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Freudenberg-NOK to join ARPM, head seals committee

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Joe Walker, Freudenberg-NOK.
Joe Walker, Freudenberg-NOK.

INDIANAPOLIS—Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies GmbH & Co. will join the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers effective Jan. 1, 2015 and will collaborate with the ARPM to form a technical standards committee for the seals and gaskets industry.

Freudenberg brings the ARPM's membership count to more than 60 members, including about 15 new members in 2014, according to Executive Director Troy Nix.

“Attracting companies like Freudenberg says a lot about what we could end up doing in our future and how big of an impact this could have on the industry as a whole,” Nix said. “We're pumped up. This is great.”

Joe Walker, global director, advanced materials development for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, will lead the new committee with its leadership structure to be established once the membership seats are filled.

“We can maximize our efficiencies and reduce our costs by having one set of protocols and having an industry guideline of acceptability that would be established for things such as exhaust gas circulation and crank case ventilation testing,” Walker said. “Those sorts of things that seal manufacturers today struggle with. Not from the standpoint of complexity, but from the standpoint of redundancy in testing.”

Walker said he envisions that the committee will partner with other like-minded organizations—such as Verband der Automobilindustrie, which is the German Association of the Automotive Industry, and the Automotive Industry Action Group.

VDA already is trying to tackle a major issue of growing importance in North America: a standardized test for blow-by.

Blow-by occurs primarily in turbo-charged engines, which is a result of the turbo-charged recirculate going back into the engine, resulting in a buildup of pressures in the cylinder. The resulting gust of charge causes the fuel to push past the seal and mix with the oil.

Walker said blow-by has not been a priority in North America, but as turbo-charger engines have made their way into the market, the issue has become more prevalent. Blow-by requires a different construction of the gaskets from the polymer architecture on out to maintain the same warranty standard and functionality.

Freudenberg already has been working on a test for blow-by for a number of years from the other side of the equation in Europe, Walker said.

“We can learn from ourselves on what works and what hasn't worked,” he said. “We have members in Germany that are part of this VDA team that are working on these problems. It puts us in a position, for this company personally, to capitalize on some of this.”

Building seals committee

The committee will not be limited to a particular industry. Walker said that while it may prioritize based on what the membership feels needs the most attention, industries like automotive, construction, mining, agriculture and aerospace all have similar sealing demands.

“Once we get the committee established and working, the goal is to identify all of the opportunities that exist out there and then prioritize them as to their importance to all the members of the committee,” he said.

ARPM sponsors two other technical committees for global standards—in the hose and belting industries. Each of them represents the U.S.' interests on the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) global standards committees.

Nix said the seals and gaskets committee likely will operate differently because an ISO global standards committee for the industry doesn't currently exist.

“I think it would be more of a direct connection with other organizations overseas and the ARPM working together to develop one globalized, harmonized testing standard,” Nix said. “I think this is something that's been lacking in the marketplace for years.”

The seals committee, like the hose and belt committees, will take ownership in maintaining a number of technical publications the ARPM inherited from the Rubber Manufacturers Association's Elastomer Products Group—the unit that spun off from the RMA and ultimately became the ARPM in 2010.

“We want to modernize those standards, bring those up and take custodianship of those,” Walker said. “We'll look at the ones out there that are being used, identify areas where standards need to be written and go about the business of bringing those up.”

Walker hopes to have the committee established within six months and is in the process of reaching out to some of the major players in the industry to gauge interest in joining the committee.

He'd like to see at least six major players sitting at the table, and hopes to engage both major customers and polymer manufacturers for their input too.

“We don't want to do these things in a vacuum,” he said. “We want our product to be accepted. In order to do that, we need to have stakeholders outside of just the committee and the ARPM.”

Not all of the committee members necessarily will be ARPM members. Walker said Nix and the ARPM are addressing the fee structure for committee-only participants.

“I think we could have 10 to 12 major companies involved in shaping the course of this committee,” Nix said. “I think Joe is going to help us. He's willing to travel to these companies. Now we have a clear spokesman who is recognized throughout the industry with a great reputation.”