Bill Mortel reports from Cleveland, Ohio
There’s a lot happening in rubber. And as our anti-vibration solutions are largely engineered through rubber-to-metal bonding, we’ve got to be at the forefront of these developments.
So, for the past seven years or so, it’s been my role to attend (where possible) the world’s leading industry conventions – the International Rubber Conference (IRC) and RubberCon – on behalf of both Trelleborg and the UK’s Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IoM3). This year it was off to Cleveland, Ohio for the three-day IRC event which brought together 800 delegates from both industry and academia, as well as 5,000 exhibition visitors ready to discover what we can expect from rubber over the next twelve months and beyond.
Luckily, I wasn’t in the hotseat to present a paper this year (although in the past I’ve brought our DragonCoat solution to this global audience). So it was time to sit back and take in the expertise of our peers, on topics as diverse as new carbon black treatments, materials testing and new equipment, and cleaning methods for rubber moulds.
For me and for Trelleborg, the biggest take-home was in materials testing, as we commit to 100% testing all of our mounts and suspension products before they make their way to the customer. There are some exciting developments in linear motor technology which will, we hope, give better material characterisation at testing. In addition, we heard from one leading producer of carbon black who promises a new formulation with particular benefits for anti-vibration. That’s exactly why we invest our time in attending these conferences – to cherry-pick the most promising industry advancements, then bring them back to Trelleborg for rigorous testing of our own.
But it’s not just development work that’s next on the agenda for us – as part of IoM3, my next responsibility is to help plan the 2019 instalment of the IRC. It’ll be held at London’s Oval, and has particular historical significance.
2019 marks not only the 100th year of the IoM3, but also the 150th anniversary of Hancock’s Pickle. Nothing to do with preserving vegetables – this was a method of masticating rubber to turn it from a raw ingredient to an engineering material, ready for a variety of purposes including anti-vibration.
It’s fitting then that we expect biomaterials to be a huge focus at the London IRC. Rubber is a commodity product and is labor-intensive, therefore quite expensive, to produce. As a result, many researchers are looking to alternative plant sources – from dandelions to a particular species of cactus – which can give the desired material properties, but in a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. By bringing academics, chemists, physicists and manufacturers together at the IRC, we can and will change the face of the rubber industry for the future.