Induction Heating to Re-refile Tank Cannon
Robert Klingerman, Cheston's sales engineer, was in Albany NY the autumn of 1974 attempting to sell a depleted uranium melting furnace to National Lead when he received the inquiry from Watervliet Arsenal a short distance from National Lead.
During his first sales call he learned that during the recent Arab / Israeli conflict a Russian tank was captured in the Sinai that had a much longer rifling life of the cannon barrel than the U.S. counterpart. This was particularly important since U.S. tanks required a mobile, in the battlefield, machine shop to re-rifle and exchange re-rifled guns on the fly in battle conditions.
From tests the military determined that the Russians were removing the center from a solid and then rotary forging with a machine they obtained from Austria as WWII booty. The US Army obtained a rotary forging machine and discovered they would need induction heating equipment in order to gain maximum productivity.
When Klingerman arrived to discuss this new facility he found that they we already deep in the planning for a vertical induction scanning unit offered by Ajax Magnethermic who were the leading producers of large induction heating equipment at that time. Bob suggested a horizontal scanner based upon improved safety and the fact that they would not have to dig a pit. He left the Arsenal thinking he would not get the business. The sales enquiry was turned over to a new salesman Cheston had recently hired to search for induction heating business.
Cheston really needed the business and Hill and I agreed that a major engineering effort should be spent on the effort to sell Watervliet. Besides were in a situation where our engineering staff had nothing to do. Klingerman was assigned the task of plant layout and the mechanical portions and Rob Robinson, Cheston's resistance heating expert, was assigned the task of calculations of heat transfer in charts that would show we knew what we were doing.
With Henry Raufer's departure I was the person with the most induction experience but it was skin deep. I was hooked on using 180-cycle equipment where Inductotherm had a monopoly but based on sizes the 60-cycle equipment offered by Ajax was a better selection.
The induction genius on Indel was Ted Kennedy and he reckoned that the hole in the center of the material of the billet to be heated was suited for 180-cycles.
I was in the Schnectedy area when Hooper told me that the sales document was ready to sell Watervliet. I was there the attempting to sell an update on the furnace I sold General Electric while at Ajax in 1965. My ideas were accepted but the Vacuum Oxygen Degassing equipment offered by ASEA and others had made this facility redundant. I also stopped at National Lead in a final attempt to close an order for melting depleted uranium only to find that the project would not go forward because of high radiation levels already at the plant.
The documentation supporting the quotation Hooper brought to the table was more than adequate to sell the assembled group. What was really startling to the buyers was the simplicity and excellence of the machine. We were selling from an empty wagon with no experience to show on the heating of large steel sections using induction but our "show and tell book" on large projects using 180-cycles for graphite heating were impressive. At this time in history Inductotherm was king of the hill selling an effective Triline power supply for melting and graphite heating.
We knew that Cheston had the best offer on the table especially because Watervliet Arsenal would not have to dig a pit in their historic building located in the sleepy little town in Watervliet, NY with a population of 8,000. The commanding officer was a working to get his star and decided to take advantage of the fact that we really needed the business. He asked for detailed costs on each part of the project and asked us to fill out a DD633 form that were common in government contracts at that time.
I balked by stating that we had the best offer and could win his business based on a competitive bid based on government detailed specifications. The commanding officer told me that the Pentagon gave him the authority to order Cheston to build the equipment on a cost plus basis and he was prepared to issue the order. We finally reached a compromise that allowed us to use established Inductotherm book prices as the basis. At that time Cheston had the right to build 180-cycle equipment and while Ruble at Inductotherm got his pound of flesh for the key transformers and reactors we were able to show a decent profit.
The first full scale tests of a single line was ready in February 1975. It just happened that Soviet inspectors arrived to inspect equipment ready to be shipped to Kramatrosk, Ukraine the same day of the tests. The Army inspectors understood and came dressed in civilian clothing.
Jack Murray completed the final mechanical design and electrical controls were by Frank O'Brien. William Marion did the purchasing and Joseph Lona managed the shop construction.
Don Soderstrom did a large part of the site work and start-up and while some problems were found Don was a master at solving problems in front of him.
Recently the History Channel showed a complete story of this heater and rotary forge was still in operation in 2004.
In a little less than four years later Cheston would split to join IPE in Michigan and Consarc in Rancocas. Hill. Klingerman, Robertson, and Hooper would take new jobs with IPE/Cheston (later Inductoheat). Klingerman would later become the CEO of Savage Saw in Knoxville, TN and Hooper would become CEO of Thermatool. Hill was working on an improved muffler for trucks for another group in 1999 when I last spoke to him. Ted Kennedy passed on a few years ago.
Lona, Marino, Murray, and O'Brien went down the street to Consarc.
Solderstrom would continue to be my right had man for service problems in Russia until 1986. He now lives in Brazil. Bill Marino is now CEO of Consarc. Lona is retired and lives near the ocean with his wife Pat. Murray and O'Brien retired from Consarc. In April 2004 Klingerman decided to remain in Knoxville as a consultant to Consarc after the saw operation was moved to Consarc in Rancocas.