Iron Giant – Magazine – The Atlantic

APPROACHING ALCOA’S 50,000-TON forging press feels a bit like approaching an alp: it starts out incomprehensibly huge and keeps getting incomprehensibly huger. From a distance, the thing dominates the horizon of the hangar-like Cleveland Works facility; as you get nearer, catching glimpses through forests of girders and around cliffs of firebrick, it begins to dominate the air above. But even as you stand at its foot, being told that the eight steel bolts anchoring it are 40 inches thick, calculating in your head that that makes them 10 feet around—even then it’s still a bit out of reach. Only when you climb it, peer down from its sixth-floor summit, and realize that the puny machine next to it is, in fact, its 35,000-ton brother—well, then you finally appreciate the size of the thing. It’s big.

via Iron Giant – Magazine – The Atlantic.


One of the critical bottlenecks in the buildup of US forces in World War II was a lack of machine tooling. Just building the tools, to build tools that built weapons was a real problem.

2 thoughts on “Iron Giant – Magazine – The Atlantic”

  1. WE would have trouble arming to refight Vietnam, with weapons of that era, much less fighting a real high tech war. Machine tools, as always, are the bottleneck. It would probably take us 3 years to be able to make a 16″ Naval Rifle tube again as the machines are gone. Scaling up what we have would be real work, but I have no doubt we could do it. But as war goes now, the war would most likely be over before we got even the first tube.

  2. I was in the shop yesterday as they were pushing an order through for a forging. If they didn’t get the order in by today, they were going to have to wait 4 months for the next available batch. Some things just aren’t “commercial, off the shelf”.

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