Growing Forward: Macrotrends Drive Timken R&D Investments
Climate change is driving a shift to renewable energy. Online ordering and labor shortages are activating advancements in robotics and automation. The desire for interconnectivity and customization is mobilizing manufacturers to implement the Internet of Things (IoT) and deliver Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution using sensors and smart technology.
Timken’s R&D team monitors these global trends and uses that intelligence to make shrewd investments that drive value for all their stakeholders.
“As a business, we’re disciplined about identifying attractive commercial opportunities. As a technical leader, we invest in expanded knowledge and expertise to remain differentiated as the best in our field as the future evolves.”
Vice President, Technology
“At Timken, our R&D investment happens at the intersection of opportunity and capability,” says Doug Smith, vice president of technology. “As a business, we’re disciplined about identifying attractive commercial opportunities. As a technical leader, we invest to expand our knowledge and maintain our reputation for engineering, materials and application expertise.”
Renewable Energy: Enabling a global energy transformation
Renewable energy capacity continues expanding as more nations, cities and companies commit to a net-zero emissions future. The trend touches every part of life, from lighting a home to getting across town.
In 2018, 5% of Timken sales were in renewables. Today, it is the company’s largest individual end-market sector, representing 12% of total sales. This growth is supported by ongoing capital investment.
From an R&D standpoint, Timken invests in technical capabilities that advance the next generation of larger, more powerful wind turbines. Those turbines depend on reliable, durable products and systems. To support those requirements, Timken engineers are proactively developing proprietary heat treat recipes and production capabilities for wind bearings, some measuring up to 2.5 meters (8+ ft.) in diameter.
“We’ve taken what we know about materials, design, heat treatment and manufacturing to develop processes for making high-performing, large-scale bearings that are still cost-effective for customers,” says Smith. “It’s also about optimizing our internal processes so Timken operates as efficiently and sustainably as possible.”
Robotics/Automation: Gear advancements for more efficient factories and warehouses
Increased online ordering is driving automation’s high-growth trajectory in retail. But plant designers across industries are leveraging automation to improve the reliability and efficiency of their operations, particularly with skilled labor in short supply. Timken innovations support this trend.
Rollon innovated their 7th axis solutions to give customers’ robots greater mobility throughout their factories and warehouses, and the recent acquisition of Intelligent Machine Solutions (iMS) will help them win new business in the heavy-duty linear motion space.
While Rollon solutions address linear motion in automation, speed reducers manage torque to help robotic equipment efficiently perform motion-related tasks. Cone Drive by Timken — a leading custom gear drives provider — is developing robust harmonic drive speed reducers that solve the unique challenges of industrial automation control systems.
New Timken analytical tools enabled engineers to optimize the gearing in Cone Drive® harmonic drives for robotic applications.
“We leveraged Timken R&D modelling, manufacturing and measuring capabilities with Cone Drive’s gear expertise to develop high-performance gear tooth profiles with greater contact over more teeth, which helps spread loads for better material performance,” says Smith. “These harmonic reducers offer more competitive performance. We secured test and prototype orders for potential new business because of this work.”
Simulation Technologies: Developing customer-centric solutions
Industrial technology is changing rapidly. What used to take weeks or months now happens in days or hours with the support of digital modeling and simulation software. The Timken Syber Bearing System Analysis tool vastly reduces the time, effort and number of redesigns for customers.
Timken experts in R&D and Information Technology are developing tools customers can access directly to improve the speed and quality of their own equipment designs.
“We’re investing in calculation and prediction tools that analyze every facet of bearing performance like stress analysis, torque, rheology and noise, vibration and harshness,” Smith says. “We’re simulating everything we can. It’s all about speed to decision making.”
Smith notes that all these examples demonstrate Timken’s tuned-in approach to investments.
“We understand where markets are growing and what potential product solutions will be in demand to support them,” he says. “Then we leverage our engineering expertise and invest in technologies that help those products better satisfy our customer’s application requirements.”
While Smith is squarely focused on serving customers, it’s a strategy that ultimately drives value for all Timken’s stakeholders.
Rollon is delivering smooth operations for world’s largest online retailers. Read how.