world?

We probably also lack the capability to build really large Victorian steam locomotives. So? Are you saying people are stupid? If we need to, we will. Obviously someone will maintain this press.

Actually ... the hard part will be getting the steel alloys right more than the forging of them... granted there are very few places in the states that can still forge parts as large as would be needed.

Re:The most depressing thing is (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003383)

Blame the republicans and the democrats. They collectively destroyed the space program. They would rather spend MORE on defense than reduce the defense budget by 2% and give NASA the money the need to fully fund all their desired programs.

That is how big of scumbags your congress is.

Re:The most depressing thing is (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003623)

It's nice to blame it on defense, but they'd also rather spend MORE on social programs than reduce the social program budgets by 0.1% and give NASA the money they need to fully fund all their desired programs.

Re:The most depressing thing is (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004121)

I would agree with you if Social programs was 70% of our spending, but in reality it's not even 20%. Defense is the bulk of our spending and is not needed to be that large.

Honestly, I guarantee we can kill all the terrorists hiding in the bushes that are waiting to destroy our world with only 3/4 of what we spend on defense.

Re:The most depressing thing is (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004211)

You do realize that defense is about 16-18% of the budget. The rest is all those other things governments do. Cutting defense to $0 will still leave the U.S. with a $600-700 Billion budget gap. And the Me Generation is about to send the rest of the budget into outer space now that they are getting old enough to retire and somehow believe the rest of the country owes them some Golden Years after having to put up with their whining and kvetching for the last 50.

And even if they did reduce the defense budget by 2% (they are talking of reducing it by roughly 12%), what makes you think they will spend it on the space program? The space program isn't going to get any of those critters re-elected whereas promising a chicken in every toilet, or whatever they're promising these days, will.

Amazing! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003353)

Amazing, but... what is it?

I find it's (1, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003393)

I find it's really depressing

Re:I find it's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40004019)

thats ok!

Additive manufacturing (0, Flamebait)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003443)

I'm puzzled about the hate and outright hostility by people bagging this 'old' technology. It seems to be a product of silly, irrational thinking about what qualifies as 'high tech' and what isn't.

Irrational and silly. Especially from conservatives who really ought to know better. Their distain for 'old' technology is self-defeating, especially since these silly and ignorant people claim to be for 'strong defence', which, btw, requires equipment built from high-strength, high-performance lightweight parts.

If you knew even the FIRST thing about metallurgy, you would know why people are spending good money on building and maintaining this capability.

Conservative, rightwing 'truthiness' makes you look stupid, and is self-defeating.

Imagine the environmental impact! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003465)

That's why it can't be built in the US today.

But China will do it.

Score 1 moe for the government. (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003473)

This is another score for the government and a blow to the idea that provate industry always does everything best.

Some things are simply too expensivre and farsighted for private industry to invest. That's why a decent sized government is needed, to invest massive sums of money in things like this giant press. It has paid back massively.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (4, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003593)

Well, yes, this is something that government clearly does best. Big, chunky investments whose returns are nebulous and decades after the initial outlay.

I don't mind that much that private enterprise then builds on government work afterwards, but what pisses me right off is when private companies then decide they owe nothing to the society that hosts them, avoid taxes, and campaign for reductions in the ones they do pay.

This, of course, has the advantage for established private enterprise of kicking away the ladder of government R&D and infrastructure investment so no pesky competitors can get the same leg up.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (3, Funny)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003695)

This is another score for the government and a blow to the idea that provate industry always does everything best.

There is an entire political party that disagrees with you.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003879)

Only until after the election. Or don't you realize that yet? You young?

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003913)

As things are, there is always one party disagreeing with any opinion you might have.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003759)

You know, back during the Bu$hitler days, I never thought I'd see a pro-government liberal...but here we are. We have always been at war with Oceania...I used to think that was a joke, but Orwell was dead serious.

I see one thing hasn't changed, though: the conviction that every possible topic involves your pet politics, and the acceptability of hijacking any thread no matter how technical.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (0)

invid (163714) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004057)

You're just angry because this is something the government did right. BTW, the best way to maintain individual liberty is if corporate power and government power are about equal, allowing us little people to play them off each other. If either one gets too much of the upper hand we are screwed.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003995)

Total lie, but I think in your case total ignorance, but nice try. What kills me are all the government welfare scum that takes money away from projects like this because lazy people refuse to work.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (1)

ModelX (182441) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004087)

Well in this particular case it was the Nazi government that was farsighted. The allies found giant presses when they occupied Germany at the end of WW2. So Germans had such presses running during WW2, and USA started heavy press program in 1950.

Re:Score 1 moe for the government. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004175)

In fairness, the US government was also farsighted. It saw them and decided that they had so much potential that they funded construction of their own ones.

FTFA: More military spending (3, Insightful)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003569)

"The Fifty will soon be supplying bulkheads for the Joint Strike Fighter"

I'm not a big fan of dumping more money into the military when our science budgets are so thin.

Sheffield Forgemasters (4, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003639)

The UK company is mentioned as being build up with cheap government loans, which is a half truth.

Yes, they are getting cheap loans, but only begrudgingly and only after the government had canceled a much larger loan, aimed at letting them produce "ultra large" forgings that few other places in the world can manage, mostly for the nuclear industry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheffield_Forgemasters#2010_expansion [wikipedia.org]

But of course, we have to spend billions turning London into a bland commercial fortress for the Olympics. This is not that surprising; money that is meant to be spend on a national level has a nasty habit of being spent within a few miles of London.

But hey, I'm sure the Coalition know what they are doing. I'm sure putting missile launchers of peoples roofs and forbidding British beer brewers from selling stuff in many of the capitals pubs is a far more sensible economic investment than developing world class forging capabilities.

US Steel "Shield" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003719)

The whole American steel industry is shielded by the US gov't and tax barriers to protect it from competition. They're too old and not financially viable without investments the global and local competition have already made.

On November 11, 2003, the WTO came out against the steel tariffs, saying that they had not been imposed during a period of import surge — steel imports had actually dropped a bit during 2001 and 2002 — and that the tariffs therefore were a violation of America's WTO tariff-rate commitments.

The ruling authorized more than $2 billion in sanctions, the largest penalty ever imposed by the WTO against a member state, if the US did not quickly remove the tariffs. After receiving the verdict, Bush declared that he would preserve the tariffs.

In retaliation, the European Union threatened to counter with tariffs of its own on products ranging from Florida oranges to cars produced in Michigan, with each tariff calculated to likewise hurt the President in a key marginal state. Faced with the threat, the U.S. backed down and withdrew the tariffs on December 4.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_United_States_steel_tariff

To quote the CATO institute:

Erecting barriers to imports will only postpone needed consolidation of the U.S. steel industry. The industry has not been losing jobs because of unfair imports, but because of relentless technological changes brought by "mini-mills" that produce a ton of steel at a fraction of the man hours required by the larger integrated mills. During the last period when comprehensive quotas were in place, 1984 to 1992, the steel industry continued to lose nearly 10,000 jobs per year. Quotas will only slow the inevitable.

http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/bush-turns-protectionist-steel-companies

Re:US Steel "Shield" (5, Informative)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003975)

A bit of history provides some useful background. During WWII, the area near Pittsburgh PA produced more steel than the rest of the world combined. (But those mills were mostly built with 19th century technology. They were at the 'prime of life' and would have been obsolete soon even without the war.) Steel mills and other heavy industry throughout the rest of the world also were largely destroyed by bombing from one side or the other - mostly Allied bombing of German and Japanese steel mills. So after the war US industry, and particularly US steel, were the only ones still able to produce products. We then lent money to all parties (the Marshall Plan), with the proviso that they had to spend the money on US goods. The boom of the 1950s was the result of this and some other policies (the GI bill was another). This amounted to a postwar bubble.

One of the things that those other countries did was build new steel plants, using the latest technology. By the end of the 1950s these new plants were coming online, able to make steel for much lower prices. At that point the US steel industry, still based on late-19th century mill technology, became completely obsolete. The US steel companies, still competing with each other as well as the rest of the world, could not justify spending $zillions to essentially compete against themselves, while it was well worth while for other countries to develop their own industries, as they were starting from a zero base. This is a classic problem that results in constant turnover in many/most/all industries - it rarely seems like a good idea to build your own competition looking at the short term - all it does is spend money to reduce profits- but it's often a good idea to come in from outside and build the competition to the entrenched, inefficient market leader..

  Since the 1970s there have been quite a few new, smaller mills built here using the latest (IIRC NUCOR was one of the first examples) but they still have to work hard to compete with the lower costs elsewhere - lower wages, lower land prices, etc. So it's an uphill battle, and that kind of dominance after WWII was a one-time deal.

One of the side-effects of the loss of those two-mile-long mills in the Pittsburgh area is that the side has become clean. When I lived there (early 1990s) the Carnegie Library and Museum was being scrubbed. The building had been black for 80 years or so. After scrubbing it turned out to be blond! I saw pictures from the 1950s where it was too dark and smoky to see across the street in downtown Pittsburgh. And those big mill areas along the rivers are now available to be turned into parks, housing, light industry, clean industry, whatever. But of course, there aren't many jobs. The population of Pittsburgh now is about 1/3 what it was in 1965. Houses are (or at least were) cheap.

Minor Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40004205)

Your perspecitve directly ignores the tremendous cost of environmental compliance on US steel production. Given that we want to llive in our planet, we triple the cost of coal and tacenite production by requiring environmental compliance, and similarly, the emissions controlls for steel mills mean that only mini-mills can possibly be compliant. These things were not considered in the WTO ruling. Besides blatantly dumping sub-costs steel on the market, China is still dumping billions of pounds of toxins into the environment [treehugger.com] .

Re:Sheffield Forgemasters (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003731)

and forbidding British beer brewers from selling stuff in many of the capitals pubs...

Huh?!! Really?
(please provide a link; if credible, one less ticket to London's Olympiad, thanks)

8,000 ton giant.. (-1, Troll)

palmerj3 (900866) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003677)

Just because your mom doesn't read Slashdot doesn't mean it's cool to disrespect her in public. Good day, sir!

Re:8,000 ton giant.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40003831)

That was not the best of Yo Momma jokes, but a troll mod? bitch please!

Of COURSE we lack the ability to make a new one (5, Funny)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#40003959)

The 400 yard long wrench needed to tighten the 10 foot wide bolts was lost when someone (I think we all know who...) used it and never put it back.

Take that Ayn Rand lovers! (1)

invid (163714) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004029)

Once again we have government spending being instrumental to helping the capitalist free market. Add this to the internet and the highway system as government funded projects that are crucial to technological advancement.

Hugh Pickens (2)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004081)

Have you noticed how this Hugh Pickens guy never ceases to post these long, well-written articles. :) Maybe some newspaper hires him, too.

America doesn't lack the ability... (1)

rlp122 (1204980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40004085)

America doesn't lack the ability, we lack the interest. Out apathy is strong, but I really just don't care.
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