Thermo King dedicates $7.1 million R&D center

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Thermo King Corp. on July 30 held a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newly renovated research and development facility at its Minneapolis headquarters. The Frederick McKinley Jones Research and Development Center is named after an instrumental figure in the founding of Thermo King, Frederick McKinley Jones.

A self-taught, African-American engineer who was born in 1893, Jones overcame prejudices and diversity his entire life to design and build electronic innovations that forever impacted the world. His commitment to making ideas reality helped create the transport refrigeration industry. Jones developed the first transport refrigeration unit in 1938, the same year Thermo King was founded. Thermo King says its $7.1 million dollar investment in the company’s quality and reliability testing capabilities, which includes facility updates and new equipment, is a tribute to Jones’ dedication to creating innovative, reliable products.

“Fred Jones exemplified the values of Thermo King,” says Ted Fick, president of Transport Solutions Americas. “He was a man with integrity, courage and was respectful of others. He was a team player who focused on being innovative. These are values Thermo King strives to uphold today through its products, services and commitment to customers and the transport refrigeration business. Ongoing investments in our research and development capabilities are essential for continued growth and reliable cutting-edge products. Industry changes, customer needs and environmental considerations all play a role in product requirements and performance. Providing the quality and reliability – the peace of mind – our customers need, while maximizing their profits, will always be Thermo King’s goal.”

By having state-of-the-art processes and tools for product quality, reliability, life verification and validation, the Frederick McKinley Jones Research and Development Center can provide customers with tangible value through testing and engineering services, the company says.

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“Like Frederick McKinley Jones, Ingersoll Rand Climate Control Technologies focuses on innovation via processes that support a reliability-centered culture that delivers solutions to our customers,” says Dr. Julio Pulido, director of global reliability and test engineering. More than $5 million was put into new testing equipment and capabilities throughout the past two years, including a $2.2 million electro dynamic shaker, $1.2 million calorimeter and environmentally controlled chambers for compressor life testing, $1 million unit endurance testing cells and $300,000 environmental chambers, according to the company:

  • Electro dynamic shaker: The new multi-axial shaker table increases Thermo King’s ability to perform vibration testing for larger systems. It is capable of shaking independently in three directions and providing constant, oscillating and random shock loading from 10 to 2,000 Hz frequency. The new shaker adds to the company’s capabilities in areas such as Structural Dynamic Analysis.
  • Compressor life testing: The investment in calorimeters and environmentally controlled chambers gives Thermo King the ability to understand the environmental effects in the compressor while under different operational modes, and improves testing capabilities at several compressor capacity levels. “Compressors are the heart of our operational systems,” Dr. Pulido says. “Accurate and controlled compressor performance testing is of paramount importance.”
  • Unit endurance testing: The unit endurance environmental test cells offer the ability to test complete systems, subsystems or components under different environmental conditions in order to simulate actual field conditions easily. The cells offer the ability to test larger samples in order to achieve statistical significance of the results, and are capable of ambient temperatures ranging from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 130 degrees F. Fully automated data acquisition systems can be operated 24/7 for accurate data measurement and recording.
  • Environmental chambers: To support Accelerated Life Tests, specially designed environmental chambers test components such as valves, electronic boards, sensors, motors and other mechanical components. These chambers have the ability to perform thermal and humidity stresses at steady state, ramped cycling or thermal shock conditions. Temperature ranges are from -94 degrees F to 356 degrees F, with relative humidity ranges from 10 to 98 percent.
  • “Our products operate in some of the harshest and most unpredictable environments on the planet,” Dr. Pulido says. “A wide range of testing, including ultraviolet stability, corrosion resistance, temperature, humidity and vibration, plus a host of electrical and operational hazards, must be comprehensive to ensure the quality and reliability our customers have come to expect from Thermo King.”

    “Today, our customers make buying decisions based not only on price and quality, but also on the perceived reliability of the product,” says Richard DeVaughn, vice president of global engineering and product development. “The investment in the Frederick McKinley Jones R&D Center is a demonstration of our commitment to grow our business in an increasingly competitive environment by delivering reliable products with more features and superior performance.”

    More than $2 million was used to update and renovate the existing building to better service both the new and existing testing capabilities; this includes the installation of a new electrical substation and a centralized chilled water system. PCL Construction Services of Minneapolis served as the general contractor. Ingersoll Rand products and services were used when and where possible throughout the entire project, including Hussmann, another Ingersoll Rand Climate Control business, which served as the primary mechanical contractor for the chiller system installation.

    Besides the Frederick McKinley Jones Research and Development Center in Minneapolis, Ingersoll Rand Climate Control Technologies operates reliability testing centers and support labs worldwide, including Bridgeton, Chino, Monterrey, Gloversville and Londrina in the Americas; Prague, Galway, Barcelona and Langeskof in Europe; and Suzhou, Bangalore, Shenzhen, Luoyang and Gumma in Asia.