Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies’ product portfolio, advanced manufacturing processes and facility expansion activities are helping automotive manufacturers to meet demands to improve fuel economy through the industry’s adoption of 9- and 10-speed vehicle transmissions.
In addition to increasing market share, the company has 30 seals on one major manufacturer’s new 10-speed transmission debuting at the 2016 North American International Auto Show this week. The company says it anticipates more sales in the future, enabling the new technologies by:
• Further employing high-temperature and lightweight materials;
• Introducing new industrial processes including lathe-cut O-rings; and
• Increasing the capabilities of its manufacturing operations and products.
“As the industry continues to evolve, our company has taken a leadership role in helping our customers resolve the complex issues associated with today’s global market demands,” said Torsten Maschke, president, automotive sales and marketing, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies. “The drive to improve fuel economy and lower emissions continues to impact every aspect of vehicle development. We are proud to collaborate with our customers on the development of components and systems that will help them successfully meet their development objectives.
According to Maschke, these programs also have increased Freudenberg-NOK’s investment in products, manufacturing processes and facilities.
Eight Freudenberg-NOK facilities in Findlay, Ohio; Manchester, Northfield and Bristol, New Hampshire; LaGrange and Cleveland, Georgia; Morristown, Indiana; and Querétaro, Mexico, are supplying components to the new transmission systems. The company has been working on development of all-new components for, in some cases, more than four years.
Freudenberg-NOK engineers have worked side-by-side with engineers at customer facilities to help determine the design, material makeup and manufacturing processes used to develop seals and gaskets that support the new transmissions.
New High-Temperature and Lightweight Materials
The new 9- and 10-speed transmission programs being pursued by OEM manufacturers have enabled Freudenberg-NOK to introduce products made of new materials. One new pan gasket being manufactured by the company, for example, is being molded from Freudenberg-NOK’s best-in-class fluoroelastomer (FKM). This material offers customers significant temperature benefits in transmissions that are smaller, more powerful and run at higher temperatures.
In addition, the adoption of 9- and 10-speed transmissions has pushed Freudenberg-NOK to look at innovative new ways it can help customers achieve fuel savings through lightweighting of individual components. The company is now molding a two-part cover module formerly made of metal from a high-performance thermoplastic that saves up to 50 percent of the part weight to help with fuel efficiency and emission reductions.
New Industrial Processes
The push to perfect quality in every part of a new vehicle encouraged Freudenberg-NOK to adopt new, precision-driven manufacturing processes.
In cooperation with its major OEM customers, for example, the company’s Cleveland Transmission and Driveline Lead Center has developed a new automated visual inspection and laser etching system for parts. The system relies upon active and dynamic statistical process control at the point of manufacturing. Seals are automatically examined and component-specific data is collected and retained, making product analysis and traceability possible long after the part has been in the field. This innovative system provides higher value while eliminating the risk that nonconforming components will reach the end customer.
In addition, 10-speed transmission component development has resulted in new manufacturing technology being implemented at the company’s LaGrange facility. There, a new lathe cut process for larger-scale O-Rings incorporates a variety of innovations including new tools that eliminate engineered waste and improve the quality of finished components.
New Manufacturing Capability
Freudenberg-NOK’s 43,000-square-foot expansion of its Findlay, Ohio, manufacturing facility, announced in spring 2015, has been completed and that’s good news for OEM customers who are transitioning to new technologies like 9- and 10-speed transmissions, the company says. The plant is a benchmark for lean manufacturing and production of quality automotive components and increasing transmission component sales, among other factors, necessitated the investment. A good portion of the approximately $8.6 million in construction and equipment upgrades put into the plant will be used to support business coming from introduction of new automotive transmissions over the next decade. The plant will eventually supply more than 18 million transmission seals annually to customers as program volumes ramp up.
The plant currently manufactures 185 million seals and related components annually and anticipates the new addition will increase production by approximately 25 percent a year.