The 112-Ton Odyssey: From Indiana to Connecticut, the LFW Journey Took Years to Prepare

Getting from point "A" to point "B" has never felt more like the complete alphabet. It's not every day – every month – or every year – that a company requests shipment of a 112-ton machine. But it's a project Middletown's Compression Systems Module Center, or CSMC, has been working on for three years. Greg Treacy is general manager for CSMC.

"(The truck is carrying) the largest section of a linear friction weld machine. The base weighs about 112 tons. In total, this machine is probably on order of 200 tons in size and weight," Treacy said, standing beside the massive machine earlier this summer.

A mammoth machine of this magnitude isn't just something one orders on an Internet site. Pratt & Whitney worked with South Bend, Indiana, company MTI to create the linear friction welder for a specific purpose.

"The linear friction is rubbing two pieces of metal together very quickly to create heat, then compressing it with force, so it bonds together. It makes a much stronger bond for metal than a weld does," said Ken Ferner, capital equipment project engineer. "If you look at a jet engine, and you see the fan spinning that pulls the air in, that's what this machine makes."

Treacy says once the machine is running, the company will instantly witness the impact of the investment.

"It's going to help Pratt & Whitney overall. The linear friction weld machine will greatly assist us to create the capacity we need to make the parts to support the ramp - both on the military side with the Joint Strike Fighter and the commercial side with our NGPF product line," Treacy said.

But a machine designed to make futuristic flying parts needed a "B.C." rather than an "A.D." method of transport to get across the country. Wheels – lots and lots and lots of wheels!

"I'm told this is the largest tractor-trailer in North America," Treacy said.

It had to be to carry a giant revolutionary piece of technology. One big challenge for one big machine was the route it had to take to get from Indiana to Connecticut.

"It got here by a very varied route. If you look at MapQuest and see South Bend, Indiana and Middletown, Connecticut, it's about 800 miles … a straight shot. But that's not how this machine went. Five states had to permit the load because of the weight. By the time it got to Connecticut, it came up Interstate 84, onto Route 63, to 17, to Main Street Extension, to Seabrook Road, onto Aircraft Road, and I think it arrived in Middletown about 2:30 in the morning," Ferner said.

"It travelled at night most of the time," Treacy said, "so it's taken a lot of back roads to get here."

The arrival of the truck and the load it was carrying was met with great excitement, as this was another example of the company's multi-million dollar investment in next-gen manufacturing.

"Frankly the growth we see in the company is just the beginning of a very bright future," Treacy said.

"This has been a tremendous experience for me," said Michael Girgenti, capital equipment manager for CSMC. "I couldn't ask for a better opportunity or a company to be part of. I'm very proud of the accomplishments we've made here in Compression Systems."

The long, slow journey from the Hoosier to the Nutmeg State was but another step in this process. Cranes were needed to unload the colossal device into Building 220, where a hole deeper than most swimming pools was waiting.

"We had to take our time and had to take out over 1,200 yards of dirt to prep the hole, form it, pour it, and put everything back in, so it was a lengthy process and we got through it," said David Manser, senior project engineer, Facilities Engineering.

The time it took to get the LFW to Connecticut is but a fraction of the time it will take to install. Point "B" from point "A" is just a brief stop – and stopping is something not too common around these parts.

"It's not over yet," said Ken Ferner, "this is another milestone in the project."

Treacy agrees.

"This is just the beginning," he said.

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