Bang! Crash!
December 17, 2016 9:46 AM   Subscribe

 
Forge a large flange on the street

Industrial busking - your new hustle. Of course in a few years the scene will be just guys begging for ball-bearings.
posted by thelonius at 9:54 AM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


*fifteen minutes of forging with forklifts*

ok, cool

*awesome massive lathe and mill work glossed over with sixty second slideshow*

nooooo whhhyyyyy
posted by phooky at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2016 [20 favorites]


Major props to the forklifters, the unsung heroes of street forging.

The skreek-skreek-clank-skreek of the hammer raising after every hit had a "Sideshow Bob with the rakes" quality about it. I bet it's no picnic living in the apartments right there during the day.
posted by rhizome at 10:02 AM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


How they do it in Germany.

Many years ago I worked a summer at a press and forge in Texas that made BOPs, blow-out preventers for oil and gas wells. They were VW Beetle sized hunks of glowing red metal that were painfully hot when you got within 25' of them. You could feel the forge blows with your feet a block away.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:05 AM on December 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


My favorite part was when it turned into a game of pong between the forklifts for awhile.
posted by lilac girl at 10:07 AM on December 17, 2016


WTF? This is like a deleted scene from a Kevin Costner project that bombed. I'm in awe of these guys skill and teamwork and all but is there really no more efficient way to produce these things? And what the hell is going on with the fire in the background (and the half-assed attempt to put it out)? Do lots of Chinese engineering projects outsource the heavy forging to guys like this? I have so many questions.
posted by steganographia at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know that labour is cheap in places like China, but the time spent to make one giant flange in China like this vs the much faster German factory in Bee'sWing's video has to count for something.
posted by thecjm at 10:28 AM on December 17, 2016


The incredible (barely) constrained violence of industrial civilization on full display.

None of those guys were even wearing ear protectors.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


Steganographia, the fire in the background - are you talking about the oven that they occasionally would re-heat the forging in? If so, the occasional dousing of water was probably to keep the door from melting!
posted by notsnot at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2016


+ vocals = Einsturzende Neubauten
posted by davebush at 10:34 AM on December 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh yeah, Notsnot, it is the oven! duh.
posted by steganographia at 10:37 AM on December 17, 2016


heroes of street forging...

... would be a great album name.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Was this video a case for or against the continued existence of OSHA?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was upset that they weren't wearing hardhats and then realized how little that they would help.
posted by octothorpe at 10:56 AM on December 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


That was weirdly fascinating. The economy of movements of the the guys with the bars and the precision of the forklift was pretty cool. I've always been super impressed when you see a really skilled guy on a forklift. They are not easy to get the hang of, and I've watched more than one guy stack shelves or load a truck with one so fast they forklift never actually stops moving - wheels already in reverse as they are sliding forward under a pallet to pick it up and back out. These guys seem to be in that same range of precision with one.
posted by Brockles at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2016


...I'd want one of those plastic face shields over my groin as well.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Extremely impressive skills involved, and in very difficult working conditions. I'd also be very worried about the hearing of anyone working in that environment.

The thing is, when comparing to Bee'sWing's video, the equivalent German part would actually be measurably better in several important regards:

It'd take less energy to make, because faster processes mean that repeat heatings aren't required.

The Chinese version also involves a lot of work while the part is cold (relatively speaking), hardening the metal. You can get rid of that extra hardness by careful annealing, but I don't think that they're set up to do that. Harder metal is more brittle, and so more prone to cracks. That ultrasonic testing they do at the end is to spot those, but there's no perfect method for doing this.

Additionally, I would expect the material tolerances for the German forged part to be closer to to nominal, allowing it to be machined down to final metal condition with less wastage.

From an environmental perspective, you can see why China and other countries are struggling to implement carbon emission laws - their infrastructure needs to be upgraded, and that takes money, which means that they need to do the jobs the old fashioned way until they can afford more efficient industrialised solutions.

The more industrialised nations have moved on, and global warming necessitates that nations trying to follow in their footsteps can't use the techniques that the industrial nations used to get where they are today. In the mean time, there's one very important point where the Chinese one will be a lot better than the German one - it would be a lot cheaper.

It's a very difficult situation for everyone.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:03 AM on December 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


How they do it in Germany

That video has been my go to to get my 4 year old son calm for the last week - turn the volume down and he just sits there and will watch it until he passes out
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:08 AM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, look at all the extra machinery the Germans have. And you can't use a stock forklift to move around a piece as hot as they've got in the German factory. But the Chinese are good at making stuff that LOOKS the same for a lot cheaper, whether steel or knockoff handbags or electronics.
posted by rikschell at 11:14 AM on December 17, 2016


I bet it's no picnic living in the apartments right there during the day.

If it's anything like every apartment I ever lived in in Shanghai, the noise of the forge is drowned out by the sound of demo hammers tearing through the walls of the apartment upstairs, punctuated by the sound of the building next door being demolished for the third time in as many years.
posted by bradf at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is what I imagine working conditions were like in the USSR during the second World War. Making locomotive parts in a tin shed in the Urals with improvised tools and a total disregard for the future health of the workers because they were needed to defeat Hitler.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


No better illustration of the adage "If brute force don't work, you ain't using enough of it." Both videos are fascinating, the Chinese one for the terrifying disregard for safety and the German one for the terrifying power of the equipment. That must be like porn for the Hydraulic Press Channel guy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Any manufacturing/materials experts who know what the disks are made of? The ones they used to punch the hole? I was particularly surprised at how easily they were pulled out afterwards.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2016


geez, do they even make ear protection for that environment?
posted by j_curiouser at 11:58 AM on December 17, 2016


I'm a manufacturing engineer, but my area is more electro-mechanical assembly, rather than heavy industrial forging. That said, I would expect those discs to be made from steel. The discs are cold, the work piece is hot, and those guys in the video are strong.

More than happy to be corrected by anyone who knows better, of course.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:46 PM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


geez, do they even make ear protection for that environment?

what?!?
posted by hippybear at 12:51 PM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Okay yes this is extraordinarily fraught and complicated from a social and globalist-economics perspective but 16:34 is extremely #squadgoals.
posted by penduluum at 1:23 PM on December 17, 2016


geez, do they even make ear protection for that environment?

what?!?


What?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is cool, thanks for posting this!
posted by carter at 1:35 PM on December 17, 2016


My "German" video above is really a Swedish factory. Apologies.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


What's the flange going to be used for? I'm legitimately terrified that parts made this way will be used in contexts where strength is critical, and they'll fail catastrophically due to flaws in the forging process.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:16 PM on December 17, 2016


I've always been super impressed when you see a really skilled guy on a forklift.

Bobcat Ballet is totally a thing.
posted by ryanrs at 2:29 PM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm legitimately terrified that parts made this way will be used in contexts where strength is critical...

Strength? How about precision? There's no way in hell that Chinese piece was, y'know, round.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:44 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the stills at the end they show it being milled, and even a relatively crude mill can make things pretty damn round. That won't fix any internal flaws, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:47 PM on December 17, 2016


It looks like a lap joint flange for use in the oil and gas industry to me, but I'd like to reiterate that I'm not an expert on the topic.

If that is the case, it doesn't really need to do much - bolts go through the holes and apply pressure through the flange onto a flanged pipe. Pretty simple. And lap joint flanges are used in applications where quick and dirty joints are used, if I'm Googling right, so you don't need ultra-high precision.

As for a catastrophic failure, I don't think you need to be that worried. There's a lot of testing done on parts like this, and they tend to be designed to have plenty of margin for error. If it failed, the most likely result would be a leak. That would be bad, and expensive, and lots of other things, but probably not catastrophic. Leaks can be isolated pretty quickly these days. No-one wants to haemorrhage money.

The reason to be concerned is that a poor quality flange might have less safety margin when things go wrong. The flange itself might not be the cause of the hypothetical catastrophe, but it could be a point of failure if lots of other things go wrong, making said catastrophe worse. Or you could have a system made from poor quality flanges, which might be less robust than one made with better materials, so incidents are more likely to be accidents.

Overall, though, there are worse choices of job to subcontract to a Chinese foundry.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:53 PM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm curious, is there a benefit to forging the pieces like this as opposed to using some sort of casting process to get the desired shape?
posted by Aleyn at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2016


INYM* but I think being able to pour molten steel into mold would require a much hotter furnace than they have, you'd need some sort of crucible to pour it with and you'd need a mold.

*I'm not your metallurgist

A friend of mine is actually a metallurgist at a steel mill outside of Pittsburgh (there are a few left) and I'll have to send this to him.
posted by octothorpe at 3:31 PM on December 17, 2016


Every aspect of this is terrifying.
posted by odinsdream at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, is there a benefit to forging the pieces like this as opposed to using some sort of casting process to get the desired shape?

Forging generally produces a superior part
posted by mygoditsbob at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm curious, is there a benefit to forging the pieces like this as opposed to using some sort of casting process to get the desired shape?

Back before CNC milling was a thing people made a lot of money investment casting metal parts, in some cases using centrifuges to get the molds to fill out. The resulting parts were not as strong and had to be thicker and heavier than forged and machined steel but they were a lot cheaper to make.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:09 PM on December 17, 2016


Previously on MF: Barry Cant Arf Weld. Don't miss this.

"A short film about large scale forging of special steels at Firth Rixson in Sheffield." A really great video production. Turn up the sound too!


When I tried searching for the missing second MF link, I found this other video on youtube: Full automatic ring rolling machine. A lot more precision than a bunch of guys in a yard.
posted by jjj606 at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


A friend of mine is actually a metallurgist at a steel mill outside of Pittsburgh

My father was a metallurgical engineer who actually ran a steel mill outside of Pittsburgh.

He loved to discuss stuff just like this. Apparently cast metal develops an internal crystalline structure which may compromise its overall strength. Crucible Steel has developed a technology based on castings which fuse tiny metal particles vs. casting using molten metal, with a stronger, more homogenous result.

My guess is that testing on the finished forged metal flange would show interesting stress patterns vs. one that has been cast and may in fact be stronger. At any rate that finished object is a thing of beauty and it breaks my heart that my father died before he could see such things for himself. That video would have given him immense pleasure.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a metallurgist but was heavily exposed to one for 35 years.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:22 PM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pocket knives are an industry that goes off the deep end with fancy steels that are 10 times as good (and expensive) as they need to be. Crucible Steel is well represented.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:41 PM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think I suffered some hearing damage just watching this on lowest volume.
posted by deadbilly at 10:53 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This made all the right blang! noises that forging should make. Steel is the best.
posted by scruss at 7:36 AM on December 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wanted a fan remix with the Law and Order dong on every strike.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:15 AM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


That giant forging hammer is the best thing.

ASMR videos make me horrible tense and anxious, but that giant hammer just WHAM WHAM. That's just magnificent. That's what I imagine ASMR does to people who like it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:25 PM on December 18, 2016


I did send the video to my metallurgist friend and he was suitably horrified.
posted by octothorpe at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The most surprising thing about this to me was that the workers have gloves and face masks on.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:26 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the face masks and gloves make it possible to stand that close to the giant, glowing chunk of metal. It must be like an electrical stove element, times about a thousand.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:48 AM on December 19, 2016


Any manufacturing/materials experts who know what the disks are made of? The ones they used to punch the hole? I was particularly surprised at how easily they were pulled out afterwards.

Blacksmith here.

Probably just regular old steel. When doing hot work, the hot metal is *soft*, like a really stiff clay or bred dough soft, so the tooling *so long as it stays cold* is always going to be harder and won't deform. You also coat it with something, usually graphite or or a sulfur compound, so that on the corners of the punch, which will get hot, don't weld themselves to the work -- in a different longer edit that's been circulating in blacksmithing circles, just before the punch you can see a worker toss something powdery onto the work, probably just such a compound. On my wimpy 25-ton press I keep a jar of graphite mixed in water with a bit of dishwashing soap as a release formula, just dip the punch in the jar to cool it down and coat it with graphite. Punches just pop or fall out that way.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Cast v forged: When you cast steel, it tends to form very large crystals as it cools down, just like rock candy or -- and each crystal wants to be pure iron, all the alloying elements get pushed to the boundries: carbon (flakes of graphite and spherical graphite nodules are common in cast iron), vanadium, chromium, silicon, etc, and those boundaries sometimes don't have a lot of attraction to each other. If you've ever broken a piece of cast iron and seen the rough, angular surface on the break, these are those crystals (and metallic crystals that are visible with the eye are gigantic, metallurgically speaking).

You can break down these large crystals in different ways depending on the alloy and what you're planning on doing with it. Forging will mechanically break them down and mix them up; if your alloy is designed for it, you can just let it sit outside for a few years and they'll do it on their own (white cast iron), and for some steels you can heat it up until all the crystals break down and their constituents diffuse into each other but not so much that it actually melts, then cool it down very slowly and you'll end up with a homogeneous steel (normalizing/annealing). Most high carbon steels such as used for knives and tooling is first forged, then normalized (heat until the carbon goes into solution, then cool at room temperature until cold) or annealed (heat until the carbon goes into solution, then cool in insulation or at a very slow controlled rate until cold), which relieves the stress from forging while keeping grain (crystal size) very small, and the crystals themselves needlelike and interwoven instead of cubic and loosely connected.

These are of course all gross overgeneraizations: I have some very large books on just the metallurgy of vanadium in iron (ferrovandium), carbon and iron (ferrocarbon), silicon (ferrosilicon) and chromium (ferrochrome), each is different and in combination can do remarkably different things.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:20 PM on December 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


« Older How Tennis Balls Are Made   |   Open your eyes: 2017 is the year to return to... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments