New Intricate Profiles Serve Customers in the Vehicle and Transportation Industry
Incorporating composites capabilities helps Lauren Manufacturing market units round out their overall product offering, enabling them to serve as a true full-service seal provider to customers in different industries. This ability to offer customers one source for a variety of seal types, thermoset or thermoplastic, recently allowed Lauren to supply unique solutions to numerous customers in the automotive industry.
The automotive market requires the creation of intricate profiles for closeout seals on headlights, taillights, roofing systems, exterior trim and wind deflector edging, which need to be constructed from composite materials. Lauren Manufacturing recently became a viable supplier by incorporating profile creation in-house over the past 24 months with the introduction of its new composites division.
Lauren's ability to create intricate profiles wasn't developed to serve a specific customer; instead it was developed to meet the needs of all customers with applications that require fine detail in the extrusion.
“This detail is necessary to either accommodate a very delicate closing force requirement to prevent other components from distorting, or to prevent the need for excess force. It's also helpful in providing a thin, sharp edge for an aesthetic appearance,” said Doyle Martin, Market Manager for the Vehicle and Transportation market unit. “Although intricate profile creation in itself is not unique to Lauren, the addition of composites capabilities has truly expanded our product offering and enabled us to provide more sealing solutions to customers.”
Martin has heard customers comment about suppliers with narrower product range offerings. They often will have an agenda to sell within that limited range despite the customer's needs, he noted.
“Those limited offerings don't always allow a company to offer a customer the best possible option, and more than one customer has stated how much they appreciate Lauren's ability to offer a wide scope of seals,” Martin said. “This capability really enables us to offer the best solution to our customers each time.”
Building and Construction Unit Develops New Dual Durometer Solution
Although Lauren Manufacturing focuses on creating customized solutions for individual customers, those solutions sometime apply to challenges facing an entire industry. Customers throughout the building and construction market have struggled with obtaining window seals that are both aesthetically pleasing as well as easy to insert, and one customer came to Lauren for a solution that would address both problems.
Although most window seals feature a low-friction coating or rigid base to help ease installation, Lauren's Building and Construction market unit worked to develop an alternative solution that would improve the seal's appearance and color matching capabilities while maintaining costs for the customer.
“The challenge with creating a push-in window seal is finding a way to balance the amount of friction needed to easily insert the seal into the channel while ensuring that the seal is not so slippery that it slides out,” said Sheryl Ashleman, Market Manager for the Building and Construction market unit. “For this customer's needs, it wasn't necessary to have the full, low-friction coating so we worked to develop a material that was slick enough on its own.”
Lauren developed a new dense EPDM material that does not require a low-friction coating but still allows the seal to easily snap into place and remain in place. The bottom dart also permits easy installation without stretching the material.
“This material will not replace low-friction coating, but it does allow for an ease of use that will certainly benefit customers in the window market when a low-friction coating isn't necessary,” said Ashleman. “Its other key attribute is its shiny surface, which improves the overall appearance of the seal. Customers in a number of markets will benefit from this new capability, taking advantage of the improved appearance as well as the easy use.”
New Striping Capability Opens Markets for Vehicle and Transportation
Innovation is what drives Lauren Manufacturing – not only toward new products, but also toward new capabilities. Recently, the Vehicle and Transportation market unit launched an innovative new capability when it introduced a new system for adding stripes to dense EPDM rubber automotive sleeves. The development is significant because many customers are required to mark or “stripe” their sleeves to indicate where metal clamps should be placed. The sleeves are used to provide protection and cover fuel and brake lines that run from the front to the rear of the vehicle. Lauren was approached to develop the technology by a customer who could not get the striping solution from its former supplier.
“This customer approached us because the striping on its current tubes were not well applied. They were unattractive to the point of looking hand-painted,” said John Kraus, Business Unit Leader for the Vehicle and Transportation market unit. “Although we only offered limited printing capabilities in the past, we developed a new piece of equipment in-house to meet and surpass the customer's needs.”
Lauren's challenge was to develop striping equipment that would roll the tubes and consistently incorporate a substance that would dry quickly, adhering to strict through-put times. With customers using equipment to sense color variation on the tubes, part of Lauren's solution also had to incorporate several different stripe color options.
After extensive trials, Lauren created off-line equipment capable of cleanly printing six quick-drying stripes at a time — three stripes on two tubes all in different colors.
“We had never created anything like this before, but we were able to provide our customer with a solution and sample within two weeks,” said Kraus. “Not only did we meet the needs of the customer, we solved additional problems they faced with keeping tube lengths consistent and processing high-volume orders. We really are solution-oriented, even when the challenge is completely outside our normal realm of work. This situation allowed us to solve a problem for our customer and open the door to a whole new sector of the vehicle and transportation market that we can serve.”