Precision Is Priceless

Measurement R&D Bolsters Timken’s Longstanding Commitment to Quality

When it comes to engineering and manufacturing, precision is priceless. At Timken, it’s a prerequisite to the company’s longstanding commitment to quality across its expansive portfolio.

Renowned for its expertise in friction management, power transmission, and metallurgy, Timken applies innovative problem solving to sophisticated applications for established and emerging global industries — from food production and transportation to automation, aerospace, and renewable energy.

Because each market the company serves demands highly engineered, reliable, premium-quality solutions, the company’s quality standards are extremely high. And meeting them largely hinges on a keen ability to accurately and efficiently measure materials, products, parts, and application designs — and a staff of experts entirely devoted to honing this capacity.

“My team provides advanced measurement and inspection solutions that equip Timken teams across the world with the tools they need to deliver high-quality, engineered products,” says Jerry Rippel, group leader, measurement R&D, and precision metrology specialist in Timken’s world headquarters.

Inside Timken’s measurement R&D department

Rippel’s department employs an array of measurement science platforms: from geometric coordinate measurement machines and advanced processes that employ lasers and cameras to measure ultra-large bore bearings used in wind turbines; to 3D machines and other depth-sensing technology to gauge miniscule components for aerospace applications; to ultrasonic subsurface inspection methodologies to ensure the integrity of the steel used in every Timken product.

But the department is far more than a lab with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Like Timken’s larger R&D and engineering community, it comprises a group of talented experts proactively engaged in innovative, solutions-driven work.

“A lot of what we do revolves around the development of a solution — the entire process, not just the device ultimately used — for our measurement needs,” Rippel says. “We have vendors, and we have our own machines, techniques, and systems. But if we don’t have what we need for the task at hand, and we can’t buy it, we’ll make it.”

That Timken built more than a dozen custom bearing measurement machines in the 1990s still used in plants across the world is just one example of the company’s renowned problem-solving capability, Rippel notes.

Currently, his team is working to address logistical challenges related to the manufacture of ultra-large bore bearings.

“These massive bearings might look pretty standard from a distance but there are a lot of granular details,” Rippel says. “Several measurements are required; there are a lot of zeroes involved when we have to measure down to the millionth of an inch.”

Because typical measuring processes for these massive components are time- and labor-intensive, involving moving them from machine to machine, Rippel and staff are developing a system with small precise-motion control devices that will instead be moved around the part.

“We have vendors and we have our own machines, techniques, and systems. But if we don’t have what we need for the task at hand and we can’t buy it, we’ll make it.”

Jerry Rippel
Group Leader, Measurement R&D

Calibrating the future

In addition to developing in-house solutions while providing measurement and inspection guidance for Timken teams across the globe, the department keeps a close eye on emerging trends and technologies that may optimize its collective function. Among them: eddy current testing, which uses electromagnetic induction to detect and characterize surface and subsurface flaws in steel; advanced acoustic resonance inspection to test vibrational characteristics for defects; and industrial computed tomography, which uses irradiation scanning to produce 3D images.

According to Rippel and his peers, one overarching trend is clear: Physical and digital automation will be critical in streamlining manufacturing processes to meet increasingly demanding customer specifications and timelines.

While forecasting the future may be difficult, change is always constant. So too is the objective of Timken’s measurement R&D team — to ensure engineering and manufacturing precision for a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient world. From start to finish, from engineering conception to final manufactured product, they apply their expertise to deliver daily on the company’s commitment to quality for its wide-ranging customer base.

“Precision really is priceless when there’s little room for error,” says Rippel. “That’s what Timken is known for, and that’s why the work we do is so important.”

Learn more about how Timken engineers are streamlining manufacturing by leveraging physical and digital automation to meet increasingly demanding customer specifications and timelines.