How to Select Green Rubber Products

Green Products

Megan Beaulieu
Executive Support at Elasto Proxy

Green manufacturing isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about sustaining long-term profitability. For product designers and technical buyers, deciding whether to use green rubber products means striking a balance between business economics and environmental responsibility. Consumers say they want to “go green”, but are they willing to pay more for green parts? If green rubber products are cost-effective, will these eco-friendly components meet all of your application requirements?

These are just some of the questions that manufacturers are asking, not only of their own marketing and engineering departments, but of their supply chain partners. Answering these questions involves careful analysis, of course, but it starts with understanding what green manufacturing is about. On the one hand, there are the manufactured products used in green technologies such as solar panels. On the other, there are efforts by manufacturers to reduce, re-use, and recycle – regardless of markets served.

What Makes Rubber Green?

As a supplier of sealing and insulation solutions to both the green power industry and a variety of other markets, Elasto Proxy has asked itself what makes rubber products “green”. After extensive research and discussion, our 25-year old company defines “green rubber” with regard to product characteristics and/or production methods. Our definition may not be the same as another supplier’s, but we’ve considered our explanation carefully so that we can state it accurately and share it with you.

Some green rubber products are made of recycled elastomers, even if the original materials contained petroleum products. Other green rubber is biodegradable, and typically made of plant-based materials. Still other rubber parts deserve the “green” label because they have longer life cycles. These high-quality rubber components may or may not come from sustainable sources, but remember that rubber can be “green” if it’s made in a facility that uses wind or solar power, or that has reduced emissions.

Green Power and Beyond

As an experienced supplier to the green power industry, Elasto Proxy designs and custom-fabricates windmill door seals, sound insulation for power generators, rubber profiles for windmill blades and nacelles, lens cover gaskets, and protective profiles for the glass on solar panels. Now, as we prepare to share samples of green rubber products, our solutions providers will present these options to all of the industries we serve.

For example, the building and construction industry needs door and window seals, weatherstripping, trim, and floor matting for green homes. The automotive industry can use green materials in hatch seals, window and door seals, and thermal and acoustic insulation.  Alternatively, car makers can strengthen the designs of environmentally-friendly electric vehicles with green rubber seals, mats, and gaskets.  Green rubber products also can be used in mass transit applications such as trains, buses, and subways.

Join the Conversation

What makes a rubber product “green”? Is it the materials of construction, the way that it’s made – or a combination of both? Now that Elasto Proxy has shared its definition of “green rubber products” with you, we’d like to hear what you think – and understand your business needs and application requirements for green materials.

Join the conversation on our social media sites. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

How to Choose Fireproof Rubber Products

IMG Fireproof Products

Philippe Grenier
Production Coordinator at Elasto Proxy

Subway, bus, and railcar designers prefer lightweight rubber materials, but some combustion reactions can produce dangerous toxins. Reducing a vehicle’s weight can help cut fuel consumption, but material selection shouldn’t come at the expense of passenger safety. Technical buyers and part designers in the marine and aerospace industries share these concerns. Boats, ships, helicopters, and airplanes also need fireproof rubber parts such as seals, mats, gaskets, hose, flooring, and insulation.

Rubber Parts and the Right Partner

Fireproof rubber isn’t something that most passengers notice, but it’s all around them. Specialty elastomers are used in door and window seals, floor coverings and ceiling liners, and interior vehicle components such as wall panels, seat pads, and mattress frames. Fireproof rubber is also used in the cellular foams for armrests, acoustic insulation for passenger cars, and thermal insulation for engine bays. Outside the vehicle, rubbers parts such as end caps and roof housings must resist fire, too.

For designers and buyers in the mass transit, marine, and aerospace industries then, choosing the right rubber is critical. Standard, off-the-shelf profiles are available, but custom-fabrication may be required. By partnering with a supplier who listens to your needs and analyzes your safety requirements, you can strengthen your supply chain. Yet it’s also important to pick a partner who understands how fireproof rubber products are specified, and what different fire safety standards mean.

Flammability, Toxic Gases, Heat Release, and Smoke Development

The UL 94 flame rating from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) classifies rubber materials according to how they burn when vertical or horizontal, and in different thicknesses. For example, UL 94-HB is a horizontal burn test for specimens thicker than 76 mm. UL VTM-0 is a vertical burn test, but for materials that are too thin for flame tests such as UL V-0. For technical buyers then, choosing UL listed gasket materials may require an analysis of application requirements for material thickness and part orientation.

In the mass transit industry, meeting the Bombardier SMP 800-C standard for toxic gas sampling and analytical procedures is also critical. Using a calibrated chamber for smoke generation testing, this test measures the concentration of various gases (such as carbon monoxide) in both flaming combustion and non-flaming thermal decomposition modes. Fire, smoke, and toxicity (FST) tests for buses, subways, and railcars may also include ASTM E1354, which measures heat release and smoke development.

Tests, Standards, and Industry Requirements

UL 94, Bombardier SMP 800-C, and ASTM E1354 are important, but they’re not the only standards for fireproof materials. Depending on your industry, location, and customer, other tests and standards may apply. For example, aerospace engineers may need to source materials that meet ABD 0031, the Airbus standard for fire testing, flammability, smoke, and toxicity. Boeing also maintains its own fire testing standards: BSS 7238 for smoke density, and BSS 7239 for toxicity.

For marine buyers, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) provides a nine-part fire testing standard with a special focus on normal flammability, smoke density, and smoke toxicity. NFPA 130:2010 from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) is designed for fixed guideway transit and passenger rail systems, but incorporates ASTM standards as well as Bombardier SMP 800-C, BSS 7238, and BSS 7239.

For both the automotive and mass transit industries, FMVSS 302 from the U.S. National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) specifies burn resistance requirements for materials used in occupant compartments. Technically equivalent to ISO 3795 and ASTM D5132-04, FMVSS 302 applies to buses, trucks, passenger cars, and multi-purpose passenger vehicles. The purpose of FMVSS 302 is to reduce deaths and injuries caused by vehicle fires, especially those originating in a vehicle’s interior.

How Can We Help You?

As a growing global company with partners in a wide variety of industries, Elasto Proxy can help you to source fireproof rubber products for mass transit, marine, and aerospace applications. Ask how we’ve helped retrofit railcars with neoprene door seals, and can supply custom composite insulation and self-extinguishing firestocks. Our solutions providers can also source specialty silicones, fireproof foams and extrusions, and hard-to-find fire-rated bulb trims.

So how can we help you? For more information, please contact us or request a quote. Join the conversation on our social media sites, too. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy also has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

How to Select Marine Rubber and Plastic

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans
Image Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans

Philippe Grenier
Production Coordinator at Elasto Proxy

Rubber and plastic materials for marine applications must be able to withstand water, saltwater, wind, sunlight, temperature extremes, and other environmental conditions. Whether on the high seas or in coastal waters, part failure can sink product designs. For marine buyers and ship builders alike, smooth sailing means choosing the right compounds. Boats are built of many different materials, of course, so rubber and plastic parts must also support larger designs that include metals, composites, and wood.

Missions and Choices

Standards for civilian and military shipbuilding can and do differ, and pleasure craft such as yachts and sailboats have different “missions” than frigates and littoral combat ships (LCS). When choosing marine rubbers and marine plastics then, technical buyers may need to account for program and application requirements along with designs and environmental conditions. A compound that’s right for a window seal on a commercial fishing boat may not be recommended for muffling the sound of its diesel engine.

Despite these differences, many marine vessels use the same general types of rubber and plastic products. In addition to seals and insulation, boat builders need to source rubber trim and plastic bumpers. By working with a supplier who listens to your needs and analyzes your requirements, you can find reliable off-the-shelf or customer-fabricated solutions. With specialty seals and custom insulation, there are many options available. Even an anti-slip pad must be right for marine environments.

Seals and Insulation

Ships and boats need high-quality rubber products – including for watertight compartment sealing. Parts such as a latch seal on a ship’s deck, a porthole or window seal that’s close to the waterline, or an access hatch seal for an engine room serve important functions. Depending on the type of marine engine, the door seal on a fuel tank must be able to resist specific petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel. Remember, too, that some two-stroke outboards can use ethanol-blends. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel blends are more common on land, but you may need to account for their use at sea.

Seals aren’t the only rubber products that can require specialized characteristics. Acoustical and thermal engine bay insulation is also critical. Thermal insulation is designed to absorb heat from a boat or ship’s engine compartment. Often, silicone is used because this synthetic rubber can resist high temperatures while providing acoustic insulation from high-decibel diesel engines. Self-extinguishing firestocks and custom composite insulation are also available. By building sandwich-like composites, custom fabrication specialists can form application-specific shapes and thicknesses

Trim and Bumpers

Civilian ships such as yachts, sailboats, tug boats, and fishing vessels also use parts such as rubber trim and plastic bumpers. Naval ships aren’t built for commerce or pleasure, but these durable watercraft still need door, window, and edge finish trim as well as window channels. Sealing and insulation are also mission-critical. As the image that accompanies this blog entry shows, the first LCS in the U.S. Navy, the USS Freedom, has several rows of windows.

Since our founding 25 years ago, Elasto Proxy has served both the military and maritime industries. Today, light-up rubber bumpers are one of the many solutions that we offer. Equipped with long-lasting, energy-efficient LED lights, each elastomeric bumper is designed to illuminate the location of quays, pontoons, docks and embankments while protecting marine structures against impact by boats or ships.

How Can We Help You?

Do you need help sourcing marine rubber or marine plastic materials? Would you like expert assistance with seal design and custom fabrication? Could an off-the-shelf, out-of-the box sealing solution help you to cut costs and speed production? Contact us, request a quote, or just join the conversation. We hope to hear from you.

Look for a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too. Finally, I hope you’ll subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

Are Solar Roads the Way of the Future?

Solar Roadways

Clyde Sharpe
Elasto Proxy

How strong are solar panels? Would you stand on one and jump up and down? Would you park your car atop a solar array, or drive across photovoltaic cells at a high rate of speed? The exposed surfaces on PV panels are made of glass, but not annealed glass – the type that’s used in wine glasses, beer bottles, and some windows. Instead, solar panels use tougher, tempered glass. But just how strong is it? And could roads made of solar panels survive demanding environments like a Canadian winter?

Walk, Park, and Drive

According to Scott and Julie Brusaw, the founders of Solar Roadways, solar panels can be built so strong that you can walk, park, and drive on them. Backed by multiple phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the couple’s company is finishing a prototype parking lot and planning for production. At Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, Solar Roadways has already raised 196% of its $1-million goal. The technology is popular, but what about practical?

Originally, Solar Roadways planned to design panels that could support 80,000 lbs., the legal limit for tractor trailers in many jurisdictions. After learning that oil companies can move refinery equipment up to 230,000 lbs. across frozen roads, the solar startup aimed for a maximum of 250,000 lbs. instead. As the FAQ section of the company’s website explains, both 3D finite element method analysis and load testing at civil engineering labs has demonstrated that these PV panels are up to the task.

Enough Electricity to Supply the Entire World

Solar roads may be tough enough to withstand heavy weights and hard winters, but can they produce enough electricity to be cost-effective? For that matter, would panels even “pay for themselves”, as the Indiegogo page claims? As Solar Roadways admits, its panel prices are not yet available. Until prototype costs are captured and a production cost analysis is completed, critics (and even some supporters) will ask questions as tough as the panels themselves.

To its credit, Solar Roadways appreciates that “engineers love numbers” – and updates a web page called The Numbers daily. Among the assumptions is that there are 31,250.86 square miles of roads, parking lots, driveways, playgrounds, bike paths, and sidewalks in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Given its product’s capabilities, and based on test results, Solar Roadways claims that covering these surfaces with its PV panels “could produce just about enough electricity to supply the entire world.”

Costs, Benefits – and Rats

Road builders need to consider all of their costs – and all of the benefits – before starting projects. In addition to generating electricity, Solar Roadways are designed to serve as reservoirs for storing and treating stormwater, and as corridors for power and data cables. It’s not just a matter of tearing up old asphalt and replacing the roadbed with solar panels then. There are subterranean structures to be built, and effects on flood control, public water supplies, and electrical distribution to consider.

Then there are rats – unwelcome inhabitants in many underground structures. As I learned during a recent trip to China, rats in rail tunnels will eat the door seals on passenger cars to access tastier food supplies within. These doors seals are made of rubber, as are many seals for industrial applications. For the designers of solar roadways then, it’s important to look beyond the PV glass – especially in cities. Material selection also matters for any sealing that’s used between interlocking solar panels.

Hard Winters and Underground Cables

Here in Quebec, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, overhead wires are especially vulnerable during winter months. During the Ice Storm of 2001, for example, thousands of lines were downed and then repaired at considerable cost. Using solar roads to put power lines underground could prevent such power outages, and appeal to those who would rather not see the wires.

A Canadian winter isn’t the time to build solar roads, however, but when’s the best time to see if Solar Roadways will really work?

Join the Conversation

What are your thoughts about solar roads? Join the conversation on our social media sites. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has a YouTube channel, too.

Finally, please subscribe to our free e-newsletters. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and they provide links to blog entries like this one.

Sealing Success: Elasto Proxy Turns 25

Elasto Proxy - 25 YearsDoug Sharpe
President of Elasto Proxy

What was your life like 25 years ago? Where did you work? What were you dreams? Did you think then that you would be where you are today? As the company that Donna Sharpe and I co-founded turns 25, it’s time to reflect on where Elasto Proxy has been – and where we’re going. Our family-owned business began in a basement. Now we’re a growing, global company. The journey has tested our mettle at times, but Elasto Proxy’s future is brighter than ever.

Hopefully, some of the lessons we’ve learned can help you in your own company and career.

Find Opportunities in Growing Pains

Do you remember what the economic landscape looked like a quarter-century ago? Memories of the Great Recession of 2008 are still fresh, but the Crash of 1987 was also far-reaching. As large companies began to rebuild their business models, the economic downturn of 1989 caused even more pain. Back then, some might say that 1989 was a bad year to start a business. In hindsight, these dislocations were like “growing pains”.

When I left my job with a large manufacturer of industrial rubber products, Elasto Proxy began as a small business in my basement. Back then, the market for rubber parts such O-rings, fluid seals, and profiles was small. Elasto Proxy anticipated increased demand during the 1990s, however, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gave us a boost. At my first tradeshow, a defense industry event in Ottawa, we met our first customer.

Working with defense contractors provided Elasto Proxy with a strong start, but our small company also began solving sealing challenges in other industries. Changes in supply chain management worked to our advantage. Instead of keeping large quantities of inventory in stock, manufacturers wanted just-in-time deliveries of rubber parts. By providing specialized and ready-to-install sealing solutions, Elasto Proxy also aided efficiency in industries such as automotive and mobile specialty vehicles.

Learn, Listen, and Work Together

Did we mistakes during the past 25 years? Of course. The important thing is to learn from them. During our startup phase, for example, we delayed our entry into trade organizations and associations. Today, Elasto Proxy is a long-time member and proud contributor to groups like the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA), the Groupement des chefs d’entreprise du Québec, and Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries (CADSI).

In addition to working with these and other organizations, I’ve also served as president of the International Sealing Distribution Association (ISD). Much has been written about social networking, of course, and Elasto Proxy is committed to on-line engagement (as this blog entry proves). But technology has not changed the importance of personal relationships. What technology has changed is how buyers find suppliers, and the speed at which buyers can access information.

Gone are the days when a plant’s purchasing agents would hear in-person pitches from a long line of salespeople. Today, buyers want to work with partners who listen to all of their requirements before recommending solutions. On-time, low-volume shipments of high-quality parts are essential. Rapid prototyping and fast turnaround times are expected. Partners and technologies can and do help, but companies must make the choice to innovate – or fade away.

How Can We Help You?

In 1989, a fax machine in the office seemed like a luxury. In our shop, water jet cutting was available but hardly mainstream. Today, communications travel around the world at the speed of email and it’s the 3D printing of prototypes that captures our imagination. Companies like UPS and FedEx have helped us to strengthen logistics, and retail giants like WalMart offer lessons in material handling.

How can Elasto Proxy help you?  For 25 years, we’ve been solving sealing challenges and strengthening supply chains. Join the conversation today. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has pages on all of these social media websites, so all that’s missing is you.

I hope you’ll subscribe to our free e-newsletters as well. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and provide links to blog entries like this one.