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March 07, 2014

“Lightweighting”: Engineer-speak for a key aluminum benefit

helicopter-bridgeOur last blog post,  GM joins the love for aluminum, noted that car makers are gravitating to aluminum as their metal of choice.  A recent post on CarTalk.com makes the same point:  "Aluminum is the number one metal for making engines and wheels, and it's showing up all over for hoods, trunks and doors."

The auto industry is moving to aluminum to shed fuel-wasting weight.  Of course, you engineering folks have a fancy word for losing weight that's not body fat:  "lightweighting." 

But needs for lightweighting go beyond the auto industry.  The federal government is kick-starting a public-private collaborative initiative called the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute (LM3).  Ann Thryft, senior technical editor of materials and assembly at DesignNews, wrote that LM3 will focus on materials that "provide a high strength-weight ratio to help reduce energy consumption and improve performance."

GatorDock and GatorBridge are proud to be long-time experts in applying the art of lightweighting to specific structural situations.  For example, in 2008, San Jose Water Company needed a bridge in a remote location to support a pipeline extension.  Access to the installation site was so poor, a helicopter would be required to transport materials.  GatorBridge's solution:  a pipe support bridge built with long-lasting, light-weight aluminum. The bridge was delivered in two pre-fabricated sections and assembled at a staging area.  In less than a day, a helicopter transported the bridge and positioned the pipe into the bridge seat.

Parks often face similar installation challenges for bridges in remote or environmentally sensitive areas.  GatorBridge helped the USDA Forest Service replace a washed-out timber bridge on a popular hiking trail.  This video shows a helicopter delivering one section of the 221-foot bridge.

Lightweighting is the future (we knew it)!

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