Imagine walking into your local dealer and asking for a bearing for a 1918 thresher. Would they laugh you out of the store, or just give you dumb looks? Apparently, in some cases it would be business as usual, and they would want a more complete description of the part you need.
Andy Sykes of CNH Industrial is an engineer who heads up the department in charge of supplying parts for all equipment once it is out of production. The request for the bearing to a 1918 thresher was one of this most memorable.
"The thing was, our guys tried to make it out of materials we use today, and it wouldn't work right on the machine," he says. "The material around the bearing had to be made out of white oak wood. Once we figured that out, we were able to make a bearing so the machine could be part of old-time threshing demonstrations or whatever they were doing with it."
Not all requests that Sykes gets are quite that rare and unique. But he notes that modern technology had changed the way they do business. When he first started some 30 years ago, he would walk down a long room between drawing boards that different engineers were working on. Today most of it is done on computer.
"We can even take an old part and make a blueprint for it with the equipment we have," he says. "In many ways it's actually more precise because some of the older engineering blueprints weren't 100% accurate in every detail."
The process of 3-D imaging is beginning to be part of what they do, he notes. In theory, he says, you could use 3-D imaging to make a replica of an entire tractor. This process will have many applications in equipment engineering and manufacturing.