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Specialist bespoke metal fabrication requires specialist bespoke silicone rubber mouldings

Bespoke rubber mouldings for masking and other applications in low volume  fabrications.

There are thousands of companies producing low volume metal fabrications for specialist applications in vehicles. This isn’t just specific to motor vehicles either. The UK is not only a leading exported of motor vehicles but also aerospace, defence, shipping and other modes of transport. Trains are also produced in the UK.

The UK has always been famous for pioneering design and bespoke solutions. Whether its military conversions on vehicles, emergency vehicles or any other short production run such as motorsport, the UK is world renowned for design and bespoke manufacturing.

For manufacturers and sub contractors, the processes on short production runs can be very similar to large volume production. The main difference being that the big robotic production lines aren’t often used in low volume manufacturing, but that in its self is why the UK is so different. There are thousands of small engineering firms across the UK producing bespoke assemblies for defence, aerospace, motorsport and specialist vehicles.

By the very nature of bespoke and limited run, masking can also take on a need for bespoke applications. AFAC has over the years produced a wide variety of custom silicone rubber mouldings for these niche industries.

Case study of bespoke silicone rubber mouldings for low volume metal fabrication work

For one customer, when the military were still using Land Rovers as a principle vehicle, they were installing a radio rack into the rear of the vehicle. It was a simple design of a plate with oval holes reamed out of it to allow adjustment of the radio.

The problem was that the bolts and washers used to fix the radio to the plate were also the earthing points. As a result, an area around each oval hole needed masking to allow for the movement that had been built into the design.

Using the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber TUGPLUG as a basis for the design, we created an oval section and then added a “washer” into the design with a sealing lip around the edge for quality of finish. The first design was prototyped and worked perfectly.

Tooling is relatively inexpensive and the production run was only a matter of a few hundred items.

The Outcome

Satisfied customer and problem solved.

Working on limited volume fabrications and have a need for custom rubber mouldings or extrusions? Get in touch right now on 0845 094 0522

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What’s different about rubber moulding and rubber extrusion?

What’s the difference between a moulding and an extrusion?

The differences between rubber moulding and rubber extrusion are really simple. The are different manufacturing methods for producing shaped rubber components.

The easiest way to know the difference between extrusions and mouldings is simple.

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Rubber extrusions

Extrusions are moulded items such as tubes which can be produced in endless lengths. Extrusion involves forcing uncured rubber through a shaped tool and curing immediately afterwards. Extruding rubber is like turning a tap on that produces whatever 2 dimensional profile you require in continuous length.

Tubing is by far the most common type of extrusion but extrusions are commonly found in seals and

Shop for extrusions

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Rubber Mouldings

Mouldings are the opposite. Mouldings are 3 dimensional shapes. Mouldings are produced by forcing uncured rubber into a mould with no exit. The mould is then emptied and the cycle repeated. Mouldings are always numbers of parts produced.

Plugs, caps, o-rings, seals & gaskets are more common mouldings used in industrial applications.

Shop for mouldings

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What is Silicone Rubber

What is Silicone Rubber and what is it used for?

 

What is silicone rubber?

Silicone Rubber is a high performance inorganic elastomer. Its characteristics mechanically and chemically are unmatched by organic elastomers.

The unique properties of silicone rubber make it a top choice for an enormous variety of applications in industrial and consumer markets From mobile phone covers to industrial powder coating ovens, silicone rubber has is used for producing huge quantities of product.

Properties of silicone rubber

Silicone rubber can withstand extremes of temperature and is extremely flexible. It can be moulded or extruded and is transparent in its natural state. It can be dyed solid colours and mixes of colour.

Types of silicone rubber

Industrial Grade

By far the most common type of silicone rubber, industrial grade silicone rubber is commonly available and suits any industrial application not involving food or laboratory environments.

Food

More commonly used for consumer applications, food grade silicone is safe for all applications where contact with the mouth, food or children may be a consideration. It’s more costly than industrial grade silicone rubber.

Medical

Medical grade silicone rubber is produced for laboratory and “cleanroom” environments. The most costly of the 3 types listed, medical grade components are supplied free of any dust or swarf produced as a bi-product of the manufacturing process. Curing is slightly different with Medical grade silicone rubber too leading to increased cost.

 

Benefits of silicone rubber

 

  • Silicone rubber lasts longer in more extreme conditions
  • Weather has little effect — Silicone rubber stands up to the environment whatever the conditions, sun, snow, rain, it maintains its properties
    • The environment can affect organic elastomers causing them to deteriorate performance
  • Withstands extremes of temperature — from -100 to 316ºC (-148 to 600ºF)
    • Deterioration is caused at lower temperatures with organic elastomers >100ºC (>212ºF); performance can also be hindered by rigidity <-25ºC (<-13ºF)
  • You have plenty of choices
    • Broad hardness range (from 10 to 80 Shore A),
    • Useful range of color choices (from transparent to brightly colored)
  • Improves performance of seals and fittings
  • High performance electrical insulation characteristics.
    • Relatively unchanged with exposure to harsher conditions (heat, cold, moisture, oil, ozone, UV rays)
  • Remains flexible and resilient across a broader temperature scale
  • Improves the way consumer goods look and feel
  • Inert (no taste or smell); many food-contact options

 

Is Silicone Rubber the material for you?  Call us on 0845 094 0993 to speak to one of our experts today or click here to find out more.

 

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Creating bespoke silicone rubber moulding for manufacturing case study

Bespoke Silicone Rubber Moulding

Case Study: Creating a bespoke silicone rubber moulding to speed up manufacturing

Sometimes, when a client comes to us with a unique problem that needs solving, we create a bespoke silicone rubber moulding for them. Then, having created a solution to the problem, we realise that there may be other customers facing the same problem. The result? A new product line available to all our clients.

This scenario is precisely what happened when we were approached by an international client who had a finishing problem. The company in question is a leader in secondary power distribution solutions with an outstanding pedigree. The business specialises in high-performance medium voltage switchgear for industrial, utility and commercial applications. Incredibly, they have more than 100 years’ experience in enabling the safe and reliable distribution of energy all over the world.

The problem they consulted us about was this: they were looking for a cap that would protect the threaded ends of studs during media blasting to remove oxides and scale from their steel assembly. The cap would also need to act as a mask during electro-static powder coating. However, the caps they were using couldn’t withstand the punishment of shot blasting.

It was time for the AFAC team to step in. We designed a beefed-up version of the T-Cap. It has heavier walls and it doesn’t have the lip feature that the standard caps have. The reason for omitting this is that the blasting process is so fierce it tends to blast the cap completely off the stud. The resulting design for the new cap has increased wall thickness, no lip and a modified top flange to withstand the strain of being pulled off. As an extra precaution, the bore of the cap has also been reduced to give an increased friction fit—a further measure to help it remain in place during blasting.

The result was a winner! The new cap is able to withstand the rigours of blasting and the customer has requested a range of similar caps to use with different sizes and lengths of studs. These robust caps are now also available to our other customers. So one client’s problem resulted in all our clients gaining a new product!

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Manufacturing using 3D Printing – Roll on the Revolution!

How will manufacturers benefit from 3d printing?

Most of us have known about the advent of 3D printing for a while now. But what the inventors haven’t so far been able to show us is how its application is going to revolutionise certain industrial manufacturing processes. However, forward thinking businesses, such as AFAC, are starting to explore its potential—and now that it’s possible to 3D print in rubber, we can see a great future ahead!

3D printing – what is it and how does it work?

If you’ve seen a 3D printer at work, it’s an extraordinary sight to behold. A template in the form of a computer generated .cad file gives the printer its template. Press ‘PRINT’, and a stream of plasticising powder is fused with a bonding element to form a 3D plastic reproduction of the template. Furthermore, the technology has the ability to recreate complex objects, complete with moving parts—and all to an incredible degree of accuracy. But it’s not just plastic creations that can issue forth from the latest 3D printers. New printers have been unveiled that can create complicated multi-coloured sweets from sugar and chocolate. Just what the world has been waiting for!

To see an amazing 3D print out, take a look at this QI clip.

New 3D printing applications in manufacturing

However, more useful applications might not have the novelty value of spun sugar but they may revolutionise manufacturing as we know it. For AFAC, the eureka moment came when Ryan Mullins discovered that 3D printing in rubber is also available.

Rubber? What’s the big deal?

To date, most 3D printing has used plastic. For AFAC, plastic prototypes are not ideal for demonstrating a wide range of products which are generally made from rubber. The rigid nature of plastic doesn’t adequately show how the rubber and silicone plugs and covers will perform.

However, using a 3D printer to create rubber prototypes represents a game-changer for two reasons:

  • For AFAC, the properties of rubber are an integral aspect to the product design and effectiveness of proving concept for the vast majority of its products. In future, we will be able to utilise 3D rubber printing to produce rubber items with varying shore values as a way to provide the fastest and most efficient prototyping service for our clients. Lead times in bespoke product development will be slashed.
  • As 3D printing technology advances, costs will fall and its use will become widespread in all areas of mass production. 3D printing in rubber will reduce the cost of custom mouldings production. Tooling costs will exchanged for cheaper printer set-up charges and bespoke rubber prototypes will become available overnight. We’re not there yet, but with advances in the technology to increase the variety of materials and colours available, we will be soon.

3D Printing for designers and product development

For product designers and developers, this represents a massive leap forward. It’s conceivable that one could move from idea to full production in just a matter of hours. And with your own in-house 3D printing facilities, fears about product protection and pirating simply evaporate.

The UK has built its reputation on the extraordinary skill of its niche designers and product developers. 3D printing will hopefully allow more of the subsequent manufacturing to be based once again on British soil. And hopefully, AFAC will be one of the companies leading the way.

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UK Inventors of the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug

Inventing the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug

It may be a cliché that need is the mother of invention but, in the case of the Bakewell Silicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug, it’s certainly true. As powder coating took over from wet paint spraying in the early 80s, a new need was identified. AFAC, or Applied Fastenings and Components as the company was then known, devised the perfect solution – The Bakewell SIlicone Rubber Powder Coating Plug—and it’s still selling strongly to this day!

Back then, the company’s business mainstay was supplying fasteners to sheet metal workers. If a customer required a female thread, either a weld nut, rivet bush or self-clinching nut would be supplied. Once assembled, these solutions provided a far stronger captive thread than simply tapping a hole through the sheet metal.

Happy clients all round? Well, no! There was still an issue. Sheet metal components tend to need protection from oxidization. In other words, they are painted, plated or given an electro-static powder coating. The problem with this is that exposed threads can become contaminated by the coating process, leaving them unfit for purpose when it comes to the final assembly.

AFAC had already solved this problem with regard to male threaded studs, so it was natural we should start casting around for a way of protecting the female threads. The existing solution of using PVC tapered plugs was fine for wet painting—but they couldn’t take the heat generated during powder coating. Diligent research suggested there was a material that would be just perfect for the job—silicone rubber. Able to withstand temperatures of up to 315°C while remaining flexible, it made the perfect solution for thread masking.

Careful thought went into the design of the new plug. Tapered in shape, it had a cylindrical head for easy handling. It was trialled in a range of sizes to ensure it sealed the thread, while leaving approximately one third of the plug out of the hole. This allowed electro-static attraction to draw the powder under the cylindrical head to cover the component right to the very edge of the hole. With generous help from a local powder coater, the new plug was tested and declared a success!

The Bakewell Silicone Rubber powder coating Plug has now been in production for over 30 years, in a range of colour coded sizes, and it continues to be an invaluable masking tool for all powder-coating operations. It’s the original hole-masking solution—devised and designed by AFAC!

 

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Solving customer problems with bespoke design and production of silicone rubber mouldings.

The Problem

When one of our customers, manufacturing parts for a military vehicle, had a masking problem, they called on A.F.A.C.’s technical team to help them out. The problem they had was with a bracket that supported military radio equipment. Continue reading Solving customer problems with bespoke design and production of silicone rubber mouldings.