Good vibrations might have been fine for The Beach Boys and their 409 Chevy V-8, but the modern-day automotive industry views vibrations as a bad thing. That’s why enterprise-level rubber manufacturers like AirBoss work to minimize vibrations for commercial automotive clients.
Recently, AirBoss engineers had the opportunity to design, manufacture, and test a brand-new, high-performance mass damper for a high-performance vehicle. The challenge was to adapt traditional AirBoss research and development practices to improve technology that was already top of the line.
Big 3 Automaker Teams With AirBoss Try to Improve Anti-Vibration in High-Performance Pickups
One of our automaker clients approached AirBoss as a trusted long-time partner to take on a new project for a new vehicle. Since AirBoss already supplied the company with dampers—components like shock absorbers that reduce vibration—our partner knew they could rely on AirBoss for quality work.
The adaptation of an already existing part would usually be enough to meet manufacturing demands, but in this instance, our partner needed something new and unique. So they asked AirBoss to create a custom mass damper that was fine-tuned to the narrow vibration frequency range of the off-road performance line. The newest vehicles are more powerful and, as a result, more demanding, so adapting the standard damper just wouldn’t cut it.
The solution? AirBoss created a brand-new assembly machine and adapted rubber durometer (hardness) testing practices to help build a mass damper that is capable of reducing vibrations within the desired frequency range.
“If we used the standard kind of damper and made it the same way, it would vary too much just through natural manufacturing variation,” says Mark Nordhaus, Senior Product Development Engineer for AirBoss. “Some of them would not work at all on the vehicle. The ones at the highest and lowest ends of the range of variation wouldn’t work, and the problem would re-occur.”
Refining the Damper Assembly Process
Nordhaus and his team varied their assembly process to minimize vibration in the rubber components of the damper. This, in turn, reduced the vibration frequency of the damper overall and made it possible to manufacture a part that meets this partner’s high-performance requirements.
This began in AirBoss’s prototyping phase.
Nordhaus and his team had to refine the concept of improving damper frequency reduction. Through trial and error, they came up with a design that reduced vibration frequency and was ready for mass production.
Next, AirBoss built an assembly machine that could implement their step-by-step process—to test rubber hardness and pick a corresponding part to complete the assembly—with repeatable, high-quality results. From start to finish, it was a project that had never been done before.
“Our partner asked if we’d ever done this process, this method, before,” says Nordhaus, “because they hadn’t seen it done anywhere else. I’ve done a lot of dampers before, and I’ve never done anything like that.”
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AirBoss Continues to Create Custom High-Quality Rubber Products
“We had to come up with a completely new process to make a very similar part a different way,” offers Nordhaus. “While this particular project was a little more complex than most, the process was essentially par for the course for AirBoss,” he jokes.
Nordhaus says that even though he’d never done this kind of refinement before, it was only because he and the AirBoss team had never tried. Once they had a goal and a clear path to execution, it was only a matter of adapting technologies and processes.
“We had to learn, and grow, and test, and learn from our testing, refine our process, and make it work,” reflects Nordhaus. He says that, regardless of the client, this is how AirBoss innovates and creates high-quality products time and again. “If it’s a large enough program, anything is possible.”
Nordhaus believes this is just how AirBoss does business, and it’s why clients like this major automaker keep coming back.
“You do a good job on some part. Or you come up with a really good design and really work closely with the customer. Then, they’ll want to come back to you.”