News  >  News Article 

A global era for materials processing

Lehigh rededicated one of its research institutes recently, strengthening its longstanding ties to a family that helped win World War II, transform the aerospace industry and shape much of modern manufacturing.

Besides paying homage to Ludwig and Erwin Loewy, the Czech-born brothers who contributed to the victory over Nazi Germany, the university also honored Lehigh officials who have helped keep the Loewy legacy alive.

In a ceremony in Whitaker Laboratory, faculty members from two colleges and members of the office of advancement rededicated the Loewy Institute, which had been known since its founding in 1970 as the Institute for Metal Forming.

The Loewy Family Foundation has supported teaching and research at Lehigh since 1993, said Wojciech Misiolek, director of the Loewy Institute and Loewy Chair in Materials Forming and Processing. The foundation’s generosity has benefited countless students and faculty members while enabling them to build networks of collaboration with peers in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia.

The Loewy Visiting Professorship and the Loewy Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowships enable two or three scholars, and sometimes as many as half a dozen, to conduct research at Lehigh each academic year, said Misiolek (see sidebar). The foundation also endows the Loewy Laboratory Equipment Fund.

“The research we are pursuing with endowed support from the Loewy Family Foundation has raised our international profile, facilitating exciting collaborations and providing powerful leverage for success in securing external research funding,” said Misiolek.

The renewal of the Loewy family’s support, said Misiolek, will enable the research institute to continue expanding its research into newer areas such as biomaterials, medical devices, structure materials and 3D printing.

The institute’s success would not have been possible, said Misiolek, without the Loewy brothers’ ability to read the political winds crossing Europe in the 1930s and the willingness of Lehigh’s leaders to seize an opportunity that other universities passed up.

Ludwig and Erwin Loewy were born into a Jewish family in 1887 and 1897 near Pilsen in what is now the Czech Republic and was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both earned engineering degrees from Charles University in Prague.

After designing diesel engines for transatlantic ocean liners for a German company in Berlin, Ludwig Loewy joined the Schloemann Company in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he designed machine tools, rolling mills and hydraulic presses. In 1921, he bought majority interest and became the company’s controlling partner. Erwin Loewy joined in 1925 as sales manager.

It did not take the Loewy brothers long, said Misiolek, to leave their mark on Germany’s extrusion and forging industries. (Extrusion is the process by which materials are pushed through a die to make objects of desired and often complex shapes. Forging is the process by which metal is compressed, usually under heat and pressure, to obtain high-strength parts for cars, aircraft, machines, tools, weapons and other applications.)

“In the early 1930s,” said Misiolek, “our German predecessors were putting forth intensive research and development efforts to improve the capabilities of their forging and extrusion presses for the needs of the aviation industry.

“Among the best-known press designers at that time was Ludwig Loewy.”

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany. The ascension of Hitler’s Nazi Party, along with the growth of anti-Semitism in Germany, was a warning the Loewy brothers could not ignore, said Brigitte Loewy Linz, president of the Loewy Family Foundation and daughter of Erwin Loewy.

“With the rise of the Nazis in the mid-1930s,” Linz said at the rededication ceremony, “Ludwig left Germany and went to England, where he established the Loewy Engineering Co. Ltd. Erwin stayed [in Germany] until the fateful day in 1935 when someone took a pot shot at him while he was on his way to have a date with my mother.

“He left for England immediately, and my mother joined him there. They were married in Bournemouth [and] they settled in Paris, France, where my father established a new engineering company.”

The Loewys’ exile cost the German military effort in World War II, said Linz and Misiolek.

“Both Ludwig and Erwin worked diligently to persuade the governments of their adopted homes to build extrusion presses for the production of airplanes for national defense,” said Linz. “These aircraft were later decisive in the outcome of World War II.”

“Ludwig and Erwin began designing and producing extrusion presses that were used to manufacture crucial airplane parts for the British military, including the famous Spitfires,” said Misiolek.

Erwin Loewy and his family emigrated to the United States in 1940. Ludwig Loewy died of cancer in 1942. Following the end of World War II, Erwin managed the family’s businesses and created several more. In 1955, Loewy manufactured a 50,000-ton and a 30,000-ton forging press. The Loewy Hydropress Company designed the first motion simulator for the Polaris missile and the first launch pad for the Vanguard rocket.

After Erwin Loewy died in 1959, his surviving siblings decided to form a foundation that would honor Ludwig and Erwin by supporting philanthropy in education, innovation and public service. The Loewy Family Foundation was established in 1986; Linz’s late husband, Andrew, was named its first president, and the foundation began looking for a university to support.

“Our board…approached many major engineering schools, such as M.I.T., Harvard and Rensselaer,” said Linz. “None were interested. One day, the family’s accountant was telling his daughter, Karen Pantleon, a Lehigh alumna [Class of 1985], about the situation, and she suggested that we contact Peter Likins [Lehigh president, 1982-97], who was most receptive to the idea.”

Betzalel Avitzur, professor emeritus of materials science and founding director of the Institute for Metal Forming, became Lehigh’s first Loewy Chair in 1993 and was succeeded in 1997 by Misiolek.

Many people at Lehigh have contributed to the creation of the Loewy Institute, said Linz. Many attended the rededication ceremony.

“Names that come to mind are Steve Cutcliffe and Gail Cooper [professors of history], who helped organize a Loewy Exhibit that graced the entry hall of Whitaker Lab for a short time,” said Linz.

“Of great importance was the assistance of the librarians—Marie Boltz, Phil Metzger, Lois Fischer Black and Ilhan Citak, who helped conserve my dad’s personal papers in Special Collections.

“Most important of all have been the ladies in the advancement office, who have all become dear friends. Christine Smith [associate vice president] sent us a wonderful proposal. Then came Rochelle Goodman and recently her successor, Kathy Zimmerman. I am grateful to all of them.”

Story by Kurt Pfitzer


Share this story: 
During his stay last fall as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Loewy Institute, Javad Samei used Lehigh’s scanning electron microscopes to analyze steel sheets that are used in the automotive industry. (Photo courtesy of Javad Samei)

Postdoctoral Fellow Javad Samei used Lehigh’s scanning electron microscopes to analyze steel sheets used in the automotive industry. (Photo courtesy of Javad Samei)

Lehigh Provost Pat Farrell (left) joins with Brigitte Linz (center) and Wojciech Misiolek, director of the Loewy Institute, in unveiling the plaque at the rededication ceremony. (Photo by Matthew Newman, Christmas City Studios)

Pat Farrell (left) joins Brigitte Loewy Linz (center) and Wojciech Misiolek in unveiling the plaque at the rededication ceremony. (Photo by Matthew Newman, Christmas City Studios)

The many fruits of collaboration

The Loewy Visiting Professorship and Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship programs have enabled scholars from the United States and across the globe to study and conduct research at Lehigh for two decades.

This past academic year, the Loewy Institute has hosted three Visiting Professors—Alejandro Toro of the National University of Colombia at Medellín, Henry Valberg of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, and Andre Luiz Costa of the Federal University of Sergipe in Brazil.

The institute has also hosted two Postdoctoral Fellows from Canada—Javad Samei of the University of Windsor in Ontario and Ahmad Chamanfar of McGill University in Montreal. And in June, Adam Bunsch of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, arrived to spend three months as Visiting Professor.

Samei, a postdoctoral researcher in the mechanical, automotive and materials engineering department of the University of Windsor, chose to come to Lehigh after an Internet search convinced him Lehigh had strong programs in materials science, metallurgy and mechanical engineering.

While here, he used the electron microscopes in the department of materials science and engineering to analyze steel sheets used in the automotive industry that are subjected to high strain rates while forming.

“Lehigh has some of the best scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) anywhere,” says Samei. “Because of them, I was able to observe the microstructure of materials, which I could not do at other institutions without these facilities.”

The camaraderie among students, faculty and technicians is another advantage of the Loewy Institute, says Samei.

“There’s a very friendly atmosphere here. People share knowledge readily. Bill Mushock trained me on the SEM and the EBSD [electron backscatter diffraction, a technique for studying texture in polycrystalline materials]. It was a very intensive program for me and I learned a lot.”

Valberg, a professor of engineering design and materials at NTNU, specializes in the mechanical testing and metal forming of metals. In 1987, he met Misiolek when Misiolek visited NTNU just before coming to Lehigh for the first time as a visiting scientist.

“I have collaborated with a number of persons at the IMF,” says Valberg. “I’ve taught a class for three to four weeks and run a case study where students learn to model forward and backward extrusion using DEFORM software.”

Valberg is now preparing articles based on three collaborations with Loewy researchers—with Costa on the extrusion of aluminum, with Ahmad Chamanfar on the cylinder compression of Waspalloy, and with Ninjenthan Rajenhdran and Misiolek on the Conform extrusion of aluminum.

Through his work at the Loewy Institute, he has written two papers which have been published and were presented in Chicago in May at the 11th International Aluminum Extrusion Technology Seminar and Exposition.

“In addition,” says Valberg, “I have been able to devote myself to my work—without as many disturbances as at home—in FEM [finite element analysis] modeling of metal forming processes. My plan is to publish this work, along with previous work of mine, as an international book. This project is currently being judged by ASM International and in a couple of weeks I expect an answer from them.”

Alejandro Toro, professor of materials science and engineering at the National University of Colombia, met Misiolek in 2000 in São Paulo, Brazil. Toro, then a doctoral student at the University of São Paulo, came to Lehigh in 2001-02 as a Postdoctoral Fellow supported by the Brazilian government. In 2007, he hosted Misiolek at the National University of Colombia.

Toro’s visit last year to Lehigh was his fourth. He and Misiolek and their students have published a number of papers in journals and conference proceedings.

“My work has greatly benefited from the interaction with the Loewy Institute during all these years,” says Toro, a tribologist who seeks to improve surfaces, reduce friction losses and increase the durability of materials.

“Besides interacting with world-renowned researchers in a number of quite interesting projects, I have had access to top-notch equipment to perform materials characterization tasks that would be very difficult—if not impossible—to accomplish in a different place.”

Costa, a professor of metal processing at the Federal University of Sergipe, has conducted research into metal forming methods, microstructural evolution and the evaluation of mechanical properties.

At Lehigh, Costa is working with Misiolek to numerically simulate the hot microextrusion of aluminum alloys that makes products whose diameters measure less than 1 millimeter. His goal is to describe the metal flow at this scale and to identify the parameters that influence the integrity of the products that are made.

His current yearlong sabbatical stay at the Loewy Institute is his first collaboration with Misiolek.

“I was interested in learning more about metal extrusion and numerical simulation,” Costa says, “and I had read a lot of papers from the Institute for Metal Forming, so knew about the high-quality research by Wojtek’s group in this area.

“The research I’ve conducted at the Loewy Institute has given me new skills and increased my knowledge of metal forming. My time at Lehigh has exposed me to new research issues that I intend to continue working on at my university.”

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Related News Articles

The Institute for Metal Forming's new name honors the Loewy Family Foundation, whose generous support has allowed it to foster collaborative research on an international scale.