Brian Halverson, Bruce Neumiller, and Brian Hastings
Gearboxes have been a headache for the wind industry ever since turbines passed the 1-MW size over a decage ago. If that was not bad enough, the root cause of many problems eluded engineers until recently.
While the industry wrestled with the problem, the only solution it knew for a failed gearbox was to replace it. And although many uptower repairs are now possible, the replacement gearbox was little better than the broken unit.
In this environment, three guys recognized a huge installed base of wind turbines that were not properly serviced by the aftermarket. “Being gearbox and bearing guys, we saw ways to offer an improved and upgraded product, rather than a same-as replacement gearbox,” says Bruce Neumiller. “This would also provide an increased level of customer service to the industry.”
To serve the recognized need, Neumiller along with Brian Halverson and Brian Hastings, organized the company now called Gearbox Express. Each man brings complimentary experience to the company. “Halverson and I have been in gearing most of our working lives and Hastings was in bearings. Brian Halverson is a good operations guy, Brian Hastings is a good strategic finance guy, and I’m the network and sales guy,” says Neumiller, who is now company CEO.
More significant than just repairing gearboxes is their upgrade to the units, accomplished with the assistance of gearbox design-firm Romax and bearing-manufacturer Timken. Romax provides analytical assistance, as well as detailing and optimizing the gear and bearing micro-geometry while Timken helps engineer upgraded bearings and components. Other gearbox upgrades include active equipment to keep water out of gearbox oil, longer than standard lubricant filters to remove six-micron debris from oil while not sacrificing flow, and improvements to other components to give the redesign a longer lease on life. The company’s confidence in their work lets them include a five-year warranty, about twice that of original equipment.
The three opened up shop early 2012 in a vacant 43,000 ft² facility near Milwaukee. But in just a couple years, the company has outgrown the building and will move into a 75,000 ft² custom-built facility in a few months.
So for making wind turbines more reliable and productive, and the wind industry just a little more profitable, we recognize the founders of Gearbox Express as Wind Industry Innovators for 2015.
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