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Local Business

Rockford company reaches for the stars

Mammoth machine will help carry humans to the moon and beyond

Tino Oldani, (left) president of Ingersoll Machine Tools, talks with NASA astronaut Rex Walheim on May 1, 2017, during a tour of the plant. In addition to manufacturing four critical components for the Orion Spacecraft, the company has built the largest machine of its kind in the world for world's richest man — Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who will use the engineering marvel to build rockets to carry humans to the moon and maybe even Mars.
Tino Oldani, (left) president of Ingersoll Machine Tools, talks with NASA astronaut Rex Walheim on May 1, 2017, during a tour of the plant. In addition to manufacturing four critical components for the Orion Spacecraft, the company has built the largest machine of its kind in the world for world's richest man — Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who will use the engineering marvel to build rockets to carry humans to the moon and maybe even Mars.

ROCKFORD (AP) – Ingersoll Machine Tools has built the largest machine of its kind in the world for world’s richest man – Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who will use the engineering marvel to build rockets to carry humans to the moon and maybe even Mars.

It took 3 years to design and manufacture the Sasquatch-sized machine, which stands 51 feet tall, 136 feet long and 43 feet wide. The machine – its trademarked name is Mongoose – was disassembled and shipped to Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket factory, at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park on Merritt Island, Florida.

There, the machine will be reassembled and will manufacture cryogenic tanks that will be filled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen to fuel rockets. The machine also will build fairings – large aerodynamic structures that encapsulate rocket payloads like satellites and other critical equipment.

Tino Oldani, 73, has led Ingersoll Machine Tools since 2003, when Camozzi Group of Italy paid $15.7 million for the company’s forerunner, Ingersoll International, which went bankrupt. Oldani, the company’s CEO and president, has transformed the dusty, century-old factory into a place that quite literally manufactures the future.

“Rockford, Illinois, is back on the map of manufacturing. We don’t talk about that much, but there are some very good things happening here,” Oldani said Tuesday while showcasing The Mongoose for reporters and business leaders.

Under Oldani’s direction, Ingersoll Machine Tools has become a major player in the aerospace industry. It’s made a name for itself building big fiber placement machines – imagine a 3-D printer the size of a building, equipped with robotic bells and whistles – that makes durable, lightweight custom parts from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.

Seventy percent of the fuselage of the Boeing 787, for example, is made with Ingersoll’s fiber placement machines. And Ingersoll built the rotating base for the world’s largest telescope, which was installed in Hawaii four years ago. The Mongoose is a bigger than the previous world’s largest fiber placement machine, which was also built by Ingersoll.

Landing a customer like Blue Origin bodes well for the future of Ingersoll, its 175 employees (62 are engineers) and the Rockford region’s aerospace cluster. Bloomberg reported in March that overall investment in space start-ups by venture capitalists reached a record $2.8 billion in 2017, suggesting that the next space race won’t be fought among countries, but among billionaires.

Ingersoll Director of Sales Mike Reese declined to disclose exactly what Blue Origin will pay for The Mongoose, though he said price tag is “north of $10 million.”

“There is nobody else in the world building a machine like this,” Oldani said. “And it’s not only due to me or us. Our suppliers, the larger manufacturing community of Rockford – that is what is making this possible.”

Rockford Linear Actuation is one of several Rockford-area suppliers benefiting from Ingersoll’s work for Bezos’ company. The Rockford firm manufactured large cylinders for The Mongoose that help power the machine like a giant pair of pistons and rods.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” said Bob Trojan, Rockford Linear’s president and CEO.

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Source: Rockford Register Star, https://bit.ly/2usGt1q

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Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the Rockford Register Star.

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