A forming press, commonly shortened to press, is a machine tool that changes the shape of a workpiece by the application of pressure.
Historically, metal was shaped by hand using a hammer. Later, larger hammers were constructed to press more metal at once, or to press thicker materials. Often a smith would employ a helper or apprentice to swing the sledgehammer while the smith concentrated on positioning the workpiece. Adding windmill or steam power yielded still larger hammers such as steam hammers. Drop hammers utilize an electric motor to lift the hammer, which then falls by gravity onto the work. Most modern machine presses use a combination of electric motors and hydraulics to achieve the necessary pressure. Along with the evolution of presses came the evolution of the dies used within them.
Hammers were the tool of choice for any Blacksmith, until the turning point in 1784 when a man called James Watt (a Scottish inventor and Mechanical Engineer) described the Steam Hammer. James Watt had a keen interest in steam engines and the mechanics behind it, and his invention of the steam condenser helped other engineers evolve this principle into other industries.
Eventually the steam hammer was built in 1840 based on a design by British Inventor James Nasmyth, which was revolutionary and a turning point for manufacturing with steel.
As the steam hammer was used, people made improvements and in 1891 the Bethlehem Iron Company made an enhancement that meant the steam hammer could deliver a 125-ton blow.
Source: Machine press from Wikipedia
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