“Professor Betzalel Avitzur was truly a leading authority in the field of metal forming. His work on upper bound theory has been recognized and respected all over the world and made the Institute for Metal Forming and Lehigh famous in metal deformation community.” says MSE professor and department chair Wojciech Misiolek, who worked alongside Avitzur while a visiting scholar at the IMF and later returned to Lehigh to succeed him as Loewy Chair.
According to a 1994 article published in LehighWeek, Avitzur “traced his interest in metal forming to his childhood, when he acted as an assistant to his father on the family’s hand-operated drill press. Later, he pioneered the mathematical treatment of metal forming processes through the concept of limit analysis.” At the time of the article’s publication, he was modeling the characteristics of friction.
Avitzur studied mechanical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (graduating with a B.Sc. and Dip.Ing. in 1949) and engaged in government research and development work in Israel prior to his doctoral studies. He received his PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1959.
He then joined the Scientific Laboratory of Ford Motor Company, where his work included the study of the mechanical processes of plastic working of metals, such as rolling, wire drawing and extrusion, and spinning. While at Ford, he solved a critical safety issue in steering columns (voids that formed during the manufacturing process), according to an obituary published in The Morning Call.
In 1961, he returned to Israel to teach in the mechanical engineering department at the Technion.