President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy
Every door seal is different. Then there are custom components that must meet rigorous requirements. For the mass transit industry, sealing solutions require technical design and custom fabrication of the highest quality. Such was the case with a car builder who needed to retrofit passenger doors on Amtrak trains in the Northeastern U.S.
Bombardier Retrofits Rail Cars
Several years ago, Bombardier asked Elasto Proxy to redesign a complex door seal. The design and delivery deadlines were tight, and the new seal needed to meet all of the old seal’s requirements. Shrinkage, weathering, part usage and thermal expansion were just some of the sealing challenges that our technical services team had to consider.
Selecting the right rubber compound was important, too. Neoprene, a synthetic material that offers a balanced combination of properties, was the best choice. Useful over a wide temperature range, this versatile polymer displays outstanding physical toughness and resists degradation from sun, ozone, and weather. Neoprene compounds also resist burning better than exclusively hydrocarbon rubbers.
Rubber Seals and Human Health
Because rubber compounds can affect human health, the mass transit needs door seals that meet standards for fire, smoke and toxicity (FST). Railcar designers prefer rubbers that are lightweight, but some combustion reactions produce toxins that endanger passenger health and safety. North American specifications differ from European standards, and cities such as Chicago have their own FST regulations.
There are also industry standards to consider. For example, Bombardier SMP-800 C limits the concentration of toxic gases that can be generated by materials used in ground transportation vehicles. ASTM E162 and ASTM E662 from ASTM International define standard test methods for flammability and smoke density.
Product Testing and Passenger Safety
Companies that manufacture railway car doors perform product testing, too. For example, door manufacturers use pull tests to ensure that passengers can extract items of clothing that become stuck between closed doors. Every project has its own platform, but the goal of each “open-shut” test is to demonstrate that fabric from your shirt or jacket won’t stay trapped – and trap you!
Sealing suppliers need to understand that railcar doors must shut tightly enough to keep out wind and weather – but not so tightly that a closed door endangers passenger safety. Every door seal is different, but car builders such as Bombardier understand the uniform importance of passenger health and safety, regardless of where their rail transportation vehicles will be used.
Meet Elasto Proxy at CRTS
For over 20 years, Elasto Proxy has provided the mass transit industry with high-quality, low-volume rubber products such as gaskets, hose protectors, cable cleats and clamps, door and window seals, and seat molding. Next month, our co-owners and co-founders, Doug and Donna Sharpe, will attend the CRTS tradeshow in China along with Andrew Yang, Elasto Proxy’s in-country Sales Representative.
Will you attend Asia’s leading rail transit exhibition, too? If your tradeshow plans include CRTS, I hope you’ll visit Elasto Proxy in Booth A030. In the meantime, please comment on this blog entry if you have questions about how to specify rubber door seals for the mass transit industry.
Sales Representative for Elasto Proxy
Are you ready for the Year of the Snake? According to Shengxiao and the Chinese calendar, the New Year that began on February 10 belongs to a slithering reptile that some people dread. Better known as the Chinese Zodiac, Shengxiao relates the year to an animal and its attributes. Children born in the Year of the Snake are said to be intelligent, insightful, and fortunate with finances. For adults, the 2013 Year of the Snake is a time for steady progress and attention to detail.
Chinese New Year
China’s New Year celebration ended on February 24, but memories of the Spring Festival remain with us. Each year, even if you live far from family, it’s important to return home for this two-week celebration. On New Year’s Eve, extended families gather together for a special Reunion Dinner, shaking off the strains of the past and embracing the future with hope and happiness. Through smiles and laughter, the bonds between children and parents and husbands and wives are strengthened. Together, everyone gains new confidence to face challenges in the year ahead.
Food and Fortune
The Reunion Dinner is the first of many special meals that are served during the Spring Festival. China is a large country, of course, so diet varies by region. Yet there are some dishes that most families enjoy. The best-known is the dumpling with its tasty fillings. Shaped like a gold ingot, this popular and delicious food represents wealth. A hot pot and fish, part of any good meal on New Year’s Eve, also signify hope for the future. Boiling, steaming, and warm, a hot pot symbolizes prosperity. In Chinese, a homonym for the word “fish” implies abundance and affluence.
Speech and Action
Cooking and eating are important, but they’re just part of the Spring Festival. During the Chinese New Year, it’s important to avoid saying unlucky words. Don’t quarrel with or curse others, as both are bad for health and fortune. Remember that a smooth and pleasant start to the New Year ensures good luck all-year long. Also, it’s best to avoid chores such as sweeping the floor or taking out the trash, as good fortune could be swept away. If you need to clean a room, then sweep from the outside in – and keep all garbage bags until the fifth day of the New Year.
Colors and Symbols
Colorful decorations also represent China’s hopes for the New Year. The color red signifies joy, luck, and a longing for a better life. During the Spring Festival, many Chinese households hang red lanterns and paste pairs of red couplets to doors. Generally, the color red accompanies golden yellow. Because the New Year begins when winter’s snows still cover the fields, golden yellow symbolizes farmers’ longing for next year’s harvest.
Doing Business in China
For Westerners doing business in China, participating in the New Year celebration offers a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. To enjoy the festival-like atmosphere and appreciate the hospitality of Chinese people, join in a family feast and paste a pair of red couplets to your door. Yes, it’s too late to celebrate the start of this New Year, but the Year of the Snake lasts until January 30, 2014. Until then and beyond, I hope you’ll build stronger relationships with Chinese friends.
President of Elasto Proxy
In my last blog entry, I recommended grabbing a cup of coffee before diving into this week’s discussion about the coefficient of thermal expansion. Yes, the caffeine will help if you prefer explanations over calculations. But our topic this week is less about math and more about the physical properties of elastomers. Let me explain.
To choose the right compound for your sealing application, you need to know how that material will perform at specific temperatures. Physical properties such as modulus of elasticity are important, too, but let’s stick to temperature while you’ve got last week’s blog entry in mind and a hot cup of coffee in hand.
Elastomers and Changes in Temperature
All elastomers have a coefficient of thermal expansion. Simply put, this value describes how the material changes in length, area, or volume with changes in temperature. In the case of rubber door and window seals, linear expansion is important because it helps to predict how a change in temperature will literally lengthen or shorten the seal.
Let’s consider two examples, both involving a rubber door seal and a metal door frame. At high temperatures, the rubber seal expands more than the metal frame. At low temperatures, the seal contracts more than the surrounding metal material. So what happens if you choose the wrong rubber? The door may not shut if it’s hot, or may admit wind and weather if it’s cold.
Now think back to last week’s blog entry, in which we learned about tractor trailers that make northbound runs from Miami to Montreal. For drivers and vehicles alike, the temperature changes can be extreme – especially during winter. If a rubber door seal is made of a compound that can’t handle these changes, the seal may fail and jeopardize the load.
Temperature Range and Temperature Change
Seal performance isn’t just about temperature range then. To select the right compound, you must also consider temperature change – how the rubber reacts when the temperature rises and falls.
Take a look at the chart below. The data required some conversions – and some may quibble with the math – but our takeaway here is simpler than the calculations. As you can see by looking at the right-hand column, all rubber is not the same when it comes to temperature changes!
|Urethane||100° – 150°||180|
|Neoprene||130 – 150|
|Teflon||230||50 – 80|
Table 1: Some Common Elastomers and Their Coefficients of Thermal Expansion
For more information, including the coefficient of thermal expansion calculation itself, please visit the National Physical Laboratory. Another good on-line technical resource is Rubber as an Engineering Material: Guidelines for Users.
Feeling Stressed Out?
Don’t spill your coffee, but the relationship between elongation and temperature isn’t always so straightforward. For starters, elastomer elongation increases over a specific temperature range and then decreases at still higher temperatures.
Then there’s something called the Joule effect, which occurs only when an elastomer is under tensile stress. The easiest way to explain this is to imagine a rubber band suspending your coffee cup. If you warm the elongated rubber band with an infrared lamp (your desk lamp, perhaps), the rubber band doesn’t expand. In fact, it retracts to support the load.
Choose a Partner – Not Just a Provider
Experimenting with rubber bands and coffee cups makes for a fun science project (and perhaps a coffee-stained desk), but our job at Elasto Proxy is to help you choose the right sealing solution for your specific application. By analyzing all of your application requirements and listening to all of your needs, we can offer answers to your sealing questions – and not just explanations of coefficients and calculations.
President of Elasto Proxy
Did you have a cup of coffee this morning? How about a glass of orange juice. If you enjoyed either of these beverages, thank a trucker. Each day, the commercial trucking industry moves billions of dollars’ worth of commodities between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For long-haul truckers who drive from places like Miami, Florida to Montreal, Canada, the trip lasts days and involves extreme changes in temperature – especially during the winter months.
For driver and vehicle alike, temperature changes can be challenging. Tractor trailers contain plenty of rubber and plastic parts – not just the tires. If a door or window seal is made of a compound that can’t handle hot or cold temperatures, the seal may fail. Farmers, road crews, and construction workers face this problem, too, even though their vehicles travel much shorter distances. Outdoor temperatures can rise and fall rapidly, so makers of mobile specialty vehicles also need dependable sealing solutions.
Service Temperature of Elastomers
With outdoor products such as door and window seals, you need to consider the service temperature for starters. This chart from our website lists temperature range for various types of rubber.
|Material Compound||Minimum Temperature||Maximum Temperature|
|SBR||-85° F||+158° F|
|Natural Rubber||-85° F||+158° F|
|EPDM||-80° F||+300° F|
|Neoprene||-65° F||+225° F|
|Nitrile||-55° F||+275° F|
|Urethane||-70° F||+250° F|
|Silicone||-180° F||+525° F|
|Viton||-40° F||+500° F|
Service temperature isn’t the only factor to consider, of course, but let’s start with the basics.
Rubber Seals at Low and High Temperatures
At low temperatures, elastomers do more than harden. They become less flexible. If they reach their brittle point, they may even crack. That’s what happened to the rubber O-rings on the Space Shuttle Challenger in a 1986 tragedy that claimed the lives of seven astronauts. NASA officials believed the seals were suitable for cold weather, but the O-rings were unable to withstand sub-freezing temperatures.
The weather at Cape Canaveral, Florida was unusual on that day, more like Montreal than Miami. But high temperatures can also cause seals to fail. When the temperature of an elastomer approaches its upper service limit, the rubber may undergo chemical changes that are irreversible.
With each 10° C (18 °F) increase in temperature, the rate of some chemical reactions doubles. Again, consider the case of a trucker who is northbound bound from Miami to Montreal in the middle of a (typical) winter. If extreme cold will reduce the life of a door seal that’s helping to protect a valuable shipment, isn’t the cost of a compound with a wider temperature range a sound investment?
Elastomer Performance and Predictability
Even if a seal doesn’t fail, elastomer performance becomes less predictable when rubber reaches the limits of its service temperature range. So does that mean that we can predict how a compound will expand, contract, and recover with changes in temperature? Yes, but this is why there’s more than just temperature range alone to consider. Each material handles these changes differently.
In my next blog entry, I’ll discuss a concept called the coefficient of linear thermal expansion. So drink your orange juice – and grab a cup of coffee – before trucking over next week. In the meantime, do you have any questions about seal selection and service temperature? Please let me know by commenting below, or connect with me on LinkedIn.
President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy
Does your company have too many suppliers? How well do you understand the capabilities of each of your vendors? These questions seem separate, but they’re interrelated. Your answers can benefit your own buyers and managers, as well as the suppliers who serve them.
Traditionally, manufacturers divided purchases among many different vendors. Buyers focused on supplier prices, but without understanding the internal costs of maintaining a large vendor base. Tracking a multitude of purchase orders, invoices, and deliveries wasn’t the only challenge, however. Quality and reliability suffered if buyers didn’t fully understand what suppliers could and couldn’t do.
When buyers reduce their supply base, they strengthen their supply chain. At the same time, suppliers who offer one-stop sourcing can also increase business. This is good for them – and good for you, too.
Reducing the Vendor Base
Reducing the vendor base is a principle of lean manufacturing, a set of production practices that seeks to eliminate waste and deliver quality products on-time, at the lowest production costs, and according to customer needs. Companies that apply lean principles to their purchasing practices buy from fewer and more dependable suppliers, developing partnerships and building trust.
Lean buyers take the time to fully understand each supplier’s capabilities. Lean managers understand that “value” means more than low prices, and seek suppliers who can help improve quality, enhance functionality, and reduce costs. So how lean is your company’s procurement process?
Strengthen the Supply Chain
Businesses that reduce their vendor base strengthen their supply chain, as a case study of one our specialty vehicle customers proves. When Volvo of Ontario asked Elasto Proxy what more we could do for them, my colleague John Rye described our technical design and custom fabrication capabilities.
Volvo’s Ontario division reduced its vendor base repeatedly, but Elasto Proxy made each cut and even landed larger contracts. The specialty vehicle manufacturer has moved these operations to the United States, but Elasto Proxy continues to provide high-quality rubber and plastic parts on-time and according to specification.
Like many multinational corporations, Volvo maintains production facilities beyond just Europe and North America. So when Volvo of Brazil needed a supplier that could strengthen their supply chain, they approached Elasto Proxy because of our work for Volvo in Canada and the U.S. As Elasto Proxy seeks new partners in international markets, we’re proud to showcase Volvo of Brazil as an example of how we’re meeting sealing challenges in South America.
One-stop sourcing means more than just supply chain strength. By helping Volvo of Brazil to reduce its vendor base, Elasto Proxy is learning lessons that can benefit other partners in the many industries we serve. Does your company have too many suppliers? Do you fully understand the capabilities of each of your vendors? Our advice is to choose a partner – not just a provider. How may we help you?
Purchasing and Logistics, Elasto Proxy
How well do you handle risk? For businesses that source raw materials internationally, risk management is a key to supply chain strength. By identifying all of their risks and applying resources efficiently, global companies can minimize the probability and impact of price fluctuations for raw materials.
Too many buyers are lured by low unit prices that skyrocket when global prices rise sharply. You can control your agreements with vendors, but your business cannot control the weather, political unrest, strikes, and transportation issues in a supplier’s country. So what should buyers and managers do?
The answer is to build partnerships, understand demand, and buy the right amounts.
Here at Elasto Proxy’s headquarters in Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada, it’s my job to manage and optimize our material procurement, logistics, and inventory strategies. Before we partner with a vendor, we visit the company’s facilities and evaluate their business operations. Our supply chain strength benefits our customers, for whom we custom-fabricate rubber and plastic components such seals and gaskets.
Price is important, but it’s not the only factor that Elasto Proxy considers. Innovation, quality, honesty, and dependability are values that our company looks for and expects partners to share. For the suppliers that we select, regular on-site visits help us to identify risks and strengthen business relationships.
As a custom fabricator of high-value, low-volume rubber and plastic parts, Elasto Proxy needs few long-term contracts. Rubber prices fluctuate throughout the year, so we manage most vendor agreements on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the material compound. There is more price variability with synthetic rubber than silicones, and our agreements reflect this.
During the agreed-upon period, prices are fixed. Some vendors can hold their prices for longer than others, but the global chemical market varies. Industrial usage such as seals, belts, and hoses accounts for only 20% to 25% of worldwide rubber demand. Because the tire industry consumes most of the rest of the world’s rubber, an increased demand for automobiles drives up raw material prices in our own market.
Buying the Right Amounts
Strengthening your supply chain involves building partnerships, understanding demand, and knowing how much to buy. Here at Elasto Proxy, our supply chain is strong enough that we can purchase just enough materials to maintain our service-level agreements with customers. By analyzing customer sales forecasts and annual estimated usage, we minimize risks such buying too much or too little material.
Logistics provides value to your company’s customers. By building partnerships, understanding demand, and buying the right amounts, buyers and managers can strengthen their supply chain to account for price fluctuations in raw materials.
President of International Sales, Elasto Proxy
Yes, I was wrong. But I should have been right! In my last blog entry, I predicted that there wouldn’t be an NHL season this year. Last December, the negotiations between owners and players were as hard as a hockey puck on a cold winter’s day. Then a January thaw occurred. A deal was struck and teams took to the indoor ice for training camp. A week later and without any preseason games, the league launched a strike-shortened 48-game regular season. That’s 34 games less than in normal years and there won’t be any inter-conference play until the Stanley Cup Finals.
Here at Elasto Proxy headquarters in Quebec, Canada, I’m surrounded by fans of the Habs – the Montreal Canadiens. So unless the Habs host my favorite team, the Calgary Flames, in the Finals, I won’t have a chance to watch Alex Tanguay and company at the nearby Bell Centre. Yet John Rye, Elasto Proxy’s resident Toronto Maple Leafs fan, will have a chance to face-off against Megan Beaulieu and much of our production team when the Canadiens host the Leafs on February 9th. Still, it’s not the lack of inter-conference play that bothers me – and why my NHL prediction should have been right.
Hazards of a Shortened Hockey Season
As the hockey analyst Pierre McGuire explains, players need about 10 games to get into the rhythm of the season. If McGuire is correct (and I think that he is), that’s nearly 20% of this strike-shortened year. The abbreviated season also favors teams whose lineups haven’t changed much since the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Cup last June. If chemistry counts, then teams like Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, the New York Rangers, and even Calgary will need to incorporate new players quickly. Gone is the pace of a full-length season, too, when many good teams slump in the middle yet finish strong in the end.
This year, hockey teams that get off to a slow start are at a disadvantage – and NHL players could be at risk, too. Although many skaters kept themselves in good condition, the strike did not prepare them for a regular season where every game counts and contests have a playoff-like intensity. Some hockey gear is made with shock-absorbing materials and gels that help reduce the risk of injury, but is this protective equipment really up to the task? Concussions aren’t just a problem in hockey, of course, as football fans in the U.S. will tell you.
Hockey Equipment and Player Protection
Except for the ones worn by goalies, most hockey headgear isn’t as eye-catching as the football helmets worn in the NFL (or even the CFL). In terms of preventing head injuries, however, what matters most is what’s inside. Most hockey helmets are made of a lightweight plastic, typically a polycarbonate material, and feature a one-piece or two-piece design. Underneath this hard plastic shell is a liner to help absorb impact and, in some products, a second liner for comfort. Because of our water jet cutting capabilities, Elasto Proxy has experience with custom-fabricating the EVA foam that’s used in helmet inserts.
Hockey protective equipment also includes rubber and plastic components such as mouth guards, ear protectors, and pads. Mouth guards come pre-formed and then mold to the mouth during use, or can be softened by heating and then molded by biting down on them. Ear protectors, another type of safety equipment, can be inserted into player helmets for extra comfort and protection. The hard plastic elbow pads that some skaters like provide protection, but can cause serious injury to opponents.
What Do You Think?
The NHL is back and the 2013 season is in full-swing. There have been some good games, a few fights, and at least one charging penalty that’s resulted in a one-game suspension. But should the NHL have had a season at all? And how well will hockey equipment help to protect players during the short, intense season?