KINGWOOD, Texas—Orion Engineered Carbons L.L.C. has launched a dedicated Innovation Team to work with its technical marketing teams to boost its offerings for both tire and non-tire materials.
The focus of the global Innovation Team is to ensure the carbon black supplier's efforts are aligned with its customers' needs, both now and in the future, according to Lin Bradley, Orion's technical market manager for rubber.
“We understand that our customers must meet ever-more stringent global specifications, and we are positioning to assist them in meeting those requirements in every region with products designed and engineered to fulfill expectations,” he said.
Bradley has been in the rubber industry for more than 20 years but was seven years removed from carbon black—he previously worked at Columbian Chemicals Co.—when he joined Orion in mid-2014.
“I was pleasantly surprised by our willingness to invest in the process,” he said.
Bradley specifically mentioned upgrades to Orion's Border, Texas, facility and its work in developing clean technology. “We're able to meet some specification levels that just a few years ago were not possible and not available in the marketplace,” he said.
Orion's commitment to innovation has extended its product lines based both on its proprietary technologies and its knowledge of the market, the executive said.
The Innovation Team is based at an Orion Applied Technology Laboratory in Germany.
“They are tasked with not only coming up with the new technologies to advance the carbon black manufacturing process, but implementing the market knowledge that our sales and marketing staff generates,” Bradley said. “They use the combination of the two to determine what our product needs are four to five years down the road.”
He credited the team with spurring the development of a range of low-hysteresis grades for tire body components that minimize heat generation and rolling resistance to improve fuel economy. “As a result of these efforts, we offer narrow aggregate size distribution carbon blacks that significantly improve tire wear,” Bradley said.
Because of these developments, Orion has developed carbon blacks along the entire aggregate distribution spectrum to respond to varying market requirements.
“What we discovered is that by changing properties like aggregate size distribution, we can greatly influence the treadwear of a tire to improve durability,” he said. “Going in the opposite direction with aggregate size distribution, we can change rolling resistance. (We can do) whatever we need to accomplish.”
Mechanical rubber goods
On the non-tire side of the business, Orion has developed new clean high-structure carbon black grades for Class A extrusion finish and a low-structure grade for very low conductivity to prevent electro-chemical degradation and electro-chemical corrosion.
What Orion found for the MRG market is that the price of entry is clean technology because customers are facing tougher specs for residue as a result of appearance requirements, Bradley said.
Orion has developed four clean grades specifically for profile extrusions. They include:
• LS 18: Orion's low-conductivity grade, it features large particle size and a relatively low aggregate structure level, and it reduces the electrical conductivity of parts. It allows the compounder to develop compounds that will extrude well with little die swell. It is suitable for use in such products as molded goods, gaskets, hoses, extruded articles and products under dynamic stress.
• HS 22: It has low specific surface area and high structure, which provides rubber compounds with excellent extrudability and extruded articles with very smooth surfaces, according to Orion.
• HS 25: It imparts low compound viscosity and low die-swell, both of which are needed in high-speed extrusion processes. Because of its extremely low sieve residue, the firm said HS 25 is a good carbon black for profiles requiring excellent surface quality and thin-walled hoses.
• HS 45: Orion said it is similar in properties and applications to HS 25 but has a higher specific surface area. Its good reinforcement and dispersion, along with low die-swell, make it useful in extruded products.
“Innovation really is key to what we're doing,” Bradley said. “What we were able to do five years ago is no longer good enough. Without innovation, what we're going to develop as the next generation of products won't occur. It can't just be about service and delivery and clean grades. It has to be about what you're doing to improve the carbon black down the road.”