Quick: What’s 400,000 pounds, 20 feet tall, and gets around on the back of a 200-foot, 19-axle flatbed truck? It’s the world’s largest welding machine, and it made the trip last month from Manufacturing Technologies Inc. in South Bend, Ind., to Pratt & Whitney’s manufacturing and assembly facilities in Middleton, Conn.
The gigantic machine—equivalent in size to about three Abrams tanks—is so huge it needed a truck behind the load to push it to its destination. And because it was too tall to clear certain bridges and too heavy to cross others, it needed a specially designed route to get there.
This linear friction welding behemoth is the latest addition to Pratt & Whitney’s $400-million expanded assembly plant, and it’s truly a monster in the world of welding.
The commercial and military engine manufacturer needed it to handle its assembly of massive jet engine fan blades and accommodate its future growth plans.
Welding is a critical component of the manufacture of lots of equipment, including the stainless steel components Antalex creates and installs for its clients.
Linear friction welding, in particular, works on the principle of friction-generated heat. Just as you produce warmth when you rub your hands together, vibrations of the metal parts inside this titanic machine make them heat up. Once they’re warm, the welder compresses them together until they fuse. The result is one of the strongest welds that any of today’s current technological offerings can pull off.
The installation of the enormous contraption is expected to be drawn out until September.