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Industrialization and commercialization of mass production processes for the texturing during moulding of dynamic seals in order to increase industrial equipment energy efficiency and durability

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SOFTSLIDE (Industrialization and commercialization of mass production processes for the texturing during moulding of dynamic seals in order to increase industrial equipment energy efficiency and durability)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2019-10-31

SoftSlide project has created an innovative mass production process that directly transfers micro-patterns already during moulding stage to obtain low friction, high performing dynamic seals. This process can be easily adopted by dynamic seals manufacturers with an insignificant cost increase.
Tests after optimization have confirmed an important friction reduction that can reach -50% in working conditions, with a consequent decrease of the wear, a significant increase of the seal durability and a 15% reduction of energy waste without any specific change in the counter surface, lubrication conditions or in the compound. Tests also confirm that we can reach a friction increase of +20%, when it comes to have more grip. All indicators of LCA/LCC show a big impact of the SoftSlide technology in cost and energy savings (up to 15%).
The ability to manage friction on dynamic seals is crucial because high-friction damages the seal surface overtime, thus reducing its lifetime and creating the need of frequent maintenance. Noise reduction, energy losses, risk-analysis and costs of maintenance are all aspects that can be solved by the brand new approach to the seal surface of Softslide.
Softslide tackles friction problems with tailor-made solutions, thanks to the combination of the know-how, digital processes and multiscale laser engraving technology. The solution found by Softslide is to treat the surface of the mould with laser engraving and to later transfer to the seals. The laser treatment is determined by the requirements of the customer, laboratory tests and feasibility studies.
The Softslide consortium is composed by Companies and Research Centres and can offer all the technologies, machines and expertise to fulfil the order from design to mass production of the seals.
Softslide technology addresses every market where engines, automation and dynamic equipment are required such as automotive, wind turbines, oil & gas, food processing, aerospace, fire prevention systems and many more.
One of the most remarkable discoveries of Softslide is the possibility to manage the degree of friction in both ways, in fact tests also confirmed that we can reach a friction increase of +20%, when it comes to have more grip.
During the second period, ML Engraving reached the know-how in laser engraving requested by the Softslide technology. Now, ML Engraving can efficiently work and adopt the Softslide technology with the high productivity standard requested by the industrial market.
The SoftSlide Technology required a quality control processes definition. With this aim, we drew up a Quality Handbook with the contribution of all partners. The manual describes the organizational structure and the processes, with the purpose to assure Quality. The project partners guarantee the achievement of the best results following the various stages of the production process of the seal. What is described in the manual can be applied to any order that has the main objective of friction management between the seal and the element in motion adjacent to it.
The Consortium is proceeding with a patent to protect the results achieved during the project. The patent has been presented 05th of July for Italy, it is meant for defensive purposes and can be extended to other countries. The Consortium is aware that once a product or application is turned into a patent, it becomes public and open to everyone’s availability. That’s why some of the results are protected as an industrial secret.
The consortium created its own trademark. A trademark provides value beyond the business: in order to create a brand image and to grow a brand reputation. Moreover, it helps customers to recognize you and it can capture their attention, especially in social media marketing. This descriptive trademark is registered for Italy but will be extended in 1 year-time.
The main task of SOFTSLIDE project was aimed to develop a new seal technology that shall reach friction reduction of 12.5%. Final tests on various types of seals geometries based on various types of rubber compounds achieved friction reduction of 30%-50% (depending on type of the rubber) therefore we can safely declare that we met the goal and further improve it.
Our second task was to obtain the first task without any changes to the rubber compounds and without any changes to the counter surfaces that comes on contact with the seal.
These 2 motivations forced SOFTSLIDE team to jointly develop, design and produce a new type of Seal Surface: SOFTSLIDE DDDR Surface. This task fully achieved.
We found that friction can be reduced or increased via 3D-micro texturing of the tool cavity, and that the DDDR engraving pattern is directly and accurately transferred from the tool cavity and embedded onto the seal surface in all types of tested rubber compounds and hardness. This finding opens possibilities to pre-define and control friction levels of multiple given seals.
We found that DDDR texturing of seal surface, properly defined for the application, does not reduce sealing capabilities; therefore, in our opinion recommended to consider our 3D-micro texturing as Industry Standard for all types of rubber seals: dynamic, rotational and static.
An important conclusion of the project clearly indicates that serial tool texturing does not change the methods of serial production and, even more important, does not increase the unit cost.
As we finish the EU project, it starts the business development plan. The project final event, held at the International London Rubber Conference, had a great result in terms of contacts, which are giving some real opportunities of industrial applications on real costumers.
The results achieved from the project are encouraging, the levels of friction reduction reached between 30% and 80% if compared with similar seals without the application of the SoftSlide technology. The results of the endurance tests are also impressive, they demonstrated a low wear of the SoftSlide technology even after several work cycles.
SoftSlide technology has, as main result, the fact that it allows to work on friction control, both in reduction and in increase, for seals to be used in dynamic contexts. It allows to extend the seals useful life, to reduce the maintenance of the parts where the criticality is the seal itself, and to be more efficient, to save energy. In some practical cases, it’s also important the noise reduction obtained as a collateral case of the SoftSlide technology. For all these results, numeric values concerning the advantage given by technology can be calculated and verified punctually. Such values have to be calculated every time on the specific case, depending on the kind of usage, the mix composing the seal, the moulding process, etc.
Regarding the future, a lot of development actions are already in place, in addition to the cases abovementioned, resulting from the IRC event in London.
There are actually contacts with primary moulds producers to get their support towards their downstream clients, there is an ongoing production of a material for technical-commercial usage, we are thinking about a new promotional event for next year.
The findings focused us on Friction Management Solutions (FMS) which should be the correct way of presenting the advantages SOFTSLIDE technology to the rubber and sealing markets. In our vision, in the future, SOFTSLIDE can be adopted by the industry as the standard of friction control seals.
Laser engraving 1
Laser engraving 2
Different seals
Height map of textured seal surface feature
Textured seals 2
ML Engraving and SoftSlide at PLAST2018
SoftSlide seals
SoftSlide Leaflet
Textured seals 1