This Basement Inventor Keeps Forging Ahead

Some guys just can't quit. In the basement of his home in Huntington, N.Y., Grumman Corp. retiree Joseph J. Mele, 70, runs a business called JM Enterprise Co. that is staffed by volunteers, three of them ex-Grummanites over 70. The septuagenarians are developing a new way of forging aluminum and titanium. In Mele's Pullform system, a piece of metal is pulled through a forge and shaped a little at a time instead of all at once. By focusing all its force in one small section instead of trying to shape an entire piece, Mele's forge requires less power than a conventional forge, comes closer to making the desired shape, and produces less scrap.

Bryant H. Walker, a manager of materials engineering at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, says Pratt is too tight on money to fund Mele's effort but is backing his application for a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Pentagon. Says Walker: "We have a lot of confidence in the process."

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