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Editorial: Meeting showcases industry's innovative ways

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Many look upon the tire and rubber industry as a mature manufacturing sector, with little done in the area of moving technology forward.

Those in attendance at the ACS Rubber Division's International Elastomer Conference and Rubber Expo last month in Nashville can testify that nothing is further from the truth.

Starting with a technical program that had more than 100 papers to an expo that touted new machinery, materials and testing equipment, “innovation” clearly could have been the theme of the meeting.

Much of what was on display at the expo is ready to be put to work immediately to prepare the rubber business for the years ahead. And it was clear that no area can be overlooked when it comes to innovation.

Take Alpha Technologies L.L.C., for example. Its Moving Die Rheometer, or MDR, testing instrument was first introduced in the 1980s and has pretty much been unchanged since. Until now, that is.

Engineers at the company overhauled the instrument piece by piece, and the testing equipment firm unveiled its Premier-brand MDR during the Rubber Division show. Alpha's president said now that the finished product is ready for commercialization, not a single part remains exactly the same as in its predecessor.

Other areas were equally represented on the innovation front in Nashville. Orion Engineered Carbons showcased new carbon black grades for both the tire and mechanical rubber goods sectors. LMG, after serving as a custom press maker throughout its history, debuted a standard line of compression and transfer presses. And Dow Automotive brought out a new line of adhesives for the auto industry. And that's just to name a few.

The expo also marked the return to the rubber industry of John Putman and his son, Matthew, the team behind Nanotronics Imaging Inc. They released nSPEC 3D, a powerful microscope that captures 3D images at nano-scale, a breakthrough that brings a new technology to the rubber industry.

For those who doubt there's anything left to discover in rubber, the Rubber Division sessions continue to be the perfect platform to prove them wrong.