There's no denying the rubber industry is secretive. Through its history, the sector has seen itself as being something akin to two parts science to one part art.
And it has been the "art" part of the equation that chemists and scientists have held close to over the years, not wanting to lose a potential advantage.
So when Continental A.G. and tire reinforcement specialist Kordsa Technik Teksil A.S. unveiled plans to offer up a new technology on an "open source" platform, it likely raised a few eyebrows.
Dubbed Cokoon, the two firms said they had developed a sustainable adhesive technology for bonding textile reinforcing materials with rubber compounds. The knowledge is aimed mainly at use in tire cord materials, with Conti and Kordsa claiming it eliminates the need for resorcinol and formaldehyde, the materials that have been used along with latex for decades in a dipping process used to tread the tire cords.
But the industry has been looking at replacing formaldehyde and resorcinol for health, safety and environmental reasons.
When Conti and Kordsa unveiled their new technology earlier this year, they said they want to see it become the new standard, where the same equipment can be used to achieve results comparable to the current technology.
The open source platform would allow anyone, including competitors, to use Cokoon on a license-free basis as long as they promise to share any improvements they develop.
Will this work in such a secretive industry as rubber?
One problem is others have been working on replacements for RFL as well. Michelin, particularly, has worked on a solution for 10 years, and created a business unit called ResiCare to commercialize its solution.
Wilma Dierkes, an associate professor at the University of Twente, also gave a paper at the Tire Technology Expo dealing with RF. She would like to see more open source work in the rubber industry, saying the university often does research, only to find out later that others have been working in parallel. Dierkes see the duplicative efforts as a pity.
In such a situation as RFL, it would solve a health and safety issue, and at the same time leave no players at either an advantage or disadvantage.