FINDLAY, Ohio—Ethan Steiner may be new to the industry, but he has made the most of his short time in it.
The 21-year-old from Pandora, Ohio, a small town of about 1,200 people just southwest of Findlay, recently began working with Endurica L.L.C. after a four-month cooperative with the nearby Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., which now is part of Goodyear.
The junior at the University of Toledo said the position with the seven-employee Endurica, a software, characterization and testing company in the elastomer space, suits his small-town pedigree just fine.
"I've always enjoyed having a smaller group that you get along with and work well with—everyone is just awesome (at Endurica)," Steiner said. "You have to do a lot of different things, wear a lot of hats. With a bigger team, you have a specific role —and that's fine, that's all good, but it can lead to burn out. To have something where everyday you could be working on something different is very enjoyable."
In fact, the hats are so numerous for Steiner that he still is searching for his title at Endurica, where he has been for about a year now, working with the company's patented aging simulation software.
While Steiner loosely places himself "in some sales engineer's role ... maybe an assistant engineer or something like that," there is at least one truth in his academic and now part-time professional life.
"That's the reason I split between mechanical and electrical engineering—I really liked the hands-on aspects and I enjoy figuring out problems," he said. "My education has helped out pretty well. At Endurica, I had to learn how rubber fatigues. It has helped me make sense of where tires end up failing."
As it was, a high school engineering course turned him on to the tough stuff in college, and that, in turn, led to Cooper Tire and Endurica.
The progression has been apt, in that Steiner first learned about tire safety features and composition at Cooper, a foundation that has served him well at Endurica.
"I learned a lot about tires there," Steiner said. "Now, I understand how tires are laid out—the specific composition of them and how complex tires really are.
"If you don't know about the details of tires, you might think they're just some rubber. But it's very complex, with plies, liners and lots of actual parts to them."
Steiner called Endurica "a cutting-edge company," and said its aging software benefits customers by saving them time and money in development.
"I've seen first-hand how really cool Endurica is—the longer I've been here, the more I've seen how completely and extensively they test things. Being able to simulate testing helps customers to understand their parts, and when their parts will fail."
Steiner works with Endurica's CL and DT software programs, as well as with 3D models of parts.
As such, he helps determine when, precisely, a rubber bushing might crack or how the boot on a CV joint might fail—as well as how large the crack could become over time and the road conditions that might cause it.
Because many times the engineering package that is issued to a supplier by an OEM for a particular elastomeric part contains only the largest load recordings, a number of data points that offer a "higher resolution view" are ignored.
"The speed of the software can be daunting," Steiner said. "One thing I've noticed is that sometimes people are not trusting of the process, and they have some apprehension about going with what the simulation says.
"But we are using that to calculate a whole host of new thresholds and parameters that can save time and money."
The software, used in conjunction with finite element analysis, begins its coding journey with the input of general characteristics, or governing behaviors, of the raw materials in an elastomer product—durometer, stress-strain response, fatigue crack growth rate, crack precursor size and strain crystallization.
Various strain histories—including multi-axial strain histories of varying amplitudes—then are computed from road loads, and cracks occur in this reckoning, according to Endurica. Crack growth then is calculated via a rate law contained in the software.
"When I interviewed with Endurica, I talked with everybody about the position," Steiner said. "Sometimes there are actual parts we are working with, but it is also a lot of simulation stuff. I really enjoy it because I really enjoy solving problems—taking either a complex or a simple question and finding the answer to it."
The UT junior is set to graduate in December 2022, and said he already is ahead of the game in making professional career choices.
"I enjoy what I'm doing. I enjoy every aspect of what I do here," he said. "Since I am in between electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, what I'm doing now is a great mix of all three, in dealing with both mechanical and physical properties.
"I would love to stay in field. I'm really enjoying it. In 10 years, being part of a great company like Endurica, that sounds pretty good to me."