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Alessi 9090: Weld

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welds and spot-welds join the molded parts. In TIG welding, the inert gas argon is blown out of a nozzle to surround a white-hot tungsten electrode at the tip of the welding torch. A skilled worker torches the edges to fuse them, while the argon stops atmospheric particles from weakening the bond.

A worker at Alessi examines the two steel fittings that were spot-welded to the boiler body of the 9090. Tight tolerances are required to ensure that this closure forms an adequate seal with the upper container, if it doesn't, the unit will not function properly.

In spot-welding, the heat is generated by electric resistance: Copper electrodes pass a current between sheets of steel and the steel becomes so hot that a spot melts between the sheets to fasten them together. The challenge of the 9090 is precision. “Sapper invented a new closure,” Alessi remembers, “which can be done with one hand—–the handle on the top half swings down to clip over the lower boiler, holding it all together.”

Two bent-steel fittings spot-welded onto the boiler body form the seal. A jig helps to line them up, and the worker presses a pedal, which clamps the electrodes. “This closure has tight tolerances,” explains Alliata. “Otherwise the seal will be inadequate and the consequences are drastic.”

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    The Alessi 9090

    Alessi—In the 1970s, Alessi invested $300,000 to develop its first cooking appliance: a stovetop espresso maker by Richard Sapper. The northern Italian family business had made stainless steel serving accessories for decades, but the risk of engineered cookware proved contentious. Alberto Alessi’s uncle, Ettore, the technical guru, was so incensed by the project’s challenges that he once stormed out of a meeting, “leaving me and Sapper very embarrassed,” Alessi recalls. Today, the 9090 is an icon housed in the MoMA collection, and Alessi produces 50,000 of them a year.

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