Compressor specialist T/CCI enhances R&D capabilities
By Chad Elmore19 July 2021
How an Advanced Testing Center has revolutionized customer value with 24-hour remote access.
If you build it, they will come… to you for testing.
That is the reality, in its simplest form, that has been the primary driver for T/CCI Manufacturing to continuously invested in its research and development capabilities.
The compressor specialist’s portfolio of test benches, data loggers and other equipment has evolved over the years and it has done in step with its customers. The company’s test capabilities have now been neatly packaged as the Advanced Testing Center (ATC), located on its headquarters campus in Decatur, Illinois.
The company focuses on compressor technology including reciprocating, swash plate, wobble plate, variable compressor and air brake designs and is a supplier to the heavy duty trucking, agriculture, construction, specialty vehicle and transport refrigeration markets, in many cases working directly with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
T/CCI expects ATC to help it develop and optimize customer systems for efficiency, durability, quality and cost-effectiveness. It can test all components of heating systems, as well as air-conditioning and battery cooling components in electric vehicles. It can replicate climatic conditions ranging from -40º F to 120º F while vibration and thermal imaging equipment looks for potential hot spots in condensers.
The company said the center can run 24 hours a day for a fraction of the cost in time and money for a wind tunnel, which would allow the team to provide a range of solutions for specific customer applications, even on limited-quantity partnerships.
The center’s dual systems have 50 kW capability and can recreate real-world conditions without the power requirements, overhead and risk associated with wind tunnels.
The role of risk mitigation
T/CCI knows the risks associated with wind tunnels. The company was faced with the need to replace its wind tunnel in early 2017.
Dick Ennis, director of engineering with T/CCI, said, “Throughout my career, running a wind tunnel has been my favorite job. It is like your favorite ride at an amusement park and at the same time you’re recording a lot of data – there’s so much happening at the same time. It was a very quirky thing that happened in our wind tunnel.”
As T/CCI planned for the replacement of its test facility in Decatur, Ennis and team thought they did not need a new wind tunnel at all.
He explained, “There is an extensive amount of experience in my engineering group. We have over a hundred years of compressor and HVAC experience combined. Between myself and my other engineers, we have over 50 years of wind tunnel experience. We actually used that experience to convince management that not replacing the wind tunnel was the logical path.”
One-of-a-kind test center will benefit customers
Ennis and team figured they did not need to build another multimillion-dollar climatic wind tunnel to support the development work T/CCI handled for its customers.
He said, “A wind tunnel is great for complete vehicle testing, but the specific markets that we’re involved with are basically HVAC, refrigeration and compressors. When we tested a bus or we tested Class 8 trucks or automobiles, we had to receive the vehicle in Decatur.
“There are so many extraneous parameters in a wind tunnel test that are not relevant to the HVAC or the refrigeration system on a semi-trailer.”
Combined with T/CCI’s experience with HVAC testing and compressor development, the company expects the test center to bring even greater value to customers.
Richard Demirjian, the T/CCI president, explained, “Testing in tunnels and over the road is really expensive, the vehicles themselves cost multimillion dollars just to build.
“With this one-of-a-kind center we are able to test key measurables in a wide variety of conditions to see where potential problems could arise, and make adjustments to designs before the first product reaches the customer.
“Our new Advanced Testing Center allows us to set specifications that are very robust, and they encompass what we had with our original wind tunnel, but in a more focused way.
“The capital investment in ATC may not have been as high as the alternative, but the gains are highly significant because we are able to take our customer’s products from anywhere in the world. We can install it in our system bench at the right elevation and climatic conditions that the customer requires.”
Global remote access with ATC
In the past, complete prototypes would be transported to Decatur in time for its slot in the wind tunnel. Then it needed to be parked in the tunnel, set on the dynamometer and instrumented.
Now, when the team changes certain parameters during a test, a task that would have taken hours in the old lab can be done in ten minutes with the new system.
Ennis explained, “ATC gives us flexibility. It does not matter where you are in the world. If you have a new system developed and we are applying our products to it, you send just the components to us and we can set it up and evaluate our product within your system. We will provide correlatable data up front in a very short time span.”
By reducing the time that vehicles need to spend in a tunnel and road testing, T/CCI said the new lab will allow it to find problems, make changes and bring products to market more quickly and economically.
The company has a global footprint with manufacturing locations in Argentina, China, India as well as the United States.
This article originally ran in the June 2021 issue of Diesel Progress.