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Expansion of the Panama Canal: Wacker Neuson helping to change global shipping

Since its original construction in 1914, the Panama Canal has been a source of high economic value and pride for Panamanians. The Canal gives passage to an estimated 15,000 vessels and 280 million tons of cargo annually. Despite the Canal running around the clock at 90 percent of its maximum capacity, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) could not keep up with traffic and some ships had to wait several days for passage.

Although the Canal's volume was impressive, the ACP projected that ship traffic would increase at an average of three percent per year. In order to support this increase, the Panama Canal expansion project was approved. The project's goal is designed to increase the Canal's efficiency and productivity by allowing larger and more ships to travel through it.

The expansion project began September 2007 and consists of adding a new lane of traffic along the canal, the construction of two lock complexes and the deepening and widening of existing shipping lanes. The expansion is projected to meet the demand through 2025 and beyond.

The new reinforced concrete lock chambers will be 1400 ft. long. 180 ft. wide and 60 ft. deep, with each lock complex measuring more than a mile and a half in length. Currently, the locks' walls are being constructed and about 4000 cubic meters (5230 yds.) of concrete has already been poured.

ACP's requirements are high for this project. It would like a design-life of 100 years in an area that is seismically active, and therefore, it is of great importance to ensure the concrete remains strong throughout its lifetime. Approximately 300 Wacker Neuson IRFU 45 and IRFU 57 Internal Vibrators, with eight meter hoses, were placed to cover the vast area and to rid the concrete of any entrapped air, allowing it to flow into corners and around rebar to ensure an even pour.

The Wacker Neuson IRFU units were selected because of their durability and performance characteristics. The units feature an integrated inverter which allows the unit to run on a standard 120V single-phase power supply. A micro-inverter automatically changes single-phase power into 3-phase power ensuring a consistent 12,000 vibrations per minute (vpm) with very little loss under load. This eliminates the need for a special high cycle generator as seen with older technology.

The IRFU's require minimal maintenance because they don't use a universal motor or have a mechanical drive shaft. After one year of continual use, the vibrators are still operating at peak performance. The dependability and performance of these IRFU high-cycle vibrators is guaranteeing that consolidation is quick and effective. This technology is helping to ensure that the expansion of the Panama Canal Locks is completed on time to commemorate 100 years of the Panama Canal.