July 10, 2014

Duralumin and the Origins of Rivets

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Technology thrives during wars when scientists, inventors, and mad rulers come up with ideas to guard against destruction (or enhance their capacity for destruction).

Here is some background information about Anthony Fokker and Hugo Junkers, who not only contributed to the aircraft industry, but also indirectly to the future of Airstream.

Their creation, the Junker J2, was constructed with steel sheeting. But it was too heavy – the dense steel weighed the aircraft down. So the company then experimented with duralumin, a new high-strength aluminum alloy. They intended to use it for the next model of aircraft, the J3, but it never actually went into production.

They ran into issues with their next model, as well. The J4, tested in 1917, was built with a duralumin fuselage, a duralumin tube frame, and corrugated metal sheets constructed with – you guessed it – duralumin.

But unfortunately, because they welded together the duralumin parts, the material deteriorated at the seams.

What was the solution? It will sound very, very familiar to Airstream lovers! They used specially-engineered rivets and company-designed pneumatic tools that revolutionized aircraft manufacturing. That technology was carried forward and used in the Bowlus trailer of 1934 – and in the Airstream Clipper of 1935.

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