Case Studies

Mid-Am Metal Forming Inc.

Stretch your imagination, and they’ll provide metal to match

Science and art meld when Mid-Am Metal Forming Inc. undertakes a project, an example being when the Missouri-based metal-bending specialists were contracted to top off the Milwaukee Art Museum’s vast reception hall in 2001.

In designing his first U.S. building, as well as his first museum anywhere, the esteemed Spanish architect and structural engineer, Santiago Calatrava, had a mission to redefine the identity of the museum’s Quadracci Pavilion. For that he needed a very specialized partner, one noted for imagination and precision engineering with some very large pieces of metal.

Mid-Am Metal Forming Inc.

Working with Calatrava, Mid-Am produced a louvered sunscreen composed of two huge wings made up of 26 smaller wings between 8 and 32 meters in length. While The New York Times likened the structure to a huge bird, a more apt description might be of a pterodactyl jutting out toward Lake Michigan.

Fashioning that structure entailed working with material that although malleable, didn’t lend itself to something so visually appealing without a lot of technical know-how. But Mid-Am likes to tell clients that if they stretch their imaginations, the company will provide the metal to match.

In a process known as skylight curving, Mid-Am’s specialists formed the length from a continuous piece of metal, eliminating the need for multiple cuts that could compromise strength. Then, in the stretch-forming process, they produced distortion-free curved metal and found a way to make the pieces fit. The Calatrava-Mid-Am collaboration now can be seen in the museum’s logo.

A step ahead

“Stretch forming is what brought us to the big dance,” says Mid-Am’s National Sales Manager, Austin Hartweg. “And then we progressed into the painting and fabrication sides of the business to provide our customer unparalleled cradle-to-grave service.”

Among Mid-Am’s services for the architectural, automotive, marine and aerospace industries are: precision metal stretch forming, fabrication, finishing, assembly and full-service trucking.

Mid-Am has bent, stretched and fabricated metal for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and for the A-10 Warthog to be used against ISIS.

All told, Mid-Am’s expertise stretches from simple to exotic designs, and includes extruded, brake-formed, pattern cut, machine fabricated, sheet or drawn techniques. Arched windows, spiral and radius handrails, barrel vault skylights, aircraft parts—Mid Am provides all that and more.

Southern Ute Cultral Center and Museum

Southern Ute Cultral Center and Museum

“If Mid-Am Metal Forming can’t do it, chances are it can’t be done,” Hartweg states. “The possibilities are endless.”

He adds that with recent enhancements, Mid-Am can handle 14-foot metal lengths—2 feet longer than what most competitors can do, thus saving time and money for clients. In addition to brake-forming, Mid-Am has the capability to pattern cut material on its 5-axis water jet, bringing to life more intricate shapes and configurations.

“It’s actually exciting to search for requirements that are outside of our current scope of capabilities,” he says. “Finding such needs has become challenging, but striving toward unique and complicated necessities allows us to make every effort in acquiring that asset and having the ability to offer more in-depth and multi-faceted services for our customers.”

Ahead of the curve

Manhattan’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum also displays Mid-Am art-science acumen, only on the inside where, since the Third Mind Exhibit of early 2009, a 1,400-foot railing has curved like a giant serpent down seven stories.

Such curved railings and stairways especially befit any structure with rounded design, including stadiums such as Citi Field in the borough of Queens, where Mid-Am’s painted, curved metal gives a retro look to what has  been the home of the New York Mets since 2009.

Among Mid-Am’s services for the architectural, automotive, marine and aerospace industries are: precision metal stretch forming, fabrication, finishing, assembly and full-service trucking.

Mid-Am can produce such painted metal up to 24 feet long, ready for fabrication and installation. Full mix-and-match services enable Mid-Am to match natural colors on virtually any job using quality paints with solvent systems, including the more complex jobs that require 70 percent or 50 percent Kynar. Chrome pretreatment is available, as well as matching air-dry systems for touch-ups.

And just a subway pass away from both Guggenheim and Citi Field, Mid-Am’s expertise in stretched metal can be admired inside and outside the Big Apple’s tallest residential building, the 75-story skyscraper One57 formerly known as Carnegie57.

Form and function

All too often, it seems form follows function. It’s long been a principle of 20th-century modernist architecture that has resulted in many skylines being dominated by tall, boxy buildings long on practicality but short on imagination.

7 Bryant Park

Details of architectural metal on 7 Bryant Park

Hartweg says Mid-Am Metal gleefully dissents from such constraints and in the process enables architects, artists, engineers and builders to apply the  creative juices that initially attracted them to projects that could stand the ultimate tests of time.

“We push the parameter further than anyone,” Hartweg says. “If there’s something challenging that scares others away, it only gets us more excited and motivated to complete it. We’re no cookie-cutter operation.”

And the combination of such specialty services with a construction industry on the rebound bodes well, Hartweg says. Recent jobs have included extensive work on towers in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and on Miami Beach’s convention center.

“We’re in such a tight-niche industry,” he says. “Google metal-forming and you might find fewer than a dozen companies east of the Rockies that do stretch. Coast-to-coast, once we get with a customer, we’ll hold onto them because we offer so many quality services, and all under one roof.

“A large portion of our customer base is repeat business because we have built that partnership prioritizing a superior finished product and great customer service, but we rarely see the same thing twice. Each day brings on a new challenge.”

Published on: May 11, 2017


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Spring 2018



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