"Auburn has a history on this campus," said Plant Manager Adam Robinson. "The first mill room was built in 1896, while the building we are in now was built in 1993. It was built as a tire and rubber manufacturing plant, then branched into custom mixing in smaller batches. We have experience in all polymers for all rubber and we have several bulk storage units for carbon black, mineral fillers and plasticizers."
Why choose a custom mixer?
For a rubber manufacturer, one reason to contract with a custom mixer can be improved savings. The outside company—in this case ContiTech in Auburn—already is certified and owns the necessary Banburys and other processing equipment, so any capital investment for a customer is a non-factor.
In addition, custom mixers have the proper infrastructure in place to purchase, receive, transport and control the raw materials needed for mixing.
Perhaps most importantly are the unique formulas made possible by custom mixing—and the resulting improved performance traits of the elastomer—that can be gleaned from a custom-mixed solution.
"Our specialty is custom mixing and custom compound development, and this is supported by capacity knowledge," Kickel said. "We support our customers by developing formulas and staying with them (customers). Confidentiality is given for any proprietary formula, and we also have a wide range of our own recipes to offer if they do not have their own. This is what we have built up with our North American team."
Process stability is crucial for any custom mixer, as each batch and compound need to be consistent.
"This way, a customer does not have to adjust his or her process because they are getting stable compounds. We are quite proud of the wide range of compounds that we offer," Kickel said.
These include EPDM, neoprene, NBR, SBR, polybutadiene, NR and fluoroelastomers, among others.
"Coming from an operations standpoint, we have innovative products, such as flame retardant compounds, and we are looking into sponge rubber-specific applications," Kickel said.
Considerations and conversations between customer and custom mixer must include form and function: Will the compound be a solid elastomer or a sponge? Is the application static or dynamic, made to function in hot temperatures or cold, in acidic or caustic conditions? Is it required to absorb or damp vibration? What is the curing method the customer plans to use?
For ContiTech, the advantages of having in-house custom mixing abilities are two-fold, gaining customers on the contracting side, and having its own custom mixing operation to supply its production side of seals, springs and noise- and vibration-reducing systems.