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Monthly Archives: November 2014

  • Will 3D Printing Reduce or Increase Plastic Waste?

    Better Future Factory (BFF) Image Credit: Better Future Factory (BFF) Perpetual Plastic Project

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Does your office still use computer printers and copy machines? Thirty-nine years ago, Business Week magazine foresaw a paperless office. Although some predictions in The Office of the Future have come true, others have not. Today, I’m able to “call up documents from my files on my screen,” as George E. Parke of the Xerox Research Center correctly conjectured. Yet there’s still a place for paper at work.

    According to The Economist, global consumption of office paper doubled in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Since 2001, however, paper usage has fallen. What explains the change? Is it because office workers are more environmentally conscious, or at least more conscious of paper waste? Perhaps. Today, as industry embraces a new form of “printing”, will the consumption of plastic feedstocks used in additive manufacturing lead to a dramatic increase in waste, followed by an eventual decline?

    Red Solo Cups Keep the Party Going

    Several years ago, American country star Toby Keith sang “Red Solo Cup, I fill you up. Let’s have a party”, a reference to the disposable red plastic cups used at many outdoor celebrations. Those red solo cups usually end up in landfills, however, and are slow to biodegrade because they’re made of polystyrene, an inexpensive thermoplastic that’s also used in many packaging materials. If consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, will our consumption of red solo cups fall like printer paper?

    If the Better Future Factory (BFF) is successful, there’s no need to echo Willie Nelson and sing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” just yet. Founded by five industrial design engineering graduates from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, BFF aims to connect local streams of plastic wastes to the growing market for 3D printers and plastic feedstocks. Today, many 3D printers – especially the desktop models used at home – consume so-called “virgin plastics” instead of recycled materials.

    The Perpetual Plastic Project

    In a recent article in The Guardian, a national daily newspaper from Great Britain, BFF described its Perpetual Plastic Project, an interactive recycling system that lets consumers operate machines that turn plastic waste into 3D printer filaments. The global market for these feedstocks is growing, and is expected to reach $669-million (USD) this year. Plastics such as polystyrene aren’t the only materials used in 3D printing, but many consumer applications use polymers instead of metals or ceramics.

    For fans of additive manufacturing, the Perpetual Plastic Project is both entertaining and educational. First, plastic scrap such as red solo cups are cleaned and dried. Then they’re shredded and filtered. Next, the recycled plastic is extruded and spooled into filaments. Finally, the Perpetual Plastic Project provides help with product design and, of course, additive manufacturing. Visitors to these recycling “events” get to keep what they make, but you’ll have to travel to Europe, Asia, or Africa to participate.

    Industrial Plastic Solutions?

    On its website, the Better Future Factory (BFF) recognizes that 3D printing has the “potential” to spark “a new industrial revolution.” These days, that claim isn’t as dramatic as predictions of a paperless office were back in 1975. The Perpetual Plastic Project may be enough for some consumers, but is there an industrial-scale solution for manufacturers? Recycling those red solo cups from your next office party may not provide enough plastic – or the right kind – for your company’s next 3D printed prototype.

    Here at Elasto Proxy, we’re excited by the promise of additive manufacturing, yet also aware of your environmental concerns. In the last year, we’ve leveraged the power of 3D printing to support mold making, prototyping, and low-volume production of auto parts for an electric vehicle. Our growing, global company has also introduced a line of green rubber products for a wide range of industries, including building and construction, automotive, and mass transit.

    How Can We Help You?

    Do you have questions about recycled elastomers or biodegradable plastics? Would you like to learn more about our experience with 3D printing, or how green rubber products can support your product designs – and your bottom line? By listening to all of your application requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can help.

    Please contact us for more information, or join the conversation on our social media channels. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

  • Custom Rubber Seals for Water Filtration Systems

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    John Rye Branch Manager at Elasto Proxy

    Water filtration systems remove impurities from water through physical barriers, chlorine disinfection, or ultraviolet (UV) light. In wastewater treatment plants, metal gates are bolted to concrete frames to control liquid flow and channel the effluent for disinfection. To prevent leakage, a rubber seal is fitted to the bottom of the gate’s frame. This seal attaches to the gate with bolts, and must withstand prolonged exposure to water and contact with the concrete base.

    When a manufacturer of water filtration systems needed a high-quality sealing solution for its gates, Elasto Proxy delivered.  By listening to all of the partner’s needs and analyzing all of their requirements, , we recommended a standard rubber profile for custom fabrication, helped with compound selection, and applied our cutting and joining expertise. Today, Elasto Proxy stocks this custom rubber seal at our warehouse in Newmarket, Ontario, and ships quantities according to the manufacturer’s sales forecasts.

    Seal Profile and Compound Selection

    As an experienced custom fabricator, Elasto Proxy can solve sealing challenges where an existing rubber component hasn’t met service conditions. For the manufacturer of water filtration systems, the bottom seal on the metal gate was an existing part that required stronger joints, better contact sealing, and proper compression and recovery. The 60-durometer EPDM lip seal (J-seal) that we recommended met all of these requirements, while controlling costs and strengthening the supply chain.

    First, Elasto Proxy analyzed the current seal design, a large P-shaped profile made of natural rubber. At nearly 2-inches high and 4-inches wide, this gate seal was especially thick. To promote compression, the gasket had a hollow center yet still required a significant amount of force. The profile’s corners were probably joined with cold-bonding, a cost-effective splicing method that’s better suited for gaskets that won’t be exposed to high temperatures or outdoor environments.

    Next, our technical team analyzed requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and determined that natural rubber wasn’t required for this application. This was an important discovery since EPDM rubber offers greater resistance to UV light, the disinfection method used by manufacturer’s water filtration system. The J-seal that we recommended also provided the right hardness and shape to support compression resistance.

    Water Jet Cutting and Infrared Splicing

    After replacing the P-shaped profile with a lip seal and recommending EPDM instead of natural rubber, Elasto Proxy applied its custom fabrication expertise. To produce a pattern of bolt holes for attaching the rubber seal to the metal gate, we used our water jet cutting machine to make fine, fast, precise cuts. To produce strong bonds and support the lip seal’s large size, we used our new infrared (IR) film splicer. Among its many advantages, IR splicing is faster than cold bonding and less expensive than molding.

    Next, the custom rubber seals that Elasto Proxy crafted were subjected to rigorous in-house testing by the manufacturer. By working closely our partner, we revised the first die and then used a second tool to achieve the desired results. Today, Elasto Proxy holds the customer’s seals in stock and ships them according to annual usage. Our quick turnaround time meet their needs, and there are now over 50 other sizes that incorporate our custom-fabricated profile.

    How Can We Help You?

    Do you have questions about specialty lip seals for your application? For 25 years, Elasto Proxy has been solving sealing and insulation challenges in a variety of industries. By listening to all of your application requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can help.

    Please contact us for more information, or join the conversation on our social media channels. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

  • Custom Weatherstripping Closes the Door on Sealing Challenges

    Weatherstripping

    Doug Sharpe President of Elasto Proxy

    Here in the northern hemisphere, the nights grow longer and the temperatures colder. In Canada, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, the snow will arrive before December 21, the first day of winter. For building managers and maintenance personnel, the time to insulate doors and seal windows is now. Weatherstripping helps to stop air leaks, increasing occupant comfort and saving heating costs. That’s not all that that rubber weather strip can do, however.

    In the southern hemisphere, maintenance crews are preparing for summer temperatures and higher cooling costs. By filling gaps and plugging leaks, sealing and insulation prevents air conditioning from escaping via drafty doors and windows. During our own summertime in the northern hemisphere, we share these same concerns. All year round and across the seasons, it’s important to protect against precipitation, too. Standard weatherstripping is available, but sometimes a custom solution is required. That's where custom weatherstripping comes in.

    How Weatherstripping Works

    Weather stripping is installed between two surfaces to prevent the flow of gases or liquids. In outdoor applications, the gas is usually air and the liquid is usually water. Static seals are used when there’s no relative motion between mating surfaces, such as the windows in a skyscraper. Dynamic seals are recommended when there’s motion or movement between two sealing surfaces, such as the front door and door frame in the entrance to an office building.

    Standard weatherstripping is suitable for static environments, and can be supplied with an adhesive backing for ease of installation. Closed cell foams made of a medium-density neoprene are a popular choice, and provide both oil and aging resistance. Rubber weather strip that’s made of other materials, such as silicone or EPDM, are also available. For dynamic sealing and environments with changing weather conditions, compound selection is critical and a custom-fabricated seal may be required.

    The Case for Custom Fabrication

    Some manufacturers use off-the-shelf weather stripping to seal gaps. Often, these materials are mainly fillers that form a static seal. Since they’re not meant for dynamic sealing, however, standard weather strip may demonstrate poor compression set recovery with repeated opening and closing. That’s true not just for commercial doors, but also for car doors and the doors to electronic enclosures. Winter will soon be upon us here in Canada, but a sealing challenge from several summers ago comes to mind.

    When a cold-weather manufacturer needed to supply electronic highway signs to a warm-weather customer, the supplier learned that the standard weather stripping on the metal enclosures couldn’t withstand the summer sun. That’s when the manufacturer asked Elasto Proxy for a custom-fabricated sealing solution, and we delivered high-quality rubber seals that were used to retrofit hundreds of cabinets. The supplier kept the highway contract, and the electronics inside the enclosures stayed dry.

    How Can We Help You?

    Do you have questions about rubber weatherstripping for doors, windows, or HVAC hatches? For 25 years, Elasto Proxy has been solving sealing and insulation challenges in a variety of industries, including construction, automotive, and electronics. By listening to all of your application requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can help.

    Please contact us for more information, or join the conversation on our social media channels. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

  • EMI Gaskets: Balancing Cost with Performance

    EMI V2

    Roger Ferreira Sealing Solutions Provider at Elasto Proxy

    Particle-filled, electrically-conductive silicones are a group of elastomers that provide EMI shielding and environmental sealing. The causes of electromagnetic interference (EMI) are numerous, but so are your choices when specifying metal-filled silicones for EMI gaskets. By working with a custom fabricator who understands your application, you can source electromagnetic shielding that meets your requirements for both performance and cost.

    First, however, it’s important to understand why you need an EMI gasket – and why silicone is the right rubber to choose. After all, your engineering blueprint may simply say “rubber gasket”, and omit other details. Next, you’ll need to determine which type of metallic particles provide the best combination of performance and cost. Finally, it’s worth understanding how the conductive pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) is applied to the silicone, and why the materials you buy cost what they do.

    Metal-Filled Silicones for EMI Shielding

    Electromagnetic interference (EMI) interference can disrupt, disable, and even destroy the sensitive components used in military electronics and medical equipment. EMI gaskets cost more than what some buyers might call “a regular rubber gasket,” but they’re worth the price. Just compare the cost of the damaged electronics in a military vehicle or medical monitor to that of EMI shielding. Every rubber has different properties, and an elastomer that’s good for cushioning might not provide EMI protection.

    Other conductive elastomers are available, but particle-filled silicones combine the strengths of silicone rubber with specialized characteristics imparted by metal particles. An inert, synthetic rubber, silicone offers thermal stability over a wide temperature range and resists both ozone and ultraviolet (UV) light. Silicone rubber also resists water and many types of chemicals. When you choose a metal-filled silicone for EMI shielding and environmental sealing, you’re selecting a material with many desirable properties.

    All Particle-Filled Silicones Aren’t the Same

    Like other materials, particle-filled silicones are available in different types or grades. Today, specialty silicones with silver-coated aluminum particles are used widely in EMI shielding. Silver is more expensive than many other materials, however, and that’s reflected in the cost of silicone compounds with silver-coated aluminum particles. Nickel-coated, graphite-filled silicones cost less, but can still achieve the EMI shielding performance of silicones with silver-coated aluminum.

    Are you skeptical of this claim? Elasto Proxy can source particle-filled, electrically conductive silicones from a trusted supplier that’s submitted its nickel-coated, graphite-filled silicones for third-party testing. All test results are available upon request, both for the nickel-coated, graphite-filled silicones and the silicones compounds with silver-coated aluminum particles. Please contact us for more information, and we’ll share the supplier’s test results with you.

    Conductive PSA and Manufacturing Costs

    Now that you understand why EMI gaskets cost more than “regular rubber gaskets”, are you still wondering why even the nickel-coated, graphite-filled silicones cost what they do? There are two ways to add the conductive PSA, and both involve costs. Laminating the PSA onto a silicone sheet or silicone roll is effective, but cutting a pattern from the material often results in some scrap or waste. Molded EMI gaskets are labor-intensive to produce, and tooling costs may apply.

    Molding the gasket means pre-forming the silicone in an uncured state. Next, heat and pressure is applied for 15 minutes at a time. This process can take many hours, depending on the volume to produce. Finally, cutting is followed by manual placement. That’s why Elasto Proxy works with a trusted supplier of particle-filled silicones who produces rolls, cuts down the sheets, and applies the PSA. This promotes efficiency, and let us apply our own expertise to custom-fabricating your EMI gaskets.

    How Can We Help You?

    Do you have questions about EMI gaskets made from metal-filled silicones? For 25 years, Elasto Proxy has been solving sealing and insulation challenges in a variety of industries. By listening to all of your application requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can help.

    Please contact us for more information, or join the conversation on our social media channels. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

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