The Art of Forging is Already 6,000 Years Old
"Forging" is the generic term for all methods to form metal workpieces with heat and pressure. The forging of metals is one of the oldest working techniques of mankind. The art of forging was already known in 6000 BC. Human beings soon found out those metals like gold, silver, copper, lead and pewter could be shaped by using rocks as hammers.
|Sketch from the pictures in the grave of Rechmiré, vizir in the 18th Dynasty (ca. 1450 BC)|
About 1500 BC, iron ranked as a precious metal and was used for ornamental items only. It gained in importance in the forging of weapons and tools between 700 and 500 BC and replaced the bronze used until then for the most part. Iron Celtic swords, daggers, shaving knives and brooches from the Hallstatt period (central European cultural period of the more ancient Iron Age) and the subsequent La-Tène period (central European cultural period of the more recent pre-Roman Iron Age) already document the use of different forging techniques. During everyday Roman life, forged iron played an important part in all areas of life. Romans reduced relatively pure ores in low hearths or even small shaft furnaces with charcoal using manual bellows and foot pumps. They then forged the clumps of iron gained this way.
The smelting and forging of iron with hammer and anvil were directly linked into the 13th and 14th century. Human muscle strength limited the size of forged parts well into the 14th century.
Water and Steam Replace Muscle Power
Pure metals found in nature like gold, silver and copper were forged into jewellery, weapons and items for daily use around 4000 BC already. Bronze, a copper and pewter alloy made with different additives, was known in Egypt, Mesopotamia and in the Mediterranean area after about 2500 BC. Even pieces of tin were produced for the processing into vessels. In the Mediterranean region, metal hammers with handles relieved rocks as forging tools in the 9th century BC already.
|Water-powered iron hammer (ca. 1780)|
There was a leap forward in the development of forging technology made around 1500. Hammer mills were built along the courses of rivers. Attached to their water wheels with beech handles were iron hammer heads, the so-called tups, that were hitting on accordingly sized anvils. The machines powered by the flow energy of the water increased the muscle strength of humans many times over.
Next to individual aggregates in the form of heavy lift hammers, up to four hammers were coupled on a joint shaft in tilt hammer mills. With hammer tups with differing weight and increased hitting frequency, people were now able to produce crudely as well as finely forged goods. These water-powered hammer mills shaped forging technology into the 19th century.
By the end of the 18th century, the use of steam force in machines was spreading, helped along by James Watt among others. In the age of the industrial revolution after the mid-19th century, an energy source of a hitherto unknown dimension was available to forging technology. From that time on, the forging industry was independent of river locations and developed powerful steam hammers and later on air hammers. The smiths of the late 19th and early 20th century used hammers driven by transmission shafts to produce a wide range of forged parts for the railways, for the car industry and for agricultural machinery.
The Start of Drop Forging
Iron manual forging, use of dies with shapes, and the forging equipment that allows to control correct alignment of the dies during energy is discharged, all of them influencing the forging process, will mix up during 19th century and establish the basic processes to build modern forging technology. From those days on, forging made fast development into the highly automated and computerized forging methods of the present.
|View of the production area (ca. 1910)|
Forging technology evolution was, and is going to be, a constant in the forging companies, that make a continuous effort to innovate, being a step ahead future requirements of their customers. New technologies, new management methodologies, more efficient processes, new materials and products… are being explored, implemented and developed day-to-day in forging companies. New technology for process simulation, advanced 3D CAD and die manufacturing technologies, new forging equipment… allow for complex and high performance part efficient manufacturing, near net shape, guarantying high quality levels and total repeatability for millions part series.