Alcoa refurbishing giant press for F-35 parts

  • 20-Nov-2009 06:08 EST
Alcoa press refurb - MCM size.jpg

The 50,000-ton forging press stands 92 ft tall.

Alcoa is undertaking the refurbishment of a massive 50,000-ton forging press at its Cleveland Works to make large parts for Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Combined with other improvements to support the F-35 and other projects, Alcoa will invest $110 million in the plant through 2011. Of that, $68 million will go toward the press refurb, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2011. “When this project is completed, Cleveland Works will be the home of the most advanced, productive large forging presses in the world," said William F. Christopher, Alcoa Executive Vice President and President of Alcoa Engineered Products and Solutions.

Among the die forgings to be made on the press are, for each aircraft, 15 large bulkheads that serve as the primary structural supports for the wing and engine that can range from 1800 to 6000 lb in weight and 10 to 23 ft in length. Also part of a 10-year $360 million contract that Alcoa won two years ago for 7085 alloy aluminum die forgings are six wing-box parts.

The press is 92 ft tall, with four stories above and below the floor. It first went into service in 1955. Cracks were discovered in the press's base casting last summer, at which time the press was idled. The company announced in November that funding had been approved for the refurb.

The bulkheads are being made at the plant currently with a 35,000-ton press.

“With a renovated press, our unique alloys, proprietary segmented die technology, and signature stress relief, Cleveland Works will be unmatched,” Christopher said. “We will now combine our industry-leading technology and market expertise with twice the capacity to serve markets with strong growth opportunities.”

Segmented die technology and signature stress relief allow Alcoa to make parts that are larger, thicker, and more complex than can be produced by competitors on similar-sized forging presses, the company says.

Alcoa’s partnership with Lockheed Martin began in 2004, when the latter's decision to seek weight savings coincided with both Alcoa’s development of a new alloy technology and innovative manufacturing approach. Parts were redesigned to take advantage of the entire Alcoa offering.

“Our engineers, operations managers, and designers have worked collaboratively to offer complex die forgings that will meet weight-reduction requirements and extremely tight time frames that will allow our customer to stay on schedule,” said Joseph E. Haniford, Vice President and General Manager, Alcoa Forged and Cast Products, after announcement of the contract in 2007.  

In addition to the aluminum forgings described above, other Alcoa aerospace units provide critical F-35 components and solutions to the program. Among those are highly engineered joining devices from Alcoa Fastening Systems, specialty alloy plate from Alcoa North American Mill Products, and high-pressure turbine blades for F-35 JSF engines and structural aluminum castings from Alcoa Power and Propulsion.

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