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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present
i General Conditions
ii Iron and Steel Production
iii Aluminium Technology
iv Innovative Copper Refining Process
v The EDIM-4WD Load-Haul-Dump Vehicle
vi Copper Rod Production
vii Copper Wire and Cables
viii The Diecasting Industry
ix Automotive Components
x Whitegoods or Consumer Durables
xi Hardware
xii Some Recent New Industries
xiii The National Measurement System
xiv Manufacturing Industry in this Decade
xv Acknowledgements



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The Owen Gun -a major war-time innovation (continued)

These were only some of the frustrations that had to be overcome by the very few people who believed that the Owen gun was the preferred gun and that troops in the north were urgently needing a weapon of this type. There were months of hold-up obtaining approval for machine tools required for the mass production of the gun but, essentially from March 1942 to February 1943, Lysaght produced 28,000 weapons. Incredible as it may sound, when ammunition for the Owen gun was finally put into production in Australia, it was made to dimensions different from the ammunition for which it was designed. At this time there were some 10,000 guns in the field which the new ammunition did not fit properly.

Even at this stage the Army ordered a change to be made from use of the Owen gun to the Austen, a local modification of the Sten being produced in England. A number of Austen guns had been produced in Australia but all had the design faults that caused the Sten to fail in mud tests. This decision was ultimately reversed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who acknowledged that the Owen gun would be the standard sub-machine gun for the Australian Army which it remained, with service up to 1966.

This project required a great deal of time liaising between various bodies in wartime and in overcoming a number of forces in the country that were, apparently, endeavouring to actually impede, if not stop, the progress of the weapon. It represents a good example of a fine innovation that would not have been implemented had there not been a 'Champion' to push the project to a satisfactory conclusion.

Steel sheet and coil products

Major technological innovations in one area, especially if it is in a basic industry such as iron and steel, inevitably introduce more technological innovations in associated industries. This was no better exemplified than with the decision of AIS to introduce hot strip mill processing at Port Kembla. This in turn provided the possibility, and, from an economic point of view, the absolute necessity, of further down-stream continuous processing. Thus a continuous strip pickling line for the hot rolled coils was required, followed by cold reduction and continuous processing such as galvanizing and, later, tin plate production. With the very high capital costs involved with these new processes, they were not necessarily all introduced at the same time but were phased in over a few years, which required considerable skill and innovation to utilize to the full the new form of product.

Towards the end of 1957, the AIS hot strip mill was commissioned, while at Lysaght they commissioned a strip pickling line and a four stand tandem cold reduction mill. Now, instead of the piece rolling of sheet bar, strip was hot and then cold rolled in coil form to final thickness. The strip was then annealed and coated in cut length or sold as uncoated sheet.

Lysaght's Springhill Works commissioned a new continuous annealing and galvanizing line in 1961, the first of five such lines installed over the next two decades. This continuous line included the very latest technology and not only carried out annealing and coating on the one line but also overcame a major problem with sheet pot galvanized product. The latter had comparatively poor coating adherence on bending due to a thick, brittle inter-metallic iron-zinc alloy layer which cracked and separated from the steel on bending. Suppression of this thick binary alloy layer was possible with very small additions of aluminium in the zinc coating bath. Successful use of aluminium, however, was only possible where very clean steel strip entered the bath for coating and did not require fluxing.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd (A.I.S.); Lysaght's Springhill Works; Lysaght's Works Pty Ltd

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 884 - 885, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher