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Timken Scores Big with Bearings
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Timken Scores Big with Bearings

(From:CMB-CETA Editor)

Production has started at Timken’s Tyger River plant in Union County on massive bearings for use in wind turbines for China’s Goldwind Science and Technology Company, the fifth largest wind power maker in the world, as part of a $26 million contract.

Under the terms of the contract Timken provides engineering, advanced bearings, and condition monitoring equipment for Goldwind, said Lorrie Paul Crum, spokeswoman for Timken, a Ohio-based company that has operations in 27 countries and $3.1 billion in sales in 2009.

Timken’s Union plant has about 500 workers and 150 at their distribution center in Spartanburg. Both facilities have benefited from the Goldwind contract, said Crum.

The contract has turned out to be as much a preserver of jobs through the early parts of the recession as it was a creator of new jobs, although layoffs did occur at the Union plant and at Timken’s plant in Walhalla. When the recession hit hard in 2009, Timken was already retooling in Union even as it started phasing out several lines in there.

Work was finished on retooling the Union plant earlier this year.“These things are six feet in diameter,” Crum said of the UltraWind bearings used in wind turbines. “They don’t work like traditional ball bearings but run on an inner track housed in a massive outer shell.”

Wind turbine bearings support nearly friction free rotation of gigantic blades which catch even the slightest breeze and convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity for customers around the world, Crum said.

Timken began making ultra-large bearings for wind turbines in Xiangtan, China and later retooled and expanded its U.S. facilities in Asheboro, N.C., and Union.

The company already has plants making the wind turbine bearings in Wuxi, China; Chennai, India; and Ploiesti, Romania. The company also provides steel from its facilities in Canton, Ohio, for its own production and wind-energy components for other customers.

"The collaboration between our companies brings together two leaders developing advanced technologies for efficient, green power generation," said Leong Fang, president of Timken China.

"The opportunity to support Goldwind's leadership on these platforms plays to Timken's strength: engineering sustainable systems for large turbines, from a range of proprietary materials to a breadth of power transmission products and services for the extended life of the equipment," said Christopher Coughlin, president of Timken Process Industries.

Coughlin said the companies have agreed to collaborate further on development programs, including using Timken's advanced engineering design to reduce cycle times for new platforms and incorporating the company's "life cycle" service approach to contribute to sustainable performance and uptime of Goldwind's projects around the world.

As the wind power business grows globally Timken is well positioned through its relationship with Goldwind, said Caughlin."We've established wind power manufacturing and service capabilities on three continents, which is important as Goldwind looks to grow globally," he said.

Company officials said Goldwind got new wind power orders in 2009 on equipment to produce 2,722 megawatts. That’s about 20 % of all wind generation added in China last year. Timken will support 1,500 megawatts of that new capacity, some of that new work going through the Union plant.
UltraWind tapered roller bearings and condition-monitoring systems and services are used in Goldwind's current 1.5-megawatt and 2.5-megawatt platforms, company officials said.

Timken last week reported sales of $1.0 billion in the second quarter of 2010, an increase of 37 % over the same period a year ago. The Bearings and Power Transmission Group had second-quarter sales of $694.7 million, up 14 % from $608.4 million for the same period last year. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for the second quarter were $104.6 million, up 150 % from $41.8 million in the second quarter of 2009.

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