The Birth of the Forging Process
The art of forging dates to at least 4000 BC and probably earlier. Metals such as bronze and iron were forged by early man to produce hand tools and weapons of war. The earliest recorded metal employed by humans appears to be gold. Small amounts of natural gold have been found in Spanish caves used during the late Paleolithic period which was around 40,000 BC. The forging of iron and steel continued until near the end of the 19th century for similar purposes and it is unfortunate that weapons of war are still produced by the forging process using more contemporary metals.
Forging Through the 19th Century
The forgesmiths of the 19th century were particularly skilled at hand and open die forging of wrought iron. As wrought iron was only produced in high heat, the smiths became skillful in hammer welding and many large shaft forgings weighing 10 tons and more were gradually built up by a process of forging and hammer welding. The invention of the Bessemer steel making process in 1856 was a major breakthrough for the ferrous forging industry. The forgers now had a huge supply of low cost steel for production of volume quantities of forgings. It has been accepted that the first cavity steel forgings using a closed die process commenced in the United States in 1862 for production of components for the Colt revolver.
Twentieth Century Developments
The industrial revolution impacted the forging industry as increasing better equipment and processes were developed. Early forging hammers had been powered by a line shaft. The invention of smaller electrical motors allowed hammers to be individually powered increasing uptime and improved plant layouts. World War II had a positive impact on the development of better equipment as the forging industry was absolutely essential to the war effort.
The development of solid state electrical induction heaters in the second half of the twentieth century led to improved productivity. Induction heating allowed higher throughput and better dimensional control of the forging.
Modern Computer Controlled Forging Machines
Today we have computer-controlled hydraulic and air hammers that represent a new level of forging control and efficiency. A recent updated design of induction heaters, also taking advantage of modern computing power, is additionally contributing to increased progress in the forging industry. The forging industry capably produces a wide range of components in a variety of materials for use in the aerospace, automotive, mining, agriculture, and energy industries.