ASEA Wins Contract for Isopress
The Kama Purchasing Commission in New York continued to look for equipment and processes for their clients after the main purpose of purchasing the foundry equipment for the KMAZ truck. Our agent, Philipp Overseas led by Vice President Stanley Straus appointed Ilya LeCuch as resident sales manager in Moscow who fed Cheston with a continuous stream of inquires after he helped us close the order for a 30-ton vacuum melting furnace in Kramatorsk in August of 1973.
One of these possible orders was for pouring steel using Auto-Pour made by an Inductotherm Company named Liquimetrics. On the 18th of February 1974 HW Zelley declined to bid because his inductor was designed for cast iron and he was not ready for steel.
I proposed a 60-ton resistance heated holding ladle based on the design we built for Oldsmobile in 1970. This furnace was to feed a series smaller containers that followed a casting line for large truck engine blocks for automatic pouring. I almost sold this idea to a Chevrolet foundry in Buffalo.
This enquiry lead to a modified quotation of about $1 million but even I knew we were not qualified to make this product. Preparing quotations and traveling to Moscow to sell the clients was very expensive for Cheston and not a single one of these efforts turned into an order.
Shortly after Raufer's Cheston was able to obtain two large orders for induction heating equipment at Watervliet Arsenal and Hoover.
In early 1975 Straus obtained an enquiry from Amtorg Trading Company in New York for equipment and know-how to produce tool steels using powdered metals compacted in an isopress.
Straus responded to this inquiry to Metallurgimport on the 25th of February that Metcalf, Chairman of Cheston and Smith, VP of Autoclave Engineers planned to be in Moscow on March 17. Charles R. Eckert, Asst. to VP Sales Inductotherm, responded to Straus on the 28th of February that Jim Metcalf would be in touch shortly. On March 6 Charles W. Smith Jr. wrote Cheston a letter that his schedule would not permit a March visit but set the price for the equipment Autoclave would supply at about $1 million. The management of Crucible Steel opted not to offer the technology. On March 12 we informed the customer that we would be prepared to offer this equipment without Crucible since Inductotherm could and were willing to make the equipment for producing powder tool steel metal and Autoclave had the necessary know-how and equipment to compact the metal.
The process appeared to be simple. The first step in to melt the desired composition of tool steel in an induction furnace. This metal is poured into a refractory lined box equipped with an open nozzle on the bottom. As the liquid metal exits the nozzle it is blown by high-pressure argon gas into small particles that freeze before they land at the bottom of a chamber. The powder is in put into a thin wall steel container, in this case 18 inches) with the top welded shut after the powder is inside. Two small open pipes at the top allows heating while helium gas is put in one pipe and vented out the other to prevent the powder for oxidizing. When hot the pipes are closed at the filled cylinder is quickly placed into another heavy wall cylinder capable of holding back 10,000 pounds per square inch of nitrogen gas.
In this situation pressure is put on the powder in all directions so the individual particles are squeezed together and bonded for further processing.
I had a visa and ticket to Moscow for the 17th of March so it was off to Russia to set up the sale with the help of LeCuch. This recent Jewish immigrant from Riga was in a peck of trouble. His wife, Maria LeCuch, was on the airwaves preaching American ways to the Russian speaking world from the Voice of America. He was messed up in the black market with the Dollar bars operations that entertained foreigners with music, food, and booze in Moscow. Worse of all he had been caught with an original manuscript that the Jewish author wanted published in America. This would be the last visa issued to LeCuch.
On the 18th of April 1975 I wrote the Secretary of Commerce, Bureau of East-West trade, pointing out that tool steel technology was not on the control list nor was isostatic presses less than 20,000 pounds per square inch. The letter also noted that there could be possible extensions for technology for isopresses into processes that could be restricted. NOTE FOR THE RECORD. During the period from 1973 to 1986 I managed four contracts with the Soviets with a total value of about $30 million. In each case the government was fully informed and approval was given. In 1992 I set up a joint venture operation in the Ukraine to produce carbon insulation. In this case the US government became annoyed with me for providing too much information.
In Chapter 34 of Rowan's book, The Fire Within, he tells the story about the government stopping a shipment to Iraq. In the following clip he takes a little back hand swipe at me.
"Have you contacted the Department of Commerce?" I asked, though I was certain Marino had. Unlike our breezy friend Metcalf, whose association with Consarc had come to an end, Marino wasn't one to cut corners.
On the 2nd of June Crucible's technologist, Dr. Aksoy, arrived in Moscow but had to stay in a hotel almost an hour for the center. LeCuch was no longer there and I had no influence on the hotel reservations. All process details were settled during these four days of meetings. I made our offer in the sum of about $7,600.0000 that included $2,350,000 for Crucible KNOW-HOW.
On the 1st of September 1985 Fredda Sachorow from the Burlington County Times interviewed me in Cheston's office in Rancocas. Two days later an article appeared and as usual it said much more than I told her.
The final meetings on this sales effort were held starting September 8, 1975 and included EJ Dulis, President Crucible Research, J Metcalf, President Cheston International and VM Hintze, Manager Philipp Overseas.
Valodie Hintze had an interesting past. His great grand father moved his family to Manchuria in about 1900 during the construction of the Siberian railway and remained in one of the towns to service that railroad. People who love history can read Trotsky's 1926 paper to Stalin outlining to policy toward China and this railroad.
Valodie was about ten years old when Communist China took over the railroad. Stalin refused to take the Russians working on this railroad because he viewed them as capitalists and troublemakers. China did not want them because they worked with Japan during the occupation of Manchuria. They finally made it to Australia and many of these people immigrated to America in the late 50's. He was a Russian but had never seen his homeland and soaked in the culture during his visit including several church services to his surprise.
My last letter on this subject was written on September 25, 1975 informing Metallurgimport that the Cheston staff would be in Kramatorsk for an extended period and would be happy to answer any questions.
Finally in April 1976 Philipp Overseas notified us that STORA, the famous tool steel maker in Sweden, offered better and cheaper technology and ASEA, the leading isopress producer was cheaper than Autoclave.
This was my total knowledge on the subject of isopress equipment before I sold one to the Soviets in 1983.
ONE THING I DID NOT KNOW. After Reagan took over as president in 1981 he was able to pressure the Swedish government, French suppliers and American suppliers of isopress equipment to stop selling this equipment to the Soviets. This item was in the Militarily Critical Technologies List prepared by Richard Perle at the Pentagon but it remained TOP SECRET until 1985. http://www.ioa.com/~zero/021-EmbargoAftermath.html