The traditional approach for suppliers to the automobile industry has been to build parts according to drawings provided by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Today, OEMs are delegating much more of the design responsibility to suppliers. This trend significantly changes the role of suppliers who, instead of competing primarily on quality, price and delivery time, are now often judged based on their ability to develop an innovative design that can meet the OEM’s requirements and be produced at a high level of quality and a low cost.
As a leading supplier of gaskets to the automotive industry and other markets, Interseals responded to these trends by increasing the size and capabilities of its engineering team. Yet, in the past, the company still faced difficulties in meeting its customers’ requests for innovative and economical designs. Gaskets are difficult to design because rubber components can undergo large deformations under load, sustaining strains of up to 500% in engineering applications. The load-extension behavior of rubber is extremely nonlinear and time and temperature dependent. Previously, when Interseals engineers based their initial designs on experience and handbook formulas, they usually found that the initial prototype did not meet the customer’s requirements. Typically, it took two more iterations to get the design right. Each design iteration cost an average of 5,000 Euros in tooling expenses and took between six and eight weeks.
Interseals engineers shared the simulation results with the customer and the customer gave the go-ahead to build the mold. When the mold was completed, Interseals made a number of prototypes and provided them to the customer. “The customer tested the prototypes and said that they met every requirement,” Izzo said. “Getting the design right the first time saved an estimated 10,000 Euros in additional tooling costs and made it possible to deliver the gaskets 16 weeks earlier than if 2 additional prototype iterations had been required as was normal with our previous design methods.”