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Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin - Marine Propellers

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Photo: Glowing molten metal flows from the 90-tonne foundry ladle into a mould, of which we can see only the iron weights holding it down. Several men in protective clothing are watching the operation.

Casting: Molten metal flows through a channel from the ladle to the mould.

Photo: View into a hall where the wooden patterns for casting propeller blades are stored in closely packed rows. The blades look rather like walrus flippers.

Propeller patterns in storage.

Photo: A propeller is lying horizontally on a rotating metal plate six or seven metres in diameter. From above the arm of a machine protrudes into the centre tube. The propeller dwarfs the worker standing in its front.

A high-precision computer-controlled machine tool milling a hub to a precision of just a few hundredths of a millimetre.

Marine Propellers:

Innovative Technology - Monumental Art

Special exhibiton in the gallery of our section "Photo Technology"

1 November 2011 to 26 February 2012

Photo: A gleaming golden-coloured propeller, with blades that look like angels’ wings, is held vertically in a solid metal frame. A man wearing a yellow safety helmet is operating the control desk, another checking the tackle.

For particular machining and testing purposes special equipment is used to hold the propeller in a vertical position.

This exhibition of more than sixty annotated photographs shows how enormous ship’s screws are manufactured at Mecklenburgischer Metallguss GmbH (MMG) in Waren an der Müritz.

Innovative Technology for Monumental Art

MMG may be a medium-sized company with just 220 staff, but it is the global market leader for design and production of large propellers – the “powerhouse of the seven seas”. MMG designs and manufactures marine propellers with diameters up to 11.5 metres for the biggest tankers and container vessels. These enormous ship’s screws weighing as much as 150 tonnes are powered by up to 120,000 HP and revolve up to 150,000 times in 24 hours, day in day out.

The production is very sophisticated: First, a multi-part casting mould is made using special patterns and foundry sand containing cement. When the sand has hardened and the patterns have been removed, the mould is embedded in a giant corset of metal plates and gravel and is ready for casting. After a cooling and hardening period of up to three weeks the propeller is broken out of the mould to be machined, milled and polished until the final form and precision finish have been achieved.

Photo: View into a machine room showing part of a horizontal propeller. A robot-like arm with four grinding discs at its end protrudes from the right into the photo. The machine is grinding the surface of one of the blades.

Grinding manipulators smoothing the milled propeller.

The Photographer

Hitch was born 1967 in Berlin, where he still lives today. He works as a freelance art photographer in the fields of industrial and architectural photography, finding his motifs on worldwide expeditions. He uses his old-fashioned Leicaflex to shoot 35-mm colour transparencies, working without flash in whatever light conditions prevail and shunning digital post-editing.

The exhibition is part of his long-term project "TechStruct – Germany" and stands under the patronage of Jürgen Seidel, Minister for Economics, Labour and Tourism of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Copyright: Hitch

Header photo: A propeller being transported by a crane for machining.