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AirBoss Engineered Product’s Director of Engineering, Jeff Auten, understands that while every customer is looking for quality when it comes to compounds and not components, not every customer needs top-of-the-line rubber products. Essentially, not every client is looking for the most expensive, most robust offerings when it comes to sourcing parts.

JeffAuten

AirBoss is a company that always tries to push the limits of rubber product development. If it hasn’t been tried, and there’s a market for it, AirBoss is quick to consider how the company’s manufacturing processes might adapt to new innovations. As a result, industry-leading customers come to AirBoss for the very best in rubber products, components, and compounds.

However, this can also mean that customers looking for mid-level, relatively inexpensive alternatives to top-of-the-line components look elsewhere. Auten and his team are trying to change that.

High Damping Non-Hydraulic Bushings Would Provide Clients with Options

Auten and his team look for ways that AirBoss can capture new markets.

This can mean changing a compound mix that offers different properties than top-of-the-line ones do or—like the company is currently trying to do—producing a part that’s slightly less capable but more cost effective.

AirBoss believes that its hydraulic bushing has long been the standard that other companies’ top-tier rubber components are modeled after. This bushing is made of multiple pieces, and it’s an assembly that offers the highest quality of damping isolation.

“To reach a certain level of high damping, the hydraulic bushings were invented,” says Auten— “because rubber has a limit to how much damping it can provide on its own. We can provide rubber that has higher damping, but to do that, the chemists have to add a lot of oil. Adding this oil heats up and basically breaks down the rubber. This leads to premature fatigue life.”

The point, according to Auten, is that manufacturers can come up with a high-damping rubber compound, but it won’t last as long as a hydraulic counterpart.

But not every company needs or can afford a top-tier hydraulic bushing. Low-cost, but still high-quality alternatives are often better suited for certain applications.

“We’re working with the Kitchener team to develop something that would be a higher capable, durable compound but would still provide a high damping,” he explains. “This might be sufficient so as not to completely replace the hydraulic bushing, but maybe on certain vehicle trends, this would be sufficient. We could give our customers an option for a lower-cost solution.”

3d printing prototypes
3d printing prototypes

3D Printing Has Changed the Way AirBoss Prototypes Products

Being able to offer cost-effective alternatives is only one way AirBoss is diversifying company processes. Another, which has changed the way product development is handled at AirBoss, is the introduction of 3D printing.

“The equipment for 3D printing is not that expensive anymore. It’s really sped up some of the prototyping and development processes we’ve had. It’s great. I wish I’d had something like this 20 years ago,” says Auten.

“To make an injection-mold tool, especially for a prototype, is not very cost effective. It’s not very timely,” he explains. “With 3D printing, instead of waiting one to two weeks to get machined samples back, we can make an initial prototype overnight—at a fraction of the cost.”

This time-saving process has also proven invaluable when it comes to spotting and correcting design flaws.

“If we print it out the night before, we can come in and see that something about it isn’t right. If it’s not working for our assembly, we can go in and change the model and print another one and have it ready the next morning. Whereas, if we had to go outside and have it machined, we could lose weeks or a couple months just on that component alone.

“We’re able to commit to say two weeks instead of six weeks for deliveries on prototypes in certain cases just because the 3D printing is shaving down that bottleneck,” Auten explains.

Paving the Way for Future Success

Auten notes that he and his team are still in the development phase with high-damping non-hydraulic bushings, but that’s not stopping them from saving the company time and money. Every little process that’s improved—like adding 3D printing to the mix—along with every effort to meet customer demand is continued progress toward future success.

“From my side, it’s just to give our customers options,” says Auten. “Customers want to deal with suppliers and engineers who are giving them solutions.”

Creating solutions for customers is something AirBoss has always done, and there are no signs that the company plans to stop anytime soon.

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