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Monthly Archives: April 2013

  • What Are Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE)?

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Supply Chain

    Buyers and seal designers want the best of both worlds. Some materials are too hard. Others are too soft. Then there are compounds that seem to have the right combination of properties, but that can’t handle cold temperatures or that cost too much. Material selection can be challenging. So when new compounds hit the market, it helps to have a supply chain partner in your corner.

    The Best of All Worlds

    Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are a group of rubber-like materials that combine the processing strengths of thermoplastics with the best qualities of thermoset rubbers. As their name suggests, thermoplastics are temperature-sensitive plastics that become soft or even fluid when heated, and then harden when cooled. They can be molded into custom shapes ranging from check valves to coffee cups.

    Thermoset rubbers are elastomers, pliable materials that can resume their normal shape after being stretched, twisted, or distorted. Think of a rubber band and you’re thinking of an elastomeric product. For buyers and product designers who want the best of both worlds – or maybe the best of all worlds – TPEs or thermoplastic rubbers (TPR) may be the right choice.

    TPE vs. Rubber

    TPE has a higher material cost than other rubbers, but is cost-effective for small runs because it cures right away. Since thermoplastic elastomers are also 20% lighter than other types of rubber, TPE shipping costs are lower, too. If “cleaner and greener” is part of your company’s philosophy, you’ll like that scrap TPE is fully recyclable. This novel material has lower extruding temperatures, can produce profiles in any color, and is more elastic. TPE profiles such as window seals and door seals are also easier to install.

    TPE vs. Plastic

    Thermoplastic rubbers also offer advantages over polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a popular plastic that’s often used in place of metals or even wood in construction products. Flexible and pliable, TPE is less likely to break, especially in cold temperatures. In addition to its shape memory and lower thermal conductivity, TPE can be used in expansion joints. According to one supplier, TPE can expand to 800 times it original size within 48 hours.

    Potential Drawbacks

    Is TPE the right choice for every application? Of course not! There are issues with bendability in corners. There are also problems with form-curing TPE profiles, and excessive flash when welding frames.  Because of their higher material costs compared to other rubbers, thermoplastic elastomers might not cost-effective for some high-volume runs.

    So how can you tell if TPE is right for your application? For starters, choose a partner and not a provider. Ask your sealing supplier to listen to all of your requirements and to analyze all of your needs. Remember, too, that Elasto Proxy is here to help.

  • Doing Business in Brazil – Challenges and Opportunities

    Doing Business in Brazil Doing Business in Brazil

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    Are you seeking new markets for your manufactured products? Does your company serve customers in mining, mass transit, or mobile specialty vehicles? Have you considered doing business with Brazil, a Latin American powerhouse that now boasts the world’s sixth largest economy? International trade offers incredible opportunities, but also poses serious challenges – especially for a small business.

    Small Business Insights for Doing Business in Brazil

    Recently, Donna Sharpe and I returned from our second trip to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. As co-founders and co-owners of Elasto Proxy, a growing supplier of sealing solutions with offices in Canada, the United States, and China, we’re drawn to Brazil’s boundless energy and incredible talent. Visiting the country a second time afforded us some additional insights we’d like to share with you.

    When Donna and I visited  São Paulo last November, we were part of a trade delegation from Elastomer Valley, a group of Québec-based businesses in search of new economic opportunities. Last month, we returned to São Paulo with SME Passport, another program that provides Québec’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with the keys to unlock international markets.

    Business Opportunities

    During our most recent trip, Donna and I met with several Brazilian businesses that would make ideal partners for our Canadian company. As an experienced custom-fabricator of high-value, low-volume rubber products, Elasto Proxy has the application knowledge and technical expertise to meet the needs of manufacturers of agricultural equipment, mobile specialty vehicles, and mass transit systems.

    Many of the companies we met with are part of well-established international firms with facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia. In seeking strategic relationships, businesses in Brazil want to strengthen their supply chains by finding partners who are more than just product providers. The sales process is different in Brazil, but doing business still means building relationships.

    Like our partners in other parts of the world, the companies we met with were looking for both high-quality rubber products and innovative inventory management. Elasto Proxy could open its own facility in São Paulo, of course, but the Brazilian government offers access to a bonded warehouse where employees pick and pull items from your company’s container for shipments to your customers.

    The Speed of Change

    Brazil is growing and changing, but some things still don’t move quickly enough for the country’s talented and energetic entrepreneurs. For example, because Brazil still has protected markets, the sales process requires lengthy government approvals. Goods are taxed differently in Brazil, and the product classification system is complex, too.

    For foreign companies, there are steep duties on imported goods to consider. Specialty products that can’t be made in Brazil are taxed less, so custom-fabricators like Elasto Proxy may be able to leverage the regulatory structure. The trip that Donna and I took to Brazil was only our second, however, so we want to learn more about doing business in Brazil before making long-term decisions.

    Specialty Seals and Thermal Acoustic Insulation

    Elasto Proxy’s recent trip was an important step in our decision-making process, and a very positive one overall. In addition to strengthening new business relationships, we learned more about the Brazilian market’s demand for specialty seals, thermal acoustic insulation, composite materials, and specialty flooring.

    From engine compartments to tractor cabs,  Brazil needs high-quality rubber products and reliable suppliers who can deliver multiple components. There are opportunities in military vehicles, too, as the South American country is increasing defense spending.

    Donna and I are looking forward our next trip to São Paulo this summer, and welcome your questions – as well as your own insights – about doing business in Brazil. How can we help you?

  • The Sealing Industry Is Changing. Are You Ready?

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    Manufacturing capabilities

    The sealing industry is changing. Is your supply chain strong enough to adjust? Are you ready to benefit from new seal designs, material compounds, and production configurations? Demand for specialty seals has transformed the global marketplace, but how can these changes help your business to source high-value sealing solutions?

    Seal Design and Seal Demand

    Since the 1980s, shipments of seals and gaskets have nearly tripled in the United States alone. The Great Recession tempered demand in the world’s largest economy, but sealing suppliers are finding markets abroad in places like Brazil and China. Meanwhile, manufacturers across North America and Europe are designing industrial products with increasingly complex seal designs and material requirements.

    If you’re an industrial buyer or a product designer, it’s important to understand how these changes in technical design and global demand can affect your business. As Kerry C. Smith of Rubber and Plastic News explains, it’s also important for sealing suppliers to understand that the art of sealing is now part “engineering science”.

    Specialty Rubbers and Material Requirements

    Traditionally, sealing suppliers sold standard rubber products mainly to manufacturers of durable goods. Today, seal designers and custom fabricators are also serving industries ranging from aerospace to oil field exploration. Meanwhile, demand in the automotive industry is also changing, with newer and more stringent requirements such as longer seal life at higher temperatures and near-zero permeation.

    Regular rubber gaskets may be suitable for many low-pressure and low-temperature applications, but synthetic rubbers and thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are designed for specialized uses. Although specialty rubbers are more expensive, these newer polymers combine characteristics such as strong fuel, oil, and temperature resistance. TPEs have less heat resistance, but are lightweight and durable.

    Production Capabilities and Inventory Management

    For all buyers, regardless of industry, the availability of specialty rubber materials means more options than ever before. Yet changes in buyer demand and compound selection aren’t the only sealing challenges facing technical designers and custom fabricators. In response to increased international competition, sealing suppliers must improve production quality and reduce manufacturing costs.

    Seal fabrication must meet exacting standards and specifications, too. For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Force needed specialty rubber gaskets for military aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. By procuring parts that met all mission requirements and were configured for multiple applications, the Air Force improved its logistics and inventory management, too.

    The Elasto Proxy Example          

    Elasto Proxy works with buyers who want to benefit from new seal designs, material compounds, and production configurations. That’s why our technical services team uses SolidWorks™, a 3D CAD application, to validate technical designs and optimize them for cost and weight. By analyzing the deformation of a rubber profile, for example, we may be able to reduce your material costs.

    Elasto Proxy’s custom fabrication capabilities include water jet cutting, splicing, taping, die cutting, cold bonding, vulcanizing, and molding. With support from our machinery, many of the small-to-medium quantities that we produce are hand-crafted at our world headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada. To learn more about Elasto Proxy and how we can help, please contact us today.

  • How to Read ASTM D2000 Specifications

    Doug Sharpe

    President of Elasto Proxy

    ASTMASTM D2000 is a published specification that provides buyers and suppliers with a standard way to describe rubber. Designed for automotive applications, this classification system is also used by other industries because it’s clear, concise, and highly descriptive.

    As I explained in my last blog entry, buyers will benefit by understanding ASTM D 2000 because this specification provides a “common language” for communicating with sealing suppliers. So let’s begin a lesson in the language of rubber and learn how to speak ASTM D 2000.

    Call Outs

    ASTM D 2000 uses letters and numbers to describe or “call out” the properties of vulcanized rubber. Type and Class are the most important call outs to consider.  In the language of rubber, think of Types and Classes as nouns and verbs – the building blocks of sentences. There are also other callouts that, like adjectives and verbs, help with descriptions.

    Here’s a complete “sentence” in ASTM D2000. We’ll use it as an example throughout.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Yes, this dialect in the language of rubber looks complicated. But let’s crack the code one step at a time by examining its components:

    • Standards
    • Year Last Revised
    • Units of Measure
    • Grade
    • Durometer Hardness and Tensile Strength
    • Suffixes

    Standard

    The first few letters and numbers (ASTM D 2000) simply indicate the standard.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Year Last Revised

    The -3 after the 2000 indicates the year (2003) in which the standard was last revised.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Units of Measure

    The M after the -3 indicates that all units of measure are metric. So, when you’re reading about temperatures, think Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit. If the M is missing, then English units are used.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Grade

    In our example, the 2 after the -3 is the grade of the rubber. Typically, grade numbers are only given when the basic requirement (Grade 1) doesn’t sufficiently describe the material’s properties.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Type

    Type describes a rubber’s temperature resistance - and is so important in our sample ASTM D 2000 “sentence” that Type is like a noun! Look for the type (B) after the grade (2).

     ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    With types, a rubber material must meet the following requirements after 70 hours of heat aging at a specified temperature.

    • Change in tensile strength: ±30%
    • Change in hardness:  -50% max.
    • Change in hardness ±15 points

    So what are these specified temperatures? That’s what the table below explains.

    Table 1 - Types

    ASTM D 2000 assigns a letter to each test temperature. Again, our example uses Type B.

    Type Test Temp (°C)
    A 70
    B 100
    C 125
    D 150
    E 175
    F 200
    G 225
    H 250
    J 275
    K 300

    Class

    Class describes a rubber’s resistance to swelling in oil after 70 hours at the temperatures listed in Table 1, but only up to 150° C. In case you’re wondering, that’s the maximum temperature stability of the test oil (IRM No. 903) used in ASTM D 2000.

    In the language of rubber, class is so important that it’s like a verb. By putting a noun (type) and verb (class) together, we form a basic sentence in ASTM D 2000. As with most English sentences, too, our verb (G) follows the noun (B).

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Table 2 - Classes

    ASTM D 2000 then assigns lettered classes to each maximum allowable volume swell by percentage (%). Again, our example uses Class G.

    Type Max. Swell (%)
    A No requirement
    B 140
    C 120
    D 100
    E 80
    F 60
    G 40
    H 30
    J 20
    K 10

     

    Durometer Hardness and Tensile Strength

    ASTM D 2000 defines durometer hardness and tensile strength with a three-digit number.

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    In our example of 714, the 7 denotes a material with a durometer hardness of 70 ± 5 A. The 14 indicates that the tensile strength must be at least 14 MPa, or 2032 psi.

    Suffixes

    As we’ve learned, the language of rubber contains the equivalent of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech. There are suffixes, too – literally. These combinations of letters and numbers can be quite long, depending on your requirements. As you can see, our example is half suffix!

    ASTM D 2000-3 M2BG714B14EA14EF11EF31 EO14 EO34 F17

    Table 3 – Suffix Letters

    ASTM D 2000 assigns a letter to each suffix elements.

    Suffix Required Test
    A Heat Resistance
    B Compression Set
    C Ozone or Weather Resistance
    D Compression-Deflection Resistance
    EA Water Resistance
    EF Fuel Resistance
    EO Oil and Lubricant Resistance
    F Low Temperature Resistance
    G Tear Resistance
    H Flex Resistance
    J Abrasion Resistance
    K Adhesion
    M Flammability Resistance
    N Impact Resistance
    P Staining Resistance
    R Resilience
    Z Other (User-Defined)

    Language can be colorful, of course, and the language of rubber is no exception. Remember, however, to always assume that the color of rubber is black except for FC, FE, FK, and GE. If you need a different color rubber material, then consider that a color change may also change the material’s physical properties. When in doubt, check with your supplier!

    Table 4 – Suffix Numbers

    In addition to letters, suffixes contain numbers.

    • The first number specifies the duration of the test and the test method.
    • The second number indicates the testing temperature.

    Understanding all of the suffix numbers in ASTM D 2000 is a tall order and means purchasing the specification. If you do buy the entire standard from ASTM International, then refer to Tables 4 and 5 for details. Remember, too, that there are restrictions on how much of ASTM D 2000 you can share.

    Class Dismissed!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson in the language of rubber and now understand how to read ASTM D 2000 specifications. If you have questions, need clarifications, or are still wondering if a rubber material is right for your application, please contact Elasto Proxy. How can we help you?

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