Elgin, IL--New elastomeric materials, processes, and a growing understanding of material bonding technology constantly merge to create new solutions for engineering problems. Such designs can involve anything from a crucial seal to force isolation and vibration dampening.
Moreover, conflicting design objectives introduce an interesting paradox: How do you make a material that is both strong but elastic, solid but cushioning, durable but soft. The answer: permanently fuse two dissimilar materials into one.
For instance, the strength of steel can be combined with the flexibility of rubber and the chemical resistance of PTFE. Or each layer of nitrile in a metal-to-elastomer sandwich can be made with slightly different characteristics that affect final performance.
Research by material engineers at Chicago Rawhide (CR) provide perfect examples. Here, challenges have ranged from rocket guidance elastomers that must withstand the extremes of 0 to 5,000F in microseconds or an anti-lock washer that measures a precise 0.010-inch thick. An earthquake shock absorber for buildings illustrates yet another product designed and produced by CR's Aerospace Business Unit that helps dissipate the ground's energy, allowing the building a four-ft defection in lateral motion.
What's the secret behind these products? CR research scientists fundamentally altered the understanding of the way seals work when they identified the importance of tiny pockets on a sealing lip's surface. The result: microasperities.
They also changed the thinking about dynamic oil protection. Their recent studies delved into the effects of aeration on lubricants to produce new theories on how to reduce friction and wear.
However, even with sophisticated anti-foaming additive packages, lubricants become acrated in dynamic environments, such as wheel hubs and transmissions. As a result of solving such problems, CR's roster of active patents total 166 in the U.S., 57 in Germany, and 56 in other countries.
At CR, once a compound is formulated, every run is "fingerprinted" using infrared Fast Fourier Transform analysis. Field changes occurring in the material over time, based on the expected use of the product, are then analyzed. CR uses this information to decide upon any improvements before the product goes to market. It also helps the customer gauge warranty-related issues before they might arise.