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Materials advance reduces carbon footprint of key transmissi​on component

Federal Mogul : 18 March, 2011  (New Product)
Federal-Mogul has developed a clever elastomeric compound that makes the production of its Unipiston bonded hydraulic clutch pistons more energy-efficient. The component is used in most automatic and dual-clutch transmissions
Materials advance reduces carbon footprint of key transmissi​on component
Materials scientists at Federal-Mogul Corporation have developed an innovative material that eliminates a costly and energy-intensive curing process used throughout the industry. The unique new elastomeric compound, called K16, improves Federal-Mogul’s leading technology in UNIPISTON bonded hydraulic clutch pistons and enables the company to reduce the environmental footprint of its manufacturing operations with significant reductions in CO2 emissions and natural gas consumption. Federal-Mogul is believed to be the first company to develop such a system for manufacturing high-performance rubber products.

UNIPISTON bonded pistons convert hydraulic pressure into the mechanical force needed to engage clutch packs in automatic and dual-clutch transmissions. Federal-Mogul’s first application of the new molding technique eliminates the oven post-cure process from the production of the elastomeric seals used in its market-leading UNIPISTON products.

The production of bonded piston seals has historically required that the parts are baked, or cured, in an oven for up to 12 hours at approximately 175°C. By eliminating the oven post-cure process, Federal-Mogul calculates that the annual natural gas consumption at its Frankfort, Indiana plant alone will decrease by 40 billion BTUs, preventing nearly 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. This reduction in energy consumption is roughly equivalent to the annual energy requirements of 370 average homes in the United States.

As vehicle manufacturers continue to seek ways to reduce CO2 emissions, the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process is becoming as important as the point-of-use emissions. With the new process, Federal-Mogul is demonstrating that developing new leading technology can offer both environmental and commercial benefits. “Development of the K16 elastomeric material is an example of Federal-Mogul’s commitment to leading technology and innovation to create a greener future. As the process is integrated into our sealing manufacturing facilities, the environmental benefit is immediate,” said Federal-Mogul President and CEO José Maria Alapont. “Our expertise in polymer chemistry and process control has produced a practical, cost-effective and environmentally friendly answer to a highly complex technical challenge.”

The finished K16 seal meets or exceeds the performance of previous seals both in terms of wear resistance and life expectancy and is based on proven long-chain elastomers. According to Federal-Mogul’s global director Sealing Technology and Innovation, Larry Brouwer, the company intends to expand K16 technology for other product applications: “Federal-Mogul’s K16 technology also could be adapted to other elastomeric products, such as gaskets for oil pans or valve and engine covers or virtually any other sealing application,” Brouwer said.

Development process and further benefits

Elastomers are normally formed by cross-linking millions of polymer molecules through vulcanization, which is traditionally carried out in two steps. In the first step, known as press cure, the elastomeric compound is forced into a mold that defines the desired shape. In this step, vulcanization is initiated by subjecting the compound to heat and pressure. Until now, the second step of vulcanization occurred during oven post cure, during which the compound is kept at a constant, elevated temperature for an extended period of time.

“Federal-Mogul’s search for more environmentally friendly processes led us to a combination of polymer chemistries and press cure conditions that produced the right elastic properties without energy-intensive curing or the use of expensive rubbers,” Brouwer explained. “We developed a process monitoring and control system that adjusts the press cure time to compensate for any variation in temperature or material characteristics. This is the key to stabilizing the cross-links between the polymers without a post-cure stage.”

The successful introduction of K16 on the company’s UNIPISTON product range is in production for several major OEMs. Plans are underway to integrate this innovation at Federal-Mogul facilities around the world.

In the first application of K16 technology at Federal-Mogul’s Frankfort (India) manufacturing facility, parts can now be transferred directly from moulding to shipping, bypassing the old oven post cure process and reducing part processing time. Implementation of the company’s K16 technology has generated additional benefits at the Frankfort plant, including reductions in part travel distance and work-in-process inventory.

The K16 material was developed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of Federal-Mogul’s 18 global technical centres.

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