ERJ: As a leader in rubber-product design and manufacture, which areas of technology does ContiTech believe materials and equipment suppliers should focus most on today?
WH: From a material-related point of view, long-term quality and high-performance materials as well as its processability will become more essential.
This is especially the case with regard to Industry 4.0-related applications, as it is of importance to incorporate electronic components into the appropriate material.
In this context, it would also make sense for all actors involved in joint development projects to cooperate from the very beginning to create value for all stakeholders.
ERJ: How would you describe ContiTech's own approach to elastomer-technology development and can you pick out some key points of focus?
WH: Continental is continuously deepening its know-how in the field of material development and manufacturing techniques
As a technology company acting in various industry areas, Continental is focused on making cross-industrial rubber and polymer-based solutions durable, functional and smart.
Lightweight solutions, for instance, are a development driver, as increasingly strict emission limits set by political institutions have to be adhered across different markets.
In this context, the substitution of metallic materials by fibre-reinforced ones will help to achieve these goals.
ERJ: Which new manufacturing techniques are of particular interest to your company?
EH: Both polymer material solutions and new manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing become more and more important.
For instance, machinery construction areas do not offer unlimited space and component geometries are becoming increasingly complex.
This technology offers the possibility of meeting customer’s requirements and taking narrow tolerances of components into account.
ERJ: Returning to the wider rubber industry, which particular materials science or processing developments will have a significant impact going forward?
WH: In addition to additive manufacturing technologies and the IoT (Internet of Things) on shopfloor, boundary surface design for hybrid materials will play an important role.
In hybrid materials inorganic materials are combined with polymers. Because of the different chemistry of these components the surface design determines the macroscopic properties significantly.
The challenge had been perfectly described by the Nobel laureate W. Pauli: “God made the bulk; the surface was invented by the devil.”
ERJ: Many thanks for your interesting insights