Thermo King dedicates enhanced R&D center

Thermo King Corporation officially dedicated its newly expanded and renovated research and development facility at its Minneapolis, Minnesota, headquarters in a special ceremony on July 30.

More than $7 million was invested in the Frederick McKinley Jones Research and Development Center, which doubled in size over the past two years. Of that, more than $5 million went for state-of-the-art equipment, processes and capabilities for reliability and quality testing, and for developing products and solutions to better address environmental concerns.

Just over $2 million was used to update and renovate the facilities which house the center. It now occupies some 70,000 square feet of the company's headquarters.

The center is named after an instrumental figure in the founding of the company, self-taught African American Frederick McKinley Jones.

“A prolific inventor throughout his life who received more than 50 patents, Jones' commitment to making ideas reality helped create the transport refrigeration industry,” said Ted Fick, president of Thermo King Americas. “Jones was the inventor of the first reliable system for refrigerating trucks, and that became the springboard for launching Thermo King in 1938.”

Nearly half of the company's investment in new tools was for a $2.2 million electro dynamic, multi-axial, shaker table for vibration testing. It is capable of shaking independently in three directions and providing constant, oscillating and random shock loading from very low to very high frequencies.

“The shaker helps us determine how parts, assemblies and refrigeration units react to vibration and shock inputs, and how we can improve designs, materials and processes used to manufacture our products to ensure that they endure in harsh working conditions,” said Richard DeVaughn, vice president, global engineering and product development, Climate Control Technologies.

Other investments include:

  • $1.2 million for calorimeter and environmentally-controlled chambers for compressor life testing. DeVaugh said these “provide the ability to understand the environmental effects in the compressor - the heart of Thermo King's operational systems - while under different operational modes.”

  • $1 million for endurance environmental test cells used to access complete systems, subsystems or components in simulated actual field condition. The cells are capable of ambient temperatures ranging from -20° F to 130° F.

  • $300,000 for specially designed environmental chambers for accelerated life tests of components, such as valves, electronic boards, sensors and motors, in temperature ranges from -94° F to 356° F, with relative humidity ranges from 10% to 98%.

The R&D center includes a model shop for producing preliminary concept models and rapid prototypes, an air flow testing facility, an engine endurance and performance lab, an acoustics lab for noise analysis and abatement services, an applied mechanics lab for understanding fatigue cycles, and a finite element analysis lab for evaluating stress and strain.

“Our R&D facility is not yet complete,” said Steve Shawley, president of Climate Control Technologies and senior vice president of Ingersoll Rand, Thermo King's parent company, “and it never will be complete. We will be making ongoing investments in research and engineering because it's essential for continued growth and reliable, cutting-edge products.

“We operate in a reliability culture, driven by the need to optimize and improve the reliability of the overall cold chain,” Shawley said. “That is our simple goal, our simple quest, made possible by Frederick McKinley Jones.”

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