The paper presents the latest research results on the piston ring free shape. A new free shape measurement method with optical gauging was developed. Three numerical models to compute the contact force distribution of piston ring were developed using finite element analysis (FEA). These numerical methods have been compared each other, and validated with the experimental results of ring deformation in a ring gage. The contact force distribution of a piston ring at working condition was also studied. It consists of the ring thermal boundary conditions (RTBC) validation, 3-D FEA thermal analysis and thermal contact force computation based on validated wire-cable element model. The RTBC for heavy duty diesel engine has been validated for the first time using a CUMMINS L10 engine test. Three different free shapes have been tested. The wear band measurements of tested rings all show tremendous improvements over the standard top ring. It was found that the tip contact concentration is a key factor of tip scuffing during break-in.A procedure to define a free shape producing uniform contact force distribution at working condition was developed.