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How are Large Machines Made?

10/11/2014 7:16 PM

I am curious as to how do they make the largest machine tools. I can see how a large machine can make a smaller machine, but how is the mother of all machines made? Some of the largest machine tools are in shipyards and railroad shops. A lathe with 100" swing and capable of turning something 40' long is an example of a very large machine. I'm guessing they were mostly hand made and took as much as several years to make and were one off.

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#1

Re: How are large machines made?

10/11/2014 8:18 PM

most are built in place, lathes spin at ground level and the cutting tools are dropped on them like a record player arm

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#2

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/11/2014 9:54 PM

Space aliens, just like with the pyramids, the Easter Island heads, the Nazca Plain figures, and crop circles.

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#3

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/11/2014 10:09 PM

Good question. Big machines are made with BIG tools.

Here's an interesting web site:

The machines that made the Jet Age - Boing Boing

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#13
In reply to #3

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 1:14 AM

Thank you for that article, an awesome article about truly awesome stuff.

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#4

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/11/2014 11:50 PM

Well you see they have these really big people....

...and the're all controlled by this guy....

....who runs everything from this room....

....they only come out at night....

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#5

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 9:07 AM

The machines don't even look like machines. At Oak Ridge, the machines look like buildings. And the machines are made by first making machines that make jigs and figs for the machines that make the machines.

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#6

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 1:09 PM

A brick-path-laying machine.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 4:38 PM

That is quite a machine.

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#8
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Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 4:51 PM

Turn it on end, and you can make the hospital, too!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 9:16 PM

It's not as impressive as I first thought it was. It still takes 2 men to arrange the bricks.

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Tiger+Stone

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#10

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 10:47 PM

Even the largest of the largest machines are usually built up in pieces. The pieces, like beds, slides and drive housings are usually castings machined to high accuracy and assembled with high precision on very stable foundations. The foundations are often isolated to minimize vibration and thermal movement.

In my machinist career I've worked with a 20 foot horizontal mill (NC) and a 24 foot diameter vertical boring mill. The boring mill was interesting because the 24' table face was only about 6 inches above the shop floor with the drive motor and mechanism underneath. There was a tunnel for maintenance access. This made it relatively easy to get large castings on it and still clamp them down. The operators station was actually suspended from a crane and could be positioned via crane controls anywhere above the table.

Many of those big machines are custom built.

Hooker

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#11

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/12/2014 11:18 PM

I think your question is a bit more subtle than it looks at first glance. My take:

Borrowing from your example, let's say that the world's largest lathe can turn a 150" dia cut, max, on a 50' long workpiece, max, but you need to build a bigger lathe which itself requires a precision part 200" diameter. Your new lathe must also handle an 80' workpiece, but no lathe exists to cut that 200" part and there's nothing big enough to machine ways longer than, say, 60', so how do they do it? You'd need machines at least as large as the one you're building, but they don't exist - the one you're building now will be the biggest one there is - and so how do you do it?

I haven't the slightest idea, but I've wondered about this myself from time to time.

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#18
In reply to #11

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 12:57 PM

That exactly is my question. How is the biggest lathe (or machine) made?

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 2:02 PM

Your question has been answered multiple times. Those machines are built in pieces.

Hooker

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 2:14 PM

big machines are built the same way you learned to run.

you have to crawl first.

its not as bad as to ask what came first, the chicken or the egg.

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#25
In reply to #18

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/21/2014 1:52 PM

there's a whole lot of lapping involved...er a large machine can be used in it's own construction and reconfigurations etc.. a 192" x 1200" horizontal lathe for example, the drive train can be built and assembly attached to a modular base; in place or fixture. This drive train when assembled is the headstock component then atteached to modular bed sections in rough condition (castings). At this point a face plate could be produced using the headstock and a temporary saddle supporting toolpost lateral feed, and milling attachments, etc..

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#12

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 12:22 AM
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#14
In reply to #12

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 1:20 AM

That's awesome.

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 7:54 AM

When I started my fabrication business, it was in a business incubator.

There was another fabricator in the incubator also. One day, he had to show me his latest purchase.

It was a huge lathe, something like a 36" swing, 20 foot bed. It was sitting out side,

He was so proud of the 'deal' he got on it.

I told him where are you going to pout it? he had no room.

He then asked if I wanted to buy iy, I told him one thing,

  1. I had no room.
  2. And the tooling cost is going to spank me.

No, Two things, I told him two things

  1. I had no room.
  2. And the tooling cost is going to spank me.
  3. I had no work to utilize it.

No, Three things, I told him three things.

  1. I had no room.
  2. And the tooling cost is going to spank me.
  3. I had no work to utilize it.
  4. ...

I ripped this of and cannibalized this from a Monty Python skit.

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#16

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 10:28 AM

In Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney, Australia there was a lathe with a 100 foot bed...........this was used to machine propeller shafting for ships. The lathe operator sat in a seat mounted on the saddle and had the controls in front of him and he moved along with the lathe tool keeping an eye on things.

This was a picture taken of that rather large beast.

They also had other very large machines at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney Harbour, but this is the one that really stuck in my mind.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/13/2014 12:44 PM

A related question is how they transport these monsters to customers' sites. Yes, in pieces, but what of pieces which are still too large because they are, say, cast in one piece - like a certain forge used to make parts for the M1A1 Abrams tank?

There was an article years ago about a trucking company who agreed to take on this challenge - and moved the behemoth on backroads by night, somewhat illegally I might add.

They were ultimately caught of course, in a little midwest town whose sheriff just so happened to make a hobby of estimating the weight of overloaded trucks. When he spotted this one, it was parked at a diner at the edge of town and he saw immediately that, whatever it was carrying under that tarp, it must be enormously heavy in the extreme - the truck's tires were nearly flattened by the weight. But, rather than nabbing the driver at the diner and potentially causing a scene, the sheriff staked-out the three roads leading out of town. It was better to catch the guy red-handed.

Sure enough, a little while later, he spotted the truck as it was trying to leave town, laboring under its tremendous load. The sheriff stopped him and ordered portable scales be brought to weigh the truck. They were too high; the truck was unable to pull its load up the short height onto the scales - it simply weighed too much - and so the sheriff ordered special, low-profile scales be brought from a neighboring town.

The truck could not pull onto these, either, and so several tow trucks were pressed into service to get it up on the scales. When they were finally able to weigh it, the sheriff couldn't believe that the truck had even gotten as far as it had towing that enormous weight: just a shade under 530,000 pounds.

He did what any good sheriff would do under the circumstances - he impounded the truck and its cargo until a suitable trailer could be brought to safely transport the forge to a railway siding just a few miles away.

A trailer was brought eventually, many months later; one that had to be custom-built for just this one job. And to stay under the weight limits per axle for the country bridges along its short route, the trailer required 110 tires.

I read the article in Reader's Digest many years ago. I can't remember the full title but it went something like 'The Day the Monster Came to <town name>'?

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#21

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/14/2014 7:16 AM

A James Watt & Boulton steam engine is 9m high. The flywheel is 4.27m dia. I can't imagine the foundry in 1765 casting such large amounts of iron at one pour.

Look at this engine at the Sydney Power House Museum. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=7177

The piston was machined to fit the machined cylinder at 630mm dia. They used a canon borer. How big were the canons? WTF?

Jim

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#22

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/14/2014 7:23 AM

check out the misc. page and the old machine tools page......

http://shopswarf.orconhosting.net.nz/sindex.html

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#23

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/17/2014 12:18 AM

Large machines are made with smaller machinery or custom made units designed to do a limited type of work. Some are made as smaller parts and assembled as a larger piece for the large machine. Now that there is very accurate means of alignment (laser) it is possible to used two or more smaller machine in conjunction with each other to make larger parts, example: the propeller shafts for large sea vessels could be turned by two special lathes in conjunction with each other and spaced apart. The shaft would have to be moved to accommodate its long length. This method would be more expensive and probably not turned as accurately as on one lathe.

The first machine that was able to make itself was the milling machine. It has all the features that are necessary to make another one.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#24

Re: How are Large Machines Made?

10/17/2014 7:42 AM

At the ship years, on our naval contracts, the most used work order number I used was for R&D.

some of the tools I made there, were of small nature but specilized, I would spend 2-3 week making the jigs or fixture to make the tool. And actually making the tool would only be a few hours.

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