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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Super Creep

Super refers to Superalloys, and creep is what Superalloys do when they get really hot, like in a jet engine, which is where you need superalloys, the lack of which was one of the main stumbling blocks in developing the first jet engines, and which are still giving engineers fits.

I'm reading about the TU-160, Russia's giant supersonic nuclear bomber. It uses four Kuznetsov NK-32 turbofan engines.

KUZNETSOV Factory. I'm guessing early 20th Century.

 Kuznetsov NK-25 engine. No, not the engine from the TU-160, but similar.

I'm looking for pictures and I stumble over a Portuguese language blog with a story about the Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop engine. Same company, similar large turbine engine. The Google translation was interesting enough that I stole the story and polished it up a bit. The Portuguese story mentions an alloy called Nimonic. (Wait, what? You mean mnemonic? No, not Johnny.) Nimonic leads me to Wiggin, which leads to Inco, which leads to Special Metals, which leads to Precision Castparts, which leads to union organizers, which leads to commies, which is where we started. Full circle in one paragraph. Marvelous.

Nimonic was the original high temperature alloy. A person by the name of L. B. Pfeil, working at the Henry Wiggin company came up with it when they were first trying to build jet engines back in 1941 in England. It was 50% nickel. It has evolved over the years and is still being used in the latest Rolls Royce hi-bypass turbofans and for the valves in your ordinary automobile engine. Henry founded the Wiggin company, on Wiggins Street, in Hereford, England. He eventually sold out to Inco, which used to be called International Nickel, and which used to be an important company in it's own right: Paraphrased from Wikipedia:
Prior to 2006, Inco was the world's second largest producer of nickel. It was also a charter member of the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average formed on October 1, 1928. It is now part of the Brazilian mining company Vale.
Inco sold their foundary business to Special Metals, which was recently acquired by Precision Castparts. Precision Castparts is an Oregon company that has been making great strides making parts out of exotic alloys, much of which is going into military hardware. Union organizers are trying to organize the workers at Precision. I don't know how much luck they are having.

Update: Stu challenges us to identify the five aircraft shown in silhouette in the Nimonic ad above. Only two of them looked familiar, and even after spending some time with Google and Wikipedia, I only managed to identify four of them. Stu supplied the last one, #4. Highlight to read, or click to follow the link. From left to right:

  1. Gloster Meteor
  2. de Havilland Vampire
  3. Supermarine Attacker
  4. English Electric Canberra
  5. Grumman F-9 Cougar

1 comment:

Ole Phat Stu said...

And now the challenge :

Identify those 5 aircraft on the cover just from their silhouettes :-)