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GM expands use of Freudenberg seal in engines

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MORRISTOWN, Ind.—Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies GmbH & Co.'s low load seal design has been expanded among General Motors Corp.'s engine platforms.

The Detroit 3 auto manufacturer will use the seal for its highest volume four-cylinder and V-6 engines, Freudenberg said. GM has adopted the design for several other engine applications, including a sparkplug tube, vacuum pump seal and two solenoid-to-cam cover seals.

Freudenberg said the seal now appears on some of GM's 2014 model offerings, including the Cadillac CTS Sedan, GMC Acadia and the Chevrolet Malibu.

The low load seal traps rubber in various shapes for more movement instead of squeezing an O-ring bonded to a metal case.

Freudenberg said this improves sealing and reduces assembly force by about 70 percent.

The seal is produced at Freudenberg-NOK's automotive industry special sealing facility in Morristown, Ind., located about 25 miles west of Indianapolis.

The building is about 65,000 square feet with 250 employees, Freudenberg said.

David Pehlman, engineering manager at Morristown, said the firm applied for a patent for the design in 2010 and showed it to GM shortly after that.

Prototyping and validation occurred in early 2011, with production beginning in early 2012.

As the business with GM has expanded, Freudenberg has invested in new molding presses and inspection equipment to accommodate the increased production of the seal.

Pehlman estimates Morristown is operating at more than 85 percent capacity, and the company could consider expansion possibilities as early as 2015.

“We're investing in new equipment for this business every year as volumes increase and as we get into new programs,” Pehlman said.

“As far as expansion for the facility, that's something that's being looked at right now and is something that could be started as early as next year.”

John Wagner, staff design engineer and inventor of the seal, said the product has been expanded into other applications for original equipment manufacturers, such as transmission and turbo charger. He said that while the design is ideal for engine applications, it is not limited to that type of use.

“We use it for a lot of applications. We're expanding it daily,” he said.

“The seal has really opened Pandora's box from my design perspective.”