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Hot Stuff

Meet Steve Mercer - hotter than your average employee
Making some of the strongest most resilient parts for the Typhoon and the F-35 is what makes Steve tick.
 
Steve is at the hot end of a process that turns sheets of metal into high performance aircraft components for the Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II. Wearing a purpose made heat resistant suit and helmet, Steve is able to handle red hot metals at temperatures up to 950 degrees Celsius, safely.
 
6’6” Steve is a Hot Form Press Operator at the Company’s Samlesbury site in Lancashire. Using an expert blend of heat and gas, and an industrial high temperature oven, Steve is at the heart of the process known as diffusion bonding and superplastic forming.

Standing within a couple of metres of a hot press might sound daunting to some people, but it really isn’t. Everything has been designed in a way to make the process safe and efficient

Steve Mercer, Hot Form Press Operator

Bend it, shape it

Pushing the laws of science to their limits the process is used to shape pieces of metal into complex parts.
 
Steve Mercer - Hot Form Press Operator

 

Parts begin life as a number of titanium sheets and undergo a series of processes and treatments including being heated to their super plastic state (which happens at approximately 950 degrees Celsius) in a hot press.  This is done without losing any of the original properties of the material ensuring that they are capable of enduring the harshest conditions in the sky.
 
Standing within a couple of metres of a hot press might sound daunting to some people, but it really isn’t. Everything has been designed in a way to make the process safe and efficient.

Space age attire

The process required a very specialist heat resistant suit to ensure it was safe for Steve and the team.
 
The hottest man at BAE Systems
The hottest man at BAE Systems
Safety clothing makers Arco are the experts behind the suit that boasts the latest in space age technologies.  From spacesuits that go into orbit to hot suits that help make Typhoons, the secret lies in the latest fabric technology: para-arimid fibre.  Featuring a unique shiny outer surface it works to insulate from heat in two ways.

The shiny surface reflects radiated heat and infra-red radiation away from the garment, keeping the outer surface cool.  The fibre itself is a very poor conductor of heat meaning that just two layers of 4mm fabric offer the same insulating properties as 100mm of traditional glass/wool cloth. It’s also a very strong fabric, weighing 30% less than glass/wool alternatives and it’s been successfully proven in environments in excess of 1400 degrees Celsius.