If you were asked to lift a million lbs of stainless steel, you might start wondering how to get in touch with Superman to offer a little help! As his number seems to be ex-directory, a team of scientists had to find an alternative solution to the problem. But what exactly IS the problem in the first place? Read on to find out…
The location is Washington D.C. where, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a deadweight machine built in 1965 has just been refurbished and restored. Designed to measure huge forces, the machine is the largest of its type in the world and, according to those who have heard it in action, sounds like ‘the rumbling of a bull elephant’.
In the process of construction, whether that involves producing anything from a skyscraper to a scalpel, an understanding of how materials respond to different forces is essential. The laboratory at NIST is dedicated to understanding these forces at ever more precise levels. As the machine is a kind of scale, it needs to be calibrated - this is what necessitated the lifting of the weights, which are located in a pit as deep as a three-storey building is high.
The weighing disks are a massive 10ft across and are linked together in a stacked chain. A hugely powerful machine lifts the weights to calibrate the scale before lowering them again, creating the distinctive ‘elephant’ sound. Materials in the laboratory will be attached to the calibrated weights and the force applied, proving (or disproving!) the strength of the material being tested.
This is not simply an exercise in nostalgia - the restored machine is already working on important current aerospace projects and has a backlog of bookings from eager customers. A spokesperson for NIST said that the machine could easily provide another 50 years of service now that it has been restored by the team.
So, no need to call superman as there is a machine that can do the job - phew! The lifting machine itself is heavily-reliant on stainless steel in its composition, from the springs in the engine to the screws that hold the driver’s seat firmly in place. Once again, stainless steel proves its superior strength and versatility, facilitating the diverse work of industries across the spectrum.
You’re not Superman so don't strain yourself when you need stainless steel fixings and fastenings - just browse our online shop.