This team surely went to great lengths to circle the landmark abbey, which dates back to the early 12th century and has almost the same dimensions as Westminster Abbey. Employees from the Tewkesbury facility, which produces standard and customer elastomer parts for the aerospace, semiconductor and niche industrial markets, coached the 20 students with engineering aspirations about designing, costing and producing O-rings.
The record was within reach because Trelleborg has a proprietary manufacturing process called FlexiMold that allows giant O-rings to be produced without dedicated tooling. The company staff decided to go for it to both demonstrate Trelleborg's capabilities and to help the community better understand what they do.
The students, who were mostly 13- and 14-year-olds, got a tour of the plant, and then were involved with designing the record O-ring out of EPDM. They learned the material is widely used for sealing because of its resistance to heat, water and steam, alkali, mild acidic and oxygenated solvents, ozone and sunlight. And, they learned O-rings can seal practically all liquids and gases, and that large O-rings are used across many industries, such as chemical and hydrocarbon, pharmaceutical and electronics.
The record O-ring reportedly took four weeks to design, cost and plan and two weeks to manufacture. The students came up with a few ideas to get the O-ring around the abbey as they considered their options and the costs involved.
"We thought to lift it with a helicopter or something but that would be quite expensive," one student said in a company video.
Drones also were ruled out as a feasible way to raise the ring, position it above the abbey and lower it into place.
Suggestions to look into catapults also got the ax.
The team decided to move forward using a mobile vulcanizing unit, which Trelleborg says provides the same integrity as a molded O-ring. The EPDM O-ring was rolled onto a drum and taken to the abbey, where it was laid around the building. The two ends then were joined the by vulcanizing.