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Engineering feat of the month: the SLJ900/32 bridge building machine

12/04/2017
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The tried and tested method of bridge building using cranes has been well and truly shaken by a pioneering piece of new technology that is currently fascinating industry watchers.
SLJ900/32 bridge building machine China
Anatomy

The SLJ900/32, manufactured by the Beijing Wowjoint Machinery Company and designed by the Shijiazhuang Railway Design Institute, weighs in at a mighty 580 tonnes, is 91 metres long and 7 metres wide. The colossal machine offers a totally new way to complete large bridge projects without the need for expensive and complex scaffolding and framework structures. 

If seen away from the building environment the casual onlooker would be forgiven for thinking the machine is simply something being used to transport structures via roadways, such is its seeming simplicity and complete difference from more traditional bridge construction devices.

How it works

After picking up the beam needed from its point of origin, the SLJ900/32 will drive to the pillars of the bridge and lower a pneumatic support structure which essentially anchors the machine to the first pillar, allowing it to extend itself out to the second pillar. From here it moves on to a third, depositing the beam as it does so. To watch it in action is perhaps the easiest way to fully understand it’s efficient, fluid and fuss-free operation.



The machine transports itself, via its set of 64 wheels, which are split into four sections consisting of 16 wheels each. As each section is capable of rotating 90 degrees, the SLJ900/32 can move sideways in order to facilitate easy pick-ups of beams.

Whereas traditional crane-based methods of bridge construction have necessitated that beams and other segments come in sections usually just a few metres long, which are then fixed together, the SLJ900/32 is able to utilize beams that are specially prepared to be full length. Expansion joints are used to connect these prefabricated parts.
SLJ900/32 segmental bridge launching machine
Lifespan and Projects

At present the machine is said to be capable of up to 730 spans with about 40 per cent of the products being able to push this total up to 1000 before reaching the end of its lifespan which averages at four years.

The SLJ900/32 is currently in active use in China for the construction of large and high rail viaducts, most notably between Chongquing and Wanzhou in the province of Sichuan.  Due to the heavy weight of the machine, these bridges are made to be far bigger than necessary and hence capable of taking far heavier traffic and weight loads than the rail networks for which they are intended.

The fact that this concession seems to be being made across China speaks volumes about the way in which the SLJ900/32 is perceived within the industry, as well to the time and cost savings that are inherent in the move away from structural scaffolding that the machine facilitates.

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Recent Comments
Have seen this machine's video. Does not have scalability. Applicable for only one type. If less width is required perhaps some modification may be done.
Vidyadhar Joshi, 25 May 2017
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Engineering feat of the month: the SLJ900/32 bridge building machine - Time to read 3 min
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