Tubing innovator Clyde Forney receives ITA’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award
Monday, July 25, 2016
Clyde E. Forney, who enjoyed a distinguished 45-year career in the titanium industry and was instrumental in the development and commercialization of Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy as the material of choice for aircraft hydraulic tubing and many other industrial and commercial applications, is the recipient of the International Titanium Association's (ITA) prestigious 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Forney will formally receive the award at TITANIUM USA 2016, the 32nd annual international conference and exhibition sponsored and organized by the ITA, which will be held Sept. 25-28 at the J. W. Marriott Desert Ridge Golf Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.
Edward Sobota, Jr. served as the chair of the ITA's Lifetime Achievement Award committee. Sobota is a member of the ITA's board of directors and the president of TSI Titanium, a producer of titanium bar products, based in Derry, PA.
"Clyde Forney has had quite an accomplished career," Sobota said. "I made the call to inform Clyde that he won the award. He was thrilled to be chosen." Sobota indicated that this year the award committee included past recipients of the ITA award. Members of the award committee include Robert Hill Jr., Solar Atmospheres of Western PA; Stanley Abkowitz, Alcoa Titanium and Engineered Products; Harry Rosenberg, The Amargosa Group; John Andrews, Retired, ATI; Max Schlienger, Flight Rail Corp. (founding director & president of Retech); Paul Bania, Ti Pro LLC; Stanley Seagle, consultant; Rodney Boyer, retired, technical fellow, Boeing Co.; James Williams, professor, Ohio State University; and Walter E. Herman, retired, RMI.
"I feel very fortunate and very pleased to receive this award," Forney said, noting that he has attended numerous ITA functions over the years and is familiar with past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. "The people who have won this award have done remarkable things in the titanium industry. It's an honor for me to be among them."
Forney served in the Army from 1957-1959, stationed in Germany. He graduated from Oregon State University in 1964 and completed a two-year, post-graduate management course offered through the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, today known as the National Defense University. His career in the titanium industry began when he joined Wah Chang Metals Corp. in 1959, working as an inorganic metals chemist. Wah Chang was based in Albany OR, the part of the country where Forney grew up. (Teledyne acquired Wah Chang in the mid-1960s and eventually the business group merged into Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) and became the ATI Specialty Alloys business unit.)
During his years at Wah Chang Forney worked in the analytical lab, studying titanium and zirconium alloys. He joined the company's technical sales force in 1964 and participated in the development of titanium strips used for the Boeing 727 passenger jets.
In 1971 he joined Zirtech, also based in Albany, and initially began working on zirconium tubing for the nuclear power industry. His work evolved into titanium tubing for aerospace applications, and he was instrumental in the development of Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy tubing used for the supersonic Concorde SST program, which was launched as a commercial jet in January 1976, flown by Air France and British Airways. Forney recalled that Zirtech received approval from Sandvik, Sweden, as a titanium tube supplier for the Concorde platform. He said that this program established Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy as a standard for aerospace and space vehicle tubing applications. As a result, he also worked with NASA on various titanium alloy projects.
Given his expertise in titanium tubing, his career path took a creative turn in 1977. Forney met legendary Italian bicycle frame builder Pino Morroni and Cecil Behringer, a renowned titanium brazing engineer. Morroni and Behringer were looking to design and build a brazed titanium cycle. "We picked material sizes and wall thickness, and built bicycle frames with brazed Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy tubing," Forney said, noting that the frame reflected state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, as it was brazed in an oxygen-free oven, to prevent titanium embrittlement. (Brazing is an industrial metal-joining process.) Forney said that, in order to prove the strength of the titanium frame, Morroni rode one of his bikes down the steps of Rome's Altare Della Patria monument, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele (commonly known to tourists as the "Spanish Steps").
Forney's career path, in 1981, led him to join Sandvik Special Metals in Kennewick, WA, to explore the commercial viability of Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy tubing for aerospace applications and sporting goods. Sandvik, at the time, had been involved in producing zirconium tubing for the nuclear power industry. Sandvik decided to establish a research and development unit to explore the commercial viability of Ti-3Al-2.5V alloy tubing for aerospace applications and sporting goods, such as golf shafts. The concept proved to be successful and Sandvik dedicated a separate production operation near Kennewick. Titanium tubing eventually became a major product line for Sandvik.
"We made a lot of titanium golf shafts, but eventually we couldn't compete with the bigger golf equipment companies," Forney said. Sandvik eventually sold its titanium golf shaft business, but remains a producer of titanium tubing. As an interesting aside, Sobota said he owns a set of "Foreny" titanium golf clubs, which were purchased by Sobota's dad, Ed Sobota Sr., in the mid-1980s. "The golf clubs are one of my titanium collector's items," he said.
While at Sandvik, where he was employed for 17 years, Forney held the post of director of sales and marketing. He said he handled major domestic accounts and all foreign sales for titanium tubing. It was during this period that one of his major accounts included work with NASA and Rockwell Space engineers, converting the hydraulic lines on the Space Shuttle to Ti-3Al-2.5V seamless tubing from steel, which, according to Forney, yielded a weight savings of over 300 pounds.
In 2000 Forney joined Ti Sports in Pasco, WA, as vice president of sales for titanium bicycles and specialty tubing. The company shifted its operations, became Ti Lite, and focused on using Ti-3Al-2.5V in the production of wheel chairs. Forney stayed with the company for four years and in 2004 established a consulting business. His biggest customer was the Small Tube Products Division of Wolverine Fabricated Products. Forney said his task involved implementing the production of Ti-3Al-2.5V seamless tubing at Wolverine.
Forney retired in 2008, but he continues to occasionally serve as a consultant for companies producing Ti-3Al-2.5V seamless tubing. He remains an interested observer of the titanium industry and is intrigued by potential next-generation applications for titanium in medical, dental and consumer markets. He is especially proud that his book, "Ti-3Al-2.5V Seamless Tubing Engineering Guide," is offered and distributed by the ITA.