580-Ton Monster Is Building Massive Bridges in China, Looks Scary

SLJ900/32 Bridge Girder Erection Mega Machine 1 photo
Photo: YouTube
You almost expect Arnie to jump out of the control cabin and tell you to get to the Choppa! It means you can probably smell the blend of steel and concrete from a mile away. Worry not, though, this colossal machine is always one step ahead; literally. It can build massive viaducts by extending beyond the installed segments to span to the next support and roll the next pre-fabricated section into place.
We’re obviously looking at 21st-century technology of building segmental bridges, and as far as we can tell, this video was shot in China. Watching this buddy at work will most likely scare the hell out of those people who believe the end of humanity is the rise of artificial intelligence, but there’s a lot of superior engineering to it that is quite appealing.

First of all, building a bridge in short sections as opposed to traditional methods that make them in huge sections is a rather novel practice. As a matter of fact, the first segmental concrete bridge, built in 1950, was cast-in-place across the Lahn River in Balduinstein, Germany. The first precast segmental concrete bridge, created 12 years later, crossed the Seine River in France.

However, this method still wasn’t fast enough for China’s massive development pace, which is probably the reason they started using launching machines. These bad boys come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are regularly personalized to suit the specific bridge design, construction conditions, and structural dimensions of beams.

More than 100 launching machines in 15 years

Initially, each company would create one from scratch and only use it once, but with the boom in bridge construction in China, many owners now want to reuse their bridge builders. According to Bridge Web, more than 100 launching gantries have been ordered for use in China over the last 15 years, and these have been reused multiple times.

On average, launching machines erect around 730 spans in a lifetime, with almost 40% of gantries assembling more than 1,000. Over 70% of the launching gantries have a service life of at least four years, with most of them having a capacity of between 800 to 950 tons. According to the source, China is mostly using these giant builders for the construction of high-speed rail viaducts.

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