Research & Discovery: Cans from Bubbles

RESEARCH & DISCOVERY

In scholarly off-hour bull sessions at M.I.T.'s faculty club, the clique of young research metallurgists pondered again and again one of metallurgy's most challenging riddles. Ever since the first can appeared 150 years ago, manufacturers have had to follow a costly and complicated twelve-step process of rolling tinplate or aluminum, then punching, curling and welding a three-piece can. Why couldn't the can, the Cambridge group asked itself, be blown from molten metal just as glass blowers shape bottles, or children blow soap bubbles?

Light Sockets & Square Cans. Molten aluminum, with which the metallurgists worked, behaves badly and unpredictably...

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