Enterprise-scale innovation is both elusive and par for the course for manufacturers.
It’s both expected and constantly just around the corner. Companies like AirBoss of America understand that process innovation is what drives overall success in the long run. It’s why we strive to enhance existing technologies and create exciting new ones.
It’s through improvements to design of experiment (DOE) applications—and the following process and product implementations—that manufacturers succeed in a crowded marketplace.
For AirBoss, recent improvements to our compounding processes have led to unique opportunities surrounding synthetic rubber and high-heat automotive applications. As a result, we’re bringing to market our HeatBoss compound, which is less expensive and more impressive than traditional alternatives.
In June 2018, AirBoss engineers began a project to create an EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber compound formulation to replace silicone at high temperatures. Target temperatures ranged from 300 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and practical use included automotive muffler hanger applications.
By 2020, more than 100 different formulations had been tested and rejected. The design of experiment (DOE) parameters tested and altered included:
- Different EPDM grades
- And more
Best results yielded a compound that could sustain temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 70 hours. Unfortunately, this formulation scorched too easily, and AirBoss engineers weren’t satisfied. So, the process of trial and error continued.
This process of trial and error revolved around proprietary design of experiment software that allowed AirBoss engineers to tackle high-concept compounding scenarios and simulations. This was done without expending unnecessary resources that might otherwise overwhelm manufacturing processes.
Steven Yu, vice president of compound technology for AirBoss Rubber Solutions, understands the importance of DOE nuances.
“The normal preference in the industry is to ‘see what happens.’ To try this and try that,” says Yu. “We use DOE software to understand and verify the outcomes. We take it one step at a time to understand [processes] better.”
Being able to run complex processes through simulations and verify compound and formulation viability helps streamline development. This, in turn, simplifies otherwise overly convoluted development timelines and production expectations.
“Everything has a sense of urgency,” explains Yu regarding the pace of development within the automotive industry. “We want to better use our time, because in order to get a market share you need to get things out faster.”
In response to industry urgency and a desire to beat the competition to market, AirBoss focused on DOE integration to improve process efficiency.
By altering diene types, coagents, accelerators and peroxides to reformulate the compound within the DOE software, Yu and his team were able to develop an optimal HeatBoss formulation. This formulation passed 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 672 hours and could even meet the requirement of SAEJ200 Grade E qualification, making it the only known EPDM compound that can rival silicone for automotive muffler applications.
Design of Experiment Innovation Improves Manufacturing Development
It makes sense that improving processes to increase efficiency and create new products is good for business. Less time, money and resources spent ironing out manufacturing wrinkles means faster development and more efficient strategies.
A patent provision for our HeatBoss EPDM compound was filed in early 2021, and trademark registration is complete. The compound is only 50-60% the cost of traditional silicone alternatives and bears similar processability.
AirBoss continues to improve DOE processes using innovative applications across various industries. As a result, our compounds and rubber formulations outperform traditional alternatives while costing less to develop and manufacture. And that’s only one of the reasons why AirBoss successfully manufactures goods in the United States and Canada.