The first linear friction welder capable of full-sized part development in North America is now operational and ready for project work at Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), a national manufacturing innovation facility operated by the American Lightweight Materials Innovation Institute, in Detroit, Michigan.
The friction welder, built and installed by Manufacturing Technology Inc. (MTI), currently offers the largest tooling capacity of any linear friction welder in the world. Previously, companies interested in using a linear friction welder of this scope would have to travel to Europe.
The LF35-75 welder measures 22ft x 8ft x 14ft and weighs 122,000 lb (61 metric tons) – roughly the same weight as a Boeing 737.
Linear friction welding technology is used in aerospace to achieve light-weighting blisks and integrally bladed rotors (IBR) in jet aircraft engines. With the machine available for R&D, LIFT and its partners will explore how this technology could benefit other industries, including automotive and defense.
“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 LIFT’s CEO and Executive Director Nigel Francis. “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.”
MTI President and CEO Dan Adams said, “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.”
To best serve North American customers, MTI and LIFT will have shared capacity of the machine. The South Bend, Indiana-based 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 LIFT programs.
LIFT, one of the founding institutes of Manufacturing USA, is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research.
MTI is a leader in friction welding, including rotary friction, linear friction, low force friction, and friction stir welding technologies. In addition to contract manufacturing services, MTI has delivered machines to Boeing, GE, Rolls- Royce, Pratt and Whitney, Federal Mogul, and many of their Tier 1 suppliers.