It’s true: Ingersoll’s hometown of Rockford, IL is a gravitational center for aerospace manufacturing. Now, add intergalactic research to the list of vertical markets served by a manufacturer here.
Ingersoll Machine Tools, Inc. has a long history in this city—since 1892 the company rode along the exhilarating liftoffs and scary splashdowns of the machine tool industry. In between these two extremes were longer periods in which the factory hummed along and grew with Ingersoll’s customers’ needs.
Now for the first time in a long while, new buildings are going up at Ingersoll’s west side headquarters to accommodate manufacturing and assembling the 1,800-ton mount for the Great Magellan Telescope, to be completed and shipped to its mountaintop home in Chile for final assembly in 2025. Ingersoll’s partner on the project is MT Mechatronics, a division of OHB in Bremen, Germany.
Participation in the telescope’s creation will mean jobs for Rockford—an estimated 75 jobs.
The Giant Magellan Telescope will test every bit of the company’s experience and capabilities. The mount will be so strong and so precise that it will support the telescope’s mirror system and upper structure that holds the prime focus–the point at which the mirrors converge their light rays to provide a perfect, in-focus image. In use, the mount will move to track targets in deep space, and will be so precise that it will ride on a film of lubricant a mere two-thousandths of an inch thick.
Large scale projects are not new to Ingersoll. The firm has plenty of experience in aerospace, space, naval, undersea, energy/nuclear, and civil engineering program experience. Regarding the latter, the company helped rebuild a bridge in Italy that had collapsed, and helped design and implement a self-maintenance system for the bridge to stave off any recurrence of trouble.
Adding and subtracting
The firm has well over 100 years of experience in subtractive technology, like large vertical milling machines, large horizontal machines, and specialized machines aimed at specific vertical markets. For some time, the company has built expertise in additive technology too.
Ingersoll makes some of the largest machine tools in the world—and even the biggest are about to be dwarfed. Some of these large-scale machines can do both additive and subtractive. An operator can spend half a day doing additive work, then change out the machine head in about 10 minutes, then do subtractive work in the afternoon. This works very well when a part cannot be conveniently moved but needs both operations, as in creating parts or whole products for prototyping, testing, scale modeling, etc.
Because of the scope of some of the engagements, Ingersoll offers the machines to make these products, and offers its service as a master machining shop and leading additive resource. Additionally, the firm programs its own software for simulation, optimization, and diagnostics.
One machine that represents some of the newer, larger products is the MasterPrint 3X. It’s available as a hybrid with multiple modules operated under the same gantry: additive manufacturing, milling, fiber placement, tape laying, inspection and trimming. Let’s begin with the following notable stats:
- The working volume starts at X 6m, Y 4m, Z 2m;
- Extruder nominal throughputs are from 150 lbs./hr. to 1,000 lbs./hr. fed by equal size dryer equipment; and
- The 5-axis milling head outputs 25kW of power and has 18,000 rpm max spin.
There are also some crossover strengths because of the corporate structure. Camozzi Group (Brescia, Italy) comprises multiple companies in five divisions: automation, machine tools (where Ingersoll and its Italian counterpart, Innse Berardi contribute), textiles, manufacturing, and digital. One can easily see that gains in one division have the potential to affect all divisions.
As the company gains new employees and new floor space, staff will only increase efforts to launch the best products possible, attract the best in machining and additive manufacturing talent, and continue to be engaged at national and even international levels.
Ingersoll Machine Tools CEO Chip Storie talks about the company’s employees in family terms. “We have a great mix of both mature and young people working for us here in Rockford. I look at our senior employees and how willing they are to share their knowledge with the next generation. It’s as if they are the grandparents teaching their grandchildren the tricks of the trade. It is so exciting to see young people coming into the organization and being excited about working on some of the coolest projects that you can imagine.
“One day you may be working on an additive machine that will 3D print hulls for the U.S. Army, knowing that what we design will save the lives of our country’s soldiers, and the next day you are working on building the parts for the pressure vessel for the Orion Spacecraft, which will take the first woman and the first person of color to the surface of the moon,” says Storie. He noted that the young engineers and technicians working at Ingersoll are a special breed. “There is never a dull moment inside our walls. We throw challenges at our young team that others could only dream about. The young people we have working here today will lead our company for decades to come, and the solutions that they produce will make an impact on all of mankind. You just can’t get that type of satisfaction in many work environments.”
More information: http://www.ingersoll.com