The Extended Panama Canal

By Panama Canal Authority -, Copyrighted free use,

By Panama Canal Authority –, Copyrighted free use

The Panama Canal has changed, and Rexroth was involved — to the tune of 158 motion control units designed to reduce the amount of fresh water lost in lock operations.

The $5.4 billion dollar project enlarged the locks that make it possible for ships to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa. Two new locks, one at each end, were also built. Locks lift or lower ships to the next level, making waterways passable for ships which could not normally make it through a waterway. For the Panama Canal, the expansion means that twice as many ships can use the canal. Ships half again as large as the previous maximum size can travel the canal, too.

All in all, the changes have doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal.

The canal was initially opened in 1914. The French, after building the Suez Canal in 1896, put together an international coalition and attempted to build a canal in what is now Panama. The project failed. For one thing, digging a canal through mountainous country was a different kind of project from digging a canal through the desert, and the French underestimated the engineering challenges involved. Tropical diseases, unfamiliar to the Europeans, were another frequent problem.

Significant progress was made on the project, but the French canal was not completed. In 1898, as the United States took on Spain’s former territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam following the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt began maneuvers aimed at gaining control of the canal. The project involved supporting Panama’s independence from Colombia,

The United States formally took over the project in 1904 and the work was completed in 1913. By 1999, Panama gained control of the canal. The plans to expand the canal and — according to the leaders of Panama — bring Panama into the ranks of First World countries — came just a few years later.

The story of the Panama Canal is a fascinating one, whether you look at it from the point of view of engineering, politics, or as a great human adventure. Rexroth’s part in this grand undertaking is just one of many major global projects that have included the exceptional motion control capacity of the company. And Rexroth’s involvement continued the international nature of the project, bringing in skills and knowledge from China, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United States.

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