COLUMBIA CITY, Ind.—Making the perfect rubber compound for a given application, especially those used in harsh environments, requires hours of testing to discover fatigue parameters. And those strenuous evaluations are conducted with equipment made by companies like MonTech Rubber Testing Solutions.
The firm's rubber process analyzers, moving die rheometers and fatigue testers, among many other products, stretch, stress and otherwise scorch rubber compounds, plastics and other elastomers, offering customers the threshold data necessary to meet a specific performance.
And now MonTech and its Midwest team of rheologists, application managers and software and service engineers are offering two new options for its rubber lab and testing instruments, options presented by MonTech at last month's virtual International Elastomer Conference.
"These are options for very specific industries and applications," said Spencer Bagan, national sales manager at MonTech. "This is not something for everyone. These are for harsh, cold environments. We have had very positive feedback and some great things are happening in our conversations with people."
Specifically, these options—a low viscosity torque transducer option for all MonTech RPAs, MDRs and Mooney viscometers, as well as an "MCool" -40°C chiller option that increases the low temperature range for RPA testing down to -40°C—are choices for customers who require measurements with tight thresholds and margins.
"There are compound silicones and various applications that require a very, very high degree of accuracy," Bagan said. "They need specific rheologic applications (for customers) to get the best of what they are doing. There is a giant focus in the range of testing torques, and we have very specific options. The (customers) who have very sensitive products are the ones who need these options."
Bagan said the chiller option, also offered for specific MonTech MDRs, has seen immediate response in the markets served by MonTech, which include the aerospace, automotive, industrial, medical, construction, energy, tire, mining and consumer products industries.
"So far this year we have seen multiple sales in the -40 chiller option," Bagan said. "The traffic (at IEC) naturally is not like in-person shows, but we have seen success at IEC. We are seeing a good response in general and traffic has been busy."
The -40°C chiller option for MonTech's rheometer and RPAs uses an external liquid cooling system that allows for testing under extremely low temperatures, even approaching glass transition temperature, MonTech said. This system augments the instrument's inherent temperature control system, and the heating system in the dies remains unchanged.
Applications for the chiller option include testing for the production of raw materials and polymers, such as outdoor and automotive materials.
The torque transducers—there is a low viscosity and ultra-low viscosity option—offer a microscopic range of torque pressures that can be applied to elastomers during testing. The low viscosity option offers a .0001dNm to 52dNm range and can be used for testing low viscosity silicone, medical tubing, latex, thermoplastic elastomers and thermoplastic vulcanizates, according to MonTech.
The ultra-low viscosity torque transducer has a torque range of .0001dNm to 21dNm and can be used to test extremely low viscosity materials like tire sealants, glues, adhesives and low viscosity silicones, MonTech said.
Traditionally, RPAs are used to perfect compound processability, verify rubber raw materials, problem solve and simulate end-use conditions. They are becoming more widely used today, according to Bagan.
Rheometers are used to measure the change in flow characteristics under an applied stress, and viscometers can measure Mooney viscosity, scorch and stress relaxation data.
"We have many, many modifications to our instruments and options coming out in 2021," Bagan said, citing a rebound resilience tester, RPAs, MDRs, Mooney viscometers and instruments that measure Shore hardness and density.
Some new releases are instruments themselves, he said, and some are options, like the torque transducer and chiller abilities.
Bagan said the global firm, with a focus on North and South America, has not been hit hard by downturns in its supply chain caused by the pandemic, though some markets have dipped, like aerospace and automotive, while others have seen an increased demand, like medical.
"We haven't really been affected," Bagan said. "Our focus has changed slightly as some markets have boomed, and others have slumped. We've found opportunities in between."
MonTech is considered an essential company, Bagan noted, and as such has been serving "tons of customers" in the medical arena, such as testing instruments for medical tubing.
"We had to be there for them," Bagan said. "Especially for customers making certain parts of masks. If they called, we had to be out there for them."
Bagan noted that the rubber testing instrument producer is seeing a rebound in auto and tire, as well as aerospace and commercial aviation.
"We are slowly seeing a rebound in those," Bagan said. "We've talked to plenty of companies, and some are still stuck. But most are seeing a rise in sales."
MonTech, which makes its testing instruments in Buchen, Germany, also offers abrasion testers and bale cutters, as well as supporting software and industry information. MonTech said it recently updated its machining capabilities in Buchen with several new high-tech, 5-axis CNC machines for the production of MDRs and RPA components, additions that have increased MonTech's production capacity.
The company also has facilities and sales offices in Indiana; Charlotte, N.C.; Canada; and Mexico.
Bagan said MonTech has been coming to the IEC for about a decade, and that it is "always a fantastic event."
"We are hoping we can develop a decent amount of leads leading into 2021," he said. "We are well-positioned for the next year and have developed some fantastic partnerships within the industry. We are excited to participate in the industry revolution in the coming year."
The IEC was hosted Oct. 4-7 by the ACS Rubber Division.