Lenape Forged Products: Nine Decades of Elite Craftsmanship
Now in its 92nd year of operation, Lenape Forged Products Corp. offers quality metal forgings to the defense, aerospace, power generation, medical equipment, oil and gas, and other industries. The company performs all its own production operations, including heat treating, machining, welding, grinding and quality testing.
More than 90 years ago, in 1921, a small forge shop was founded in a former trolley repair shop along the scenic banks of the Brandywine River in Chester County, Pa. In its early days, the forge was known as the Lenape Hydraulic Pressing and Forging Co. Its founder took the name from the indigenous Native American tribe that lived in settlements scattered throughout the Brandywine region.
Although the company was formed far too late to forge metals vital to the region’s deep history, such as those used in the American Revolution or Civil War, it nonetheless thrived through its early years. Today, as Lenape Forged Products Corp. (LFPC), it not only provides a strong link in the chain necessary to the nation’s defense, but it also supports the economic growth of key industrial projects throughout the world.
Serving Defense, Aerospace and Other Markets
The company provides quality precision forgings up to 15 tons in support of aircraft carriers, attack and ballistic missile submarines, and ancillary sub-systems such as nuclear propulsion, torpedoes, missiles and launch components.
In the early 1990s, the company’s products were used in Operation Desert Storm, both aboard state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and Tomahawk missiles. More recent products were used in the commercial space-launch industry for the latest in satellite technology, which provides modern communications and electronic services around the world. Other markets have included nuclear and fossil power, medical equipment, refining, pipeline and oilfield components, and fully assembled and tested autoclaves for sophisticated laboratory testing environments.
LFPC routinely produces large custom forgings for high-quality, critical applications. It is particularly well-known for its custom parts used in high-pressure, high-temperature conditions. In fact, the plant can actually handle input weights up to 42,000 pounds, and its presses range in size from 75 to 5,000 tons. Moreover, the company’s skilled craftsmen work with a wide variety of metals, including carbon, stainless, nickel-alloys, aluminum and titanium.
A Full-Service Forge
Over the years, LFPC – located on Route 52 just south of West Chester – has undergone several major expansions and now occupies 135,000 square feet, complete with its own modern analytical testing laboratory. New high-capacity equipment complements the company’s expansion into high-tech markets. Indeed, LFPC sees continual improvements and renovations as important stepping stones to tomorrow’s world market demands.
The company performs all of its essential production operations: parting, forging and forming, heat treating, machining, grinding and testing. Its laboratory houses the latest analytical equipment for tensile, impact and drop-weight testing, as well as microstructural analysis with digital imaging. Nondestructive testing is also performed in-house, with ASNT-certified inspectors utilizing ultrasonic, magnetic-particle, alloy-identification and liquid-penetrant techniques.
Equipment and Processes
LFPC has an extensive collection of open and closed dies, many with exotic configurations. The full range of methods performed at LFPC include semi-closed-die contour forging, open-die forging, mandrelling, upsetting, both backward and forward extrusions, piercing and punching, plate forming and flueing.
A 5,000-ton press, complete with a multi-position sliding table and ejector ram, enable the company to produce extremely large and complex forgings. There is also a complete machining department, where forged products are finished to any specification or dimension. The well-equipped machine shop includes horizontal boring mills, planers, engine/gap bed lathes, tracer-equipped turret lathes, vertical turret lathes, vertical boring mills and trepanning lathes, most with computerized (NC and CNC) controls. LFPC has also added a waterjet machine capable of cutting section sizes up to approximately 11 inches thick.
LFPC also boasts a comprehensive heat-treating facility equipped with large car-bottom furnaces, batch-type and stress-relieving furnaces, and normalizing and annealing furnaces. The company has the capacity for water and polymer quenching. A drop-bottom furnace was recently added to facilitate solution heat treating of critical aluminum-alloy forgings. The quench-transfer rate for this furnace is less than 10 seconds, which is particularly necessary for processing 7XXX aluminum alloys with stringent mechanical-property requirements. The addition of a new data-collection system allows forge and heat-treat furnaces to be observed at computer workstations and at touch-screen monitors.
No Outsourcing Needed
With all of these capabilities under one roof, outsourcing is rarely required. Although LFPC is a custom shop and each job is unique, a typical sequence is as follows:
• The contract is reviewed by the staff of engineers and metallurgists
• Raw material is then purchased and evaluated by quality assurance
• Starting weight is then parted, heated and forged
• Forging is then heat treated, hardness and/or conductivity tested, followed by mechanical testing
• After completion of tests, forgings are then machined, nondestructively tested, certified by the quality department and then packaged for shipment
QA and Continuous Improvement
Every forging job at LFPC is backed by a stringent quality-assurance (QA) program. As a commercial nuclear-materials manufacturer, the plant is audited annually by the Nuclear Industry Assessment Committee (NIAC). In addition to being assessed by numerous customers, LFPC is also audited annually to AS 9100 for aerospace work and ISO 9001. Customers routinely witness critical stages of the manufacturing operation, such as heat treating, mechanical testing and NDT. The company is also a qualified supplier to numerous military specifications, having successfully completed a multitude of first-article testing requirements.
LFPC’s reputation for reliability and quality is evident in the fact that more than 60% of its forging work is repeat business. But the goal at LFPC is to not only satisfy existing customers, but to open doors to new ones.
Continuous improvement is the tool used to open those doors. Improvements in facilities and in the technical expertise of its people are clearly evident. New and innovative techniques continue to be added as new designs warrant.
The end result is that LFPC has forged just about every grade of material imaginable. Gold; cobalt-, aluminum-, aluminum-lithium-, and nickel-based alloys; and titanium alloys have all been successfully processed. Converting ingots of Inconel 625, Inconel 600 and XM-19 is more evidence of the can-do culture at LFPC.
Management might have shied away from converting ingots susceptible to cracking and/or grain growth 15 years ago, but that is no longer the case. Within the past five years, the forge has more than tripled its capacity in processing large Inconel 600 forgings, producing defense-related components whose starting input weight approaches 19,000 pounds.
Faith in LFPC’s craftsmanship, which the company claims is among the world’s best, is seen in the wide spectrum of industries represented in its repeat customers. The names of these clients are universally known – they are among the most well-respected companies in international business.
Forging itself is an ancient art, but this firm has been extremely successful in updating and upgrading its techniques and methods while providing a wide range of comprehensive products and services to a worldwide clientele. Lenape continues to add innovative solutions for today’s demanding customers.
Its place in the heart of Chester County, surrounded by open countryside, demonstrates that a world-class company like Lenape Forged Products Corp. can retain aspects of its modest beginnings while enhancing American pride in craftsmanship.