I wrote a blog post a while back showing the library of congress images of the 50000 ton press at Wyman Gordon in Worcester, Massachusetts. I mentioned that there was a bigger one at Interforge in Issoire in France but had no pictures from my visit. However, an old postcard has turned up online, which shows how big it is.
Issoire itself is a small French town near Clermont Ferrand, with a very picturesque town centre. It is also home to a gigantic aluminium plant that was built in or before WW2 due to its location away from Northern Europe. The gigantic concrete roof of the rolling mill is several feet thick and was supposed to be bomb proof.
Next door is the forge of Aubert and Duval who in the 1970’s built a subsidiary plant called Interforge where this enormous machine resides.
The press is used for forging aircraft parts. It’s a closed die forging process which means that the two parts of the press tool (a bit like a giant mould in the shape of the part) are slotted in and a billet of hot aluminium is then inserted and squeezed into shape. It’s a bit like a child’s plasticine press but on a giant scale.
Like all presses, there’s nearly as much below ground as above it, and the building was constructed around the press, which took a long time to assemble. It’s actually from Russia (note the Russian script on the front), which is unusual when you consider that it was built in the middle of the Cold War in the 1970’s. It is said that there is a similar press in Russia that at be rated even higher than this 75000 ton model, but that’s just rumour. It’s possible though, as this is supposed to have exceeded its official rating in the past. Given that it’s Russian, it’s probably hopelessly over-engineered, so nothing is likely to break, but I’d not want to be anywhere near if anything did go wrong…..