Long Beach, Calif., is perhaps best known as the retirement home of the legendary cruise ship Queen Mary, which is permanently moored there and is currently an operating hotel and museum. But on Sept. 11-12, Long Beach hosted some of the forging industry’s best and brightest technical people, industry professionals, suppliers and educators at what was FIERF’s 32nd Technical Conference. This included a tour of Weber Metals, an extensive battery of technical presentations and hours of exhibit floor time.
Tour of Weber Metals
Although not a formal part of the technical program, interested attendees started their Tuesday morning touring Weber Metals, an OTTO FUCHS (OF) company, in nearby Paramount, Calif. In a well-organized and efficiently run tour, several bus groups of attendees were brought from the hotel to Weber’s plant site. The individual groups toured Weber Metals’ new plant addition, which was built to house the company’s new 60,000-ton hydraulic press – one of the world’s largest – built by SMS group.
At this writing, the press is undergoing its commissioning process and has not yet been turned over to Weber for commercial production, which will consist primarily of producing large aluminum and titanium forgings for aerospace applications. After a moment of silence commemorating the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, those who toured the facility got to see the press in action, when a heated cylindrical aluminum billet was easily flattened to a large, flat disc.
At the end of the plant tour, attendees were brought back to the hotel for a lunch in the tabletop exhibit room before the formal technical conference program began.
FIERF’s 32nd Technical Conference was opened by Howard “Rob” Mayer (The Queen City Forging Co.), who was this year’s conference organizing committee chairperson. After again observing a commemorative moment of silence of the date, Mayer welcomed the group of about 160 attendees and introduced FIA President and CEO Jim Warren, who discussed the state of FIA and reviewed the association’s activities, challenges and upcoming events. The program was then turned over to FIERF Executive Director Karen Lewis, who thanked everyone for attending and spoke of FIERF’s various ongoing technical research projects with partners from industry and academia.
The first industry speaker was Matthew Kiser of Caterpillar. He spoke of his company’s use of forgings in parts requiring good stress and fatigue performance, controlled grain flow, modeling sophistication and advanced process controls.
Paul Eichenberg of Paul Eichenberg Strategic Consulting spoke of the trend in automotive design toward increased electrification in passenger cars. According to Eichenberg, the forging market for powertrain components will be adversely affected as cars move toward electrification in the future and away from internal combustion engines.
The connected enterprise was the topic of discussion for Loren Shifley of Rockwell Automation. He talked about global trends that influence markets and products as we know them. One of these trends is the interconnectivity of devices and processes. Shifley mentioned that 84% of executives think the Internet of Things (IoT) will create new income streams for their operations. He also outlined how his company has benefited from its connectivity.
Justin Owen of Weber Metals gave a detailed presentation on how the decision was made to order their new 60,000-ton press from SMS group. This was a very orderly process that involved not only the decision to invest in the press but also where to locate it. This is the largest single investment in parent company OF’s history and was made to provide the capacity to produce medium-to-large forgings of aluminum and titanium to service the aerospace industry.
The last presentation in the opening general session was given by Jon Tirpak of Advanced Technology International (ATI) and former ASM International president. Tirpak was home-bound by the then-threatening hurricane Florence and had to give his presentation to the group by telephone connection. He gave a historical perspective on some of the world’s largest forging presses, when and why they were put into service, how they were coveted after global conflicts and (in some cases) where they are in service today.
On Wednesday morning, Sept. 12, the technical sessions were split into two concurrent tracks of six papers each. Track A’s predominant theme was research-and-development projects, while the theme of Track B was applied technology.
After a lunch on the exhibit floor, the remaining papers were presented in a single session through to the close of the conference.
Meals and the Exhibit Floor
During the conference, meals were served on the show floor among the tabletop exhibits of the 16 companies at the conference. During the two-day event, three meals were served between technical sessions, offering ample opportunity for participants to engage, talk business, renew old acquaintances and make new ones.