Auto seals: Proliferation and electrification

Development work at two leading companies show how seals suppliers are adapting both to established and emerging automotive industry trends

London – While embracing opportunities presented by electric vehicles (EVs), makers of automotive sealing products must continue to adapt to more established market shifts around parts-proliferation and materials selection – developments at Hutchinson and Freudenberg show.

The latter trends are perhaps most obvious in body sealing parts, which, notes Wolfgang Engel of Hutchinson Body Sealing Systems, have become highly specific to individual car models.

As a consequence, there are few common parts for different vehicles and hardly any carry-over parts from previous car models, said Engel, who is based in Montargis, France.

In a presentation at the DKT18 conference, Engel said that the number of car models in Europe had increased by 74% over the last 20 years, while average product lifecycle had dropped from 9.7 years to 5.6 years.

As well as requiring more and different original and spare parts to be produced and more product design work, the trend has also meant more product launches with less time to recover ramp-up costs.

Likewise, there are issues around lower production volumes, shorter production cycles and investment payback times, the Hutchinson presenter continued.

To cope with such demands, elastomer sealing manufacturers need to standardise design software and process simulation software across all plants, according to Engel.

Tool designs, he added, should also be standardised to reduce development cost and time and equipment geared to produce a wide range parts in both high and low quantities.

Hutchinson’s approach is, therefore, to have a standard global approach to its extrusion processes, in which up to six different materials can be incorporated in a single profile.

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