Groundbreaking welding machine part of ‘lightweighting’ initiative

DETROIT—The first and only linear friction welder capable of full-sized part development in North America is now fully operational and ready for project work at LIFT—Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, a national manufacturing innovation center operated by the American Lightweight Materials Innovation Institute in Detroit.

The friction welder, built and installed by the South Bend, Ind.-based friction welding specialist Manufacturing Technology Inc., has the largest tooling capacity of any linear friction welder in the world. This allows for the production of the largest full-scale parts available. Previously, companies interested in using a linear friction welder of this scope would have to travel to Europe.

Currently, linear friction welding technology is used in aerospace to achieve lighter weights for bladed disks and rotors for aircraft engines. With the machine being available for research and development, LIFT and its partners will explore how this technology could benefit other industries, specifically automotive and defense.

“Our facility and our institute are already unique but having this machine in our building and available to manufacturers around the country positions us to continue leading the industry into a smart manufacturing future,” said Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director of LIFT. “We encourage companies both large and small to reach out to us at LIFT to see how this machine and our other services can help them achieve their goals.”

Added MTI President and CEO Dan Adams: “We are thrilled to have this machine up and running in Detroit. From aerospace, automotive, defense, rail, and mining industries, our customer have been looking for a machine that is capable of full-scale parts, and now they have it right down the road in Detroit.”

In order to best serve North American customers, MTI and LIFT will have shared capacity of the machine.

MTI will run and maintain the machine at LIFT’s facility in Detroit. MTI will also complete customer directed work on the machine and support any programs that LIFT has moving forward.

The welding machine is 22 feet long by eight feet high by 14 feet deep and weighs 122,000 pounds.

LIFT is a public-private partnership dedicated to the development and deployment of advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies, and implementing education and training initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT is one of the founding institutes of Manufacturing USA and is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. More at www.lift.technology.

A family owned business founded in 1926, MTI employs 185 people in their South Bend, United Kingdom, and Slovakia locations. More at www.mtiwelding.com.

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