Barber-Nichols’ founders, Bob Barber and Ken Nichols cut the cake at the company’s 40th-anniversary celebration. Barber and Nichols met while both were employed at Hamilton Sundstrand, decided to go into business for themselves in 1966, and specialized in turbine engineering. Since that time, the company has grown to 61 employees, has fully integrated engineering and manufacturing facilities, and works in a variety of industries including aeronautics, cryogenics, national defense, power generation, and space flight. In an impromptu speech, Nichols said, “I get the most pride from the fact that this company provides good stable jobs where people are able to grow, take risks, and make a difference. This company truly values its people.”
Today Barber-Nichols Inc. (BNI) is an internationally recognized leader in the designing, engineering, manufacturing, and testing of specialty turbomachinery. Products include blowers, compressors, fans, pumps, turbines, and turbopumps. In addition to custom hardware, BNI also provides engineering consulting and contract manufacturing. BNI’s very first project was the testing of a low-speed, two-stage steam turbine for the U.S. Navy’s Applied Research Laboratory.
To this day, Turbine Development continues to be a Barber-Nichols specialty. Next, BNI designed and built an extremely quiet, 10kW, portable power generation system for the U.S. Army. This power system was based on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), and this would become a cornerstone technology at Barber-Nichols. It is still used to harness industrial waste heat and turn it into Electrical Power. In 1974, Barber-Nichols designed and built its first Cryogenic Pump for the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and most recently, BNI has entered the space launch industry with a strong focus on rocket engine turbopumps.
Today Barber is retired from the company, spends much of his time volunteering with charitable and non-profit organizations, and travels the world photographing wildlife and landscapes (Barber Nature Photography). Nichols continues working for the company part-time and focuses on technically challenging projects. And during his time off he enjoys bicycle tours in Europe and spending time in Aspen, Colorado.