Timken Excels at Turning R&D into Tangible Wind Solutions

Timken Excels at Turning R&D into Tangible Wind Solutions

Doug Lucas, advanced engineering technologist, is equally comfortable troubleshooting a problem from atop a wind tower (with a safety harness, of course) or analyzing test results in the lab. He explains how Timken conflates expertise across scientific disciplines to develop bearings that make wind energy possible.

Doug Lucas, advanced engineering technologist, The Timken Company

Doug, it is estimated that the global offshore wind energy market will reach nearly $87.5 billion by 2026, nearly 2.5 times its current size. How will Timken bearing expertise support this growth?

“Those growth projections speak to the urgent societal need for renewable energy and the technical and financial viability of current wind energy technology. Timken continues to support wind the way we always have – by first understanding the barriers that prevent wind turbine builders and operators from getting those most out of their equipment, and then using our knowledge in materials science, tribology, modeling and new product development to remove those barriers. As wind technology evolves and is implemented more widely, the barriers change. Our job is to keep bridging the gap between how wind turbines are built, and how they really perform in the field, to keep moving the technology forward.”

What factors make designing for wind different than other industries?

“Wind customers have a unique mix of priorities. Design-wise, the solutions are industrial. However, current demand is driving higher-volume requirements. Add in an aerospace-like commitment to precision and reliability, and an unprecedented pace of change, and you have a very demanding environment.”

How does Timken bearing engineering expertise advance all of these competing priorities?

“Everything we do at Timken is focused on increasing reliability and reducing maintenance requirements for wind turbines, which are intended to perform for 20 to 25 years. That comes in many forms. From a bearings perspective, materials scientists have researched steel types and heat treatment methods that can help reduce the formation of white etching cracks (WEC), a type of damage that drastically reduces bearing life and gearbox reliability. Tribology experts have developed Timken wear-resistant coatings that protect bearing surfaces from micro-pitting and lubrication issues. Application engineers are working with a turbine builder to maximize the position control of bearing rollers. Others are currently field testing uptower bearing replacement options that will be easier and less expensive to install. In this way, our technical expertise impacts every aspect of wind turbines, a little at a time.”

Timken has really impacted wind design in the last five years. To what do you attribute your rapid success in the industry?

“Early turbine designs relied on spherical roller bearing designs at a time when our leadership was in the tapered roller bearing space. As turbines grew larger, tapered roller bearings became more appropriate for main shaft and gearbox applications, and we have been influential in turbine design advancements ever since. Today, customers respect our technical advice because they know we approach it from a value engineering perspective. We don’t push solutions whether they work or not; we push for the solutions that will provide the highest reliability for the customer and the industry as a whole.”  

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