ASHLAND, N.H.—In an effort to offer customers one-stop shopping, Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies has invested about $2 million in a dedicated engineering testing and validation center on the campus where its existing oil seal manufacturing facility is located.
Built from the ground up beginning in 2016, and opening in July in central New Hampshire along Lake Winnipesaukee, the 3,100-sq.-ft. testing center boasts 40 different state-of-the-art testing rigs that can measure pressure, temperature, frictional torque and speed capabilities, as well as changes in mechanical properties, leak detection and failure analysis in seals and sealing components.
"The center represents one of the largest investments in the market in the last 50 years," said Marcel Santos, global director of business development engineering services. "We were running out of capacity in Germany and decided to invest in Ashland (on the production side, which became operational in 1998)."
Thus far, the Ashland facilities produce and test only oil seals.
Freudenberg also offers testing and validation services to radial shaft seal customers through its Engineering Service Center in Weinheim, Germany. At 16,200 square feet, that center is the largest seal testing center in the world with more than 300 modern test rigs, according to Santos.
"While Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has long offered testing as an option to our customers, establishing a separate, dedicated engineering service unit takes product testing capabilities to a new level of sophistication and access," Santos said. "We can run 24 hours a day and have already developed and invested in the newest testing equipment available. Now, with engineering centers in both North America and Europe, we can handle customer service requests from any region."
The two Ashland facilities employ about 90 people overall, Santos said, with six of those people working in the new testing center.
With radial shaft seals used in seemingly unlimited industrial applications—from tiny seals for use in micro actuators on dental drills and surgical equipment to massive designs for 95-liter, 15-ton marine engines—Freudenberg's engineering service centers offer validation for complex and expensive sealing systems.
While Freudenberg spent about $1 million in new testing equipment and another $1 million on the Ashland building itself, the company already is seeing a return on its investment.
Besides the aforementioned analytics that can be measured, Santos said FST is receiving quite a few requests for shaft characterization analysis. In addition, the Ashland facility can test for thermal cycling, slurry (sand), hydraulic (both at the oil seal component level and the hydraulic motor), static measurements and vibration.
"Pretty much everything a customer requires we can test for," Santos said. "We've been in this industry over 100 years. We have seen everything, from the smallest to the largest seal systems."
And in every case, the more that testing can mimic reality, the more money and downtime a customer can save, Santos said.
For example, an agricultural tractor seal needs to operate in -40°F weather in a Canadian winter, as well as in 130°F weather in Dubai. Freudenberg is able to cover this temperature range at its Ashland facility.
In addition, a seal on a motorcycle that goes from 0 to 10,000 RPM in three seconds requires different testing than a tractor running at a much slower speed. And the environments are far different, as agricultural equipment tends to see dirty, grainy surroundings—which Freudenberg can mimic at Ashland with its slurry tests using Arizona sand, fine dust that is thrown at the oil seal during testing.
"We run everything. We run their protocols and we run our own protocols," Santos said.