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Durfee Named ITA Lifetime Achievement Recipient

George L. Durfee, a metallurgist who built his career around pioneering applied research projects for the titanium industry at forging company Wyman-Gordon Co., is the recipient of the 2019 International Titanium Association's (ITA) "Lifetime Achievement Award." Durfee was recently honored at the ITA's 35th annual TITANIUM USA 2019 conference and exhibition.

In Durfee's nomination form, Max Schilenger, the President of Flight Rail Corp., Ukiah, CA, praised Durfee for "pioneering Ti-6-Al-4V (the workhorse aerospace titanium alloy) alpha-beta processing know-how in forging and flow forming." Schilenger pointed out that through Durfee's insights and efforts, press and hammer optimal forging of titanium alloys-ceramic and nickel-plated-were critical in producing parts on the legendary Lockheed SR71 Blackbird, the high-speed, long-distance reconnaissance jet. The SR71 was an iconic aircraft that played a key role for the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War era of the 1960s.

Born in 1929 and growing up on a farm in Falls City, NE, Durfee was fascinated by the welding and repair of metal farm equipment,what he referred to as "blacksmith work." He received a scholarship to Michigan Tech (today known as Michigan Technical University in Houghton, MI) and graduated in 1951. As a student at Michigan Tech, his research on thermal analysis of metals and ceramic coatings used in forgings would prove to be essential as a foundation for his career in the titanium industry. After graduating from Michigan Tech, he enrolled in graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Hands-on, applied research became his calling when he joined Wyman-Gordon on Aug. 1, 1954. Initially, Durfee's assignments at Wyman-Gordon involved micro-polishing and heat treating to improve the in-service performance of high-temperature alloys and large aluminum forgings used in aerospace programs. In April 1955, he was assigned to a high-priority project: develop Ti-6Al-4V forgings and present a plan for the approval of Pratt & Whitney for the production of compressor discs, which would be used in the J57 engines to power the Boeing B52 long-distance bomber, another iconic military aircraft.

In order to reduce friction and minimize surface defects of the forged titanium compressor discs, Durfee developed the use of ceramics coatings for the starting metal before the metal was heated for forging. The ceramic coatings improved uniform part geometry. Pratt & Whitney, in November 1955, approved Ti-6Al-4V as the bill of material for jet engine compressor discs used on the J57 turbo-jet engines.

In another project at Wyman-Gordon, Durfee created procedures for chemically applying a nickel coating on a proprietary titanium aerospace alloy used for forged aerospace parts. As a result, Durfee received a patent for the electroless nickel plating of titanium. In a separate effort, Durfee pioneered flow forming Ti-6Al-4V and, along with co-inventors, was granted a patent.

Durfee retired in May 1994, closing out his distinguished 39-year career.

For more information contact:

International Titanium Association

P.O. Box 1300

Eastlake, CO 80614-9990


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