Working with the High-Compliance Needs of Military Applications
Military products and applications demand extremely high reliability and durability because of the likelihood that they will be put to the test in some very extreme environments. This means that military departments that design, develop, and otherwise work on these projects must source materials and parts from companies that understand and meet the established standards and regulations.
Military applications need to be completely reliable, even under the most rigorous conditions. To that end, suppliers must institute their own quality assurance processes on their design, production, and testing phases.
What Are Military Spec Products?
“Military spec” refers to the higher-grade materials that go into every project that could be subjected to heavy usage. These materials must be tough and reliable enough to function properly in a wide range of military industry applications.
The military sector is often called a high-compliance industry because of all the rules and regulations surround any parts and compounds used in any production. Products can only qualify as military spec when they are in full compliance with these requirements.
The exact characteristics of a certified material can be different, but in general, the quality assurance team should make sure that any product shipped off to the military sector must be compliant in strength, durability, temperature resistance, flammability, and other factors.
In truth, it’s not enough just to meet the standards set by different regulatory organizations – not when product failure could lead to potential harm or damage.
At Clark Rubber & Plastic, we have implemented a cutting-edge quality assurance system to make sure that every product that leaves our facilities easily meets and then exceeds the normal requirements of our customers in their industry.
This means that we have ISO/TS 16949:2009 compliance, and we work with certified materials testing facilities and an outside calibration facility to ensure our military spec products deserve the name.
Why It’s So Important
Whatever the final military application, it’s a safe bet that it is going to be put through some extreme environments and heavy usage. This means there is no substitute for effective, detailed, and reliable quality assurance.
These products may be taking some people into some life-threatening situations. They have to perform like they’re supposed to, whether they’re going into sandy, dusty, or watery locations in the middle of some extreme temperatures and locations.
Our materials and products are regularly used in tanks and other vehicles, armaments and munitions, engine parts, marine vessels, airplanes, and more. It’s critically important to ensure safety in them all.
The Department of Defense does more than just lay out the regulations that govern how products are used in military applications. It also produces a lot of documentation for products and processes and materials that help establish some standardizations.
For example, the DOD may create special documents that make it possible for different agencies or branches of the military to source materials and know exactly what they are going to get. This will lead to a certain level of commonality between all the different departments, which can help streamline the supply system and ensure every branch gets the materials they need.
In order to supply products for the military, producers must meet these standards so that they don’t contribute to bloating the military processes.
Keeping Up with New Developments
Technology, processes, and materials change and develop over the years, which means our manufacturing methods and quality assurance systems have to evolve to keep up. This can make producing military-grade products a challenge, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure the reliability and durability of every product.
This means that, in order to keep up, we have to maintain our quality management systems and constantly improve on what we’re already doing. This mean employing internal and external audits, reviewing policies and reports, taking all the necessary corrective and preventive actions, and making sure that the entire staff knows and understands these requirements.
Military products are very likely intended for applications that demand reliability in some very severe environments and applications. In order to ensure that they are dependable in these difficult conditions, we continue to devote a lot of time and effort to design, production, and testing every part of our production process so it will always meet the necessary requirements, even in a high-compliance industry.
The Increasing Demand for Solar Power Over the Years
Have you noticed more and more homes in your neighborhood covering their roofs with solar photovoltaic panels?
What about the businesses or factories in the area? Have they started looking at alternative power sources to save money and meet industry regulations?
Solar power continues to become more affordable and accessible in the United States, which has made it far more prevalent than it was just a decade or so ago.
In fact, since 2008, the number of photovoltaic panel installations has increased by 35 times what it was before that.
A Maturing Market
The residential market for solar power continues to grow, and it reached record highs in 2019 with 712 megawatts installed. The U.S market added around 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter alone.
This is a 45% increase over the previous year, and a 25% increase over the previous quarter.
The outlook for the future is equally bright, and it has been forecasted that with the current level of investments, accelerated build-outs, and other factors, the total installed solar capacity could more than double over the next 5 years.
How Much Power Does Solar Provide?
It is estimated that the current number of installations across the country is producing somewhere around 70 gigawatts, which is enough energy capacity to power more than 12 million homes.
As the installation prices and ongoing costs continue to go down, solar continues to provide a large chunk of the country’s electrical generation. In 2010, solar constituted a mere 0.1% of our total power, while in 2019 it was closer to 2.5%.
What Does a Solar Installation Cost?
The costs for solar photovoltaic panels have been steadily decreasing since around 2014, which has led to the recent growth spurts in the industry.
Over the last decade, the cost to install a solar system has dropped more than 70%, making the costs as low as they’ve ever been. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average-sized residential system dropped from a pre-incentive price of $40K in 2010 to around $18K today. Utility-scale prices currently range from $18/MWh to $35/MWh, which is competitive with all other forms of energy generation.
What Is Holding Back Solar Adoption?
While the costs of the materials used in photovoltaics continue to decline, and the durability and reliability of the materials continue to increase, there are some other costs that do have an impact on the rate at which residentials and businesses are able to install their own systems.
While the costs of the materials and the finished products have become much more affordable over the years, it’s the “soft” costs that have yet to catch up with the developments in the industry.
This can include everything from gaining permits and financing to labor and supply chain concerns. There is a lot that has to be done in order to complete an installation, and that means a lot of people/businesses/regulations are going to get involved. And in order reduce these soft costs, new programs will need to be initiated to make the entire process more efficient, effective, and affordable.
Working on Storage
Solar power, by its very nature, affected by a wide range of variables. The sun’s location, how long it’s in the sky this season, the level of cloud cover, and several other factors can impact the amount of energy that every installation can generate.
The solution is – and always has been – storage. Technology for storing all this energy is growing very rapidly. As it is right now, the power grids have been there to absorb the variable energy produced by photovoltaics. However, we tend to use more power at night – when solar is producing a lot less energy – than we do during the day when the sun is shining bright and powerful, which is not an ideal balance.
Energy storage systems will change the way this works. While the prices for storage aren’t coming down as fast as solar, they are developing with an eye toward being paired with solar technology to help smooth out peak demand times and make residential and industrial installations even more effective and efficient.
Solar Power Components
Every individual component that goes into these photovoltaic installations can contribute to better results and performance advantages. At Clark Rubber & Plastic, we produce everything from solar panel rubber inserts and frameless clip assemblies to electrical coverings and cable inserts.
These high-quality solar plastics and rubber for solar structures can help reduce material and manufacturing costs and provide important corrosion resistance and long-term value.
This is only the beginning of a very bright future with solar power.
The History of Rubber
Rubber is a common material that most people are familiar with today. It is found in shoes, tires, fittings in machinery, plumbing parts, hoses, gaskets, and so much more. But when was this product discovered and how did it become such a staple to the modern world? To help answer these questions, here is a quick overview of the history of rubber.
The known history of rubber goes back to before the 1600s in Meso-America. The indigenous people used it for generations for many things, including creating balls and dipping their feet in it for a protective, temporary covering. The base of rubber is a white sap that comes from tropical plants, like the rubber trees in the rainforest. One of its first uses in the European world was as an eraser. It was found that rubbing the matter over writing would erase it, hence the name “rubber”.
Many people consider the first scientific findings of rubber to have happened in 1735, by Charles de la Condamine. He tried to convince everyone that this material would be ideal to create flexible tubes. In 1820, a British industrialist named Nadier produced rubber threads. He intended to use them in clothing construction and accessories.
Taming the Substance
Rubber helped make some cities in South America very wealthy, but soon plants were taken to other parts of the world and planted. The world was becoming excited by the many uses of rubber and what it meant for industry and everyone wanted more of it. Several products were produced, but they all came down to several problems. For one, cold weather changed rubber to be brittle and break easily. On the other hand, rubber was too hot and sticky in hot weather.
Goodyear discovered the process of vulcanization by accident in 1840. He had been working hard to make rubber a more usable product and accidentally dropped rubber on a hot stove top. Vulcanization is the process of mixing rubber with lead and sulfur and dropped in high heat. The result was a product that came back to its original form after being stretched. Once this was discovered, the process was refined more and the uses of the product dramatically increased.
Rubber is no longer dependent on the liquid, tacky substance from plants. During World War II, more rubber was needed than any producers could create. Instead, crude oil was used to make a synthetic version that is still widely used in many products. The word “rubber” now refers to a class of materials with high elasticity, rather than the original, plant-based substance.
The process of creating rubber products has also changed. The rubber extrusion process helps to push rubber through to a rubber molding that is in the shape of the finished product. Additives are put into the substance and then the vulcanization process is done by adding high heat. The product is then cooled quickly to solidify the product and keep it in the desired shape.
From there, products are used in automobiles, solar panels, military defense, and more. These products help keep water in or out, provide insulation, or to protect other parts from damage. Our world with modern technology is a dependent on rubber in all its forms. So next time you see something made of rubber in any shape or size, you can understand how it came about.
How to Choose an Automotive Die Cutting Partner
An automotive company depends on their reputation for providing high-quality parts. Once those products are passed on to customers and installed in vehicles, it becomes their own reputation that is on the line which is why dealers, repair shops, and manufacturers expect quality. The market continues to demand quality in less time and for lower prices, which effects the entire automotive supply chain. One way that companies are achieving these goals are with their automotive die cutting partners.
The Cost-Effective Option
The advantage of using die cut automotive parts is that they are cost-effective to make. But there is more to choosing a partner than just someone who has the right equipment to get the job done. The ideal partner will have your needs in mind and work hard to improve the process. Part of die cutting parts includes assembly of the little pieces. This can become a tedious task that can require extra employees or an extra step in the automation process. To simplify the process and keep your business moving, the entire assembly can be done by the die cutting partner.
Knowing All the Options
Before you can fully utilize a strategic partner, it’s important to understand their abilities. Talk about the jobs you need to have done and any extra tasks, like assembly, that they can do in-house to simplify your life. Knowing what capabilities are important to you and being able to communicate those needs to a die cutting service will help you find the partner that is right for your business. While not every automotive part can be created with die cutting, it is ideal for certain parts, such as
- Structural components
- Motor housings
Each of these is an individual task with its own nuances. Most can be created in bulk and done in a short time frame.
Building a Strong Relationship
While each die cutting company will know how to create these automotive products, it is important that the relationship is solid. Staying in constant communication about needs and having a system going will help make everyones job easier. When there is a solid foundation to this business relationship, it strengthens both businesses because the supply chain is stronger. Each time parts touch another pair of hands or go through another step in the supply chain, it weakens just a little and increases costs. This is important because the quality levels in the automotive industry are set so high and regulated heavily. Creating finished products at the end of the chain is vital to survival in the field.
Shortening the chain is done by having fewer companies involved and utilizing in-house services before shipping the automotive parts. Contact Clark Rubber and Plastic today to see how we can help die cutting automotive parts for your business. We can save your company time and the need for extra employees. We work hard to forge stronger bonds and shortening the overall supply chain required for jobs. When you have more time and a reliable partner for quality parts, you can focus on growing a successful business.
Rubber Molding Versus Silicone Rubber Injection Molding
When placing an order for rubber molding, there are several different options between manufacturers. The right type of rubber for the job will make all the difference in the finished product, but which is the right one for your project? Here is a quick reference guide for your next rubber injection molding job.
Rubber Molding with High Consistency Rubber
The most common association that people make to rubber is referred to as high consistency rubber, or HCR. It is available in different thicknesses and usually comes in high viscosity sheets. It is gummier in texture and gives products a flexible quality, much like you’d expect in rubber tubing. This material is not commonly used in injection molding because it has such a high viscosity and takes a long time to cure. The HCR is great for certain applications and takes a long time to produce. It is labor-intensive to produce a finished product, but it is ideal for tubing and cording.
The other problems that companies come across is the amount of waste produced during manufacturers. This usually results in higher costs for materials, extra space, and labor costs for the company that is passed on to the customer.
Injection Molding with Liquid Silicone Rubber
Liquid silicone rubber, or LSR, is liquid, as the name implies. This is a great material for injection molding because it is easy to inject into molds than the HCR form into different shapes.
LSR starts as two parts that become solid once mixed together. Before combining the two parts, additives can be added and then machinery mixes everything together in precise amounts. The mixture is then pushed into molds and left to cure inside them. There is a low viscosity to LSR so the process is fast and requires less labor. This helps keep this type of rubber molding less expensive because there is less time spent on each order. Since molds are used to create the final product, there is less material waste.
Another benefit to using LCR is that the results are consistent. With HCR, the rubber is harder to form and is created with pre-created sheets. Production might vary between parts, which requires an extra step for trimming and quality control. LCR is used in the same molds, producing the same results each cycle, even with complex shapes.
Some of the industries that benefit from rubber injection molding include automotive, appliances, military and defense, and the solar industry, among others.
The Right Rubber for the Job
If you have a job that requires custom rubber molding, consider the two main options. The HCR is still ideal for many rubber products, but custom or complex jobs require a forming of liquid rubber into molds. Consider the pros and cons of each job and talk to the manufacturer about what they would recommend.
For the best custom rubber molding services, our customer service agents are happy to discuss options for your job. Our machinery is equipped to handle many different materials, including natural rubber, nitrile, neoprene, Viton, EPDM, and SBR. We can do repeat jobs and handle any size order- large or small. Let us know how we can fulfill your orders and help your company succeed.
The Link Between Transparency and an Efficient Supply Chain
Consumers have become increasingly aware of how businesses work, not just what products they make and services they offer. The number of customers who care about a brand’s impact on the environment are growing every year. Cone Communication did a survey in 2015 that showed 81 percent of global consumers care about transparency, or how a company handles their corporate social responsibility and consider it in their buying choices.
For companies, this is a big number and reason to consider their own choices in buying and production. Sourcing materials or resources with any negative impact will eventually be uncovered and customers will find out and directly influence a company’s performance. Because of this, more companies are changing their supply chains to be more transparent, which also makes them more efficient.
The Role of Transparency
Some supply chains are more transparent than others naturally. Food chains are often transparent so that consumers know what they are putting in their bodies. A transparent supply chain in this industry helps provide a more efficient way to notify retailers and the public of recalls and contaminated foods.
Other industries, like construction and manufacturing, don’t naturally have a transparent supply chain. While this may have been an area consumers cared less about in the past, that is changing. With a more informed society, consumers are caring more about their health and the products around them. Instead of knowing that the suppliers are reliable, people like to know that the workers are treated well on the job and the conditions are fair.
Consumers who care about a company’s social responsibility will find out this information, but there is a bigger benefit for companies making themselves more transparent. When customers find out who has a greater sense of social responsibility, they feel loyalty to that business. Companies who make their supply chain more transparent will focus on improving these aspects and gain a more loyal base. With a higher public perception, they can gain more business.
The Benefits of Transparency
Manufacturers, companies, distributors, vendors, and customers all benefit from transparency. More than just creating a good public profile, each can gain the following benefits:
- Reduces risk: When every part of the supply chain is traceable, risk is reduced almost entirely. It helps provide oversight for everyone in the chain. If there is a recall in any industry, being able to follow the products to where they ended up is valuable to keeping the public safe.
- Keeps everyone informed: Each person in the chain is more informed on where the products are assembled, who packaged them, how it was transported and stored. For a product like food, the benefits of this are obvious, but it also matters in other industries. Aerospace, architecture, and engineering have products that require vigorous testing for quality and reliability. The proper care of machinery is vital to performing accurately.
- Greater efficiency: With a more transparent supply chain, there is more information available. This helps identify problem areas where processes are slowed. If there is an area where things bottleneck in production, it can be solved and improved. Companies might also find steps that are unnecessary and can be removed entirely, speeding up the entire process.
Companies often need help understanding how to increase the transparency in their supply chain. What tools are available to help and how do you implement them? When a product goes through so many steps, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start.
Thanks to the tech industry, there are many software programs and applications that aid in tracking. Data is more efficient to collect with these systems and are not hard to put in place. Putting a small tracker on a shipment helps track location, temperature, and conditions.
Blockchain is another system that helps to directly connect suppliers and distributors. It provides a secure, decentralized platform that helps eliminate excess.
Transparency provides more collaboration between partners, vendors, and suppliers. They work together with more efficiency and have more communication, speeding up processes and solving problems. Consumers can see where their products and services are coming from and purchase with more loyalty, knowing they are doing their part to be socially responsible. Transparency really is the key to a more efficient supply chain and a successful business.
Ways Simulation is Improving the Development of Products
Simulations are taking over the entertainment world with improvements in movies and virtual reality in video games. One area that you might not expect to find simulation is product development. Not only is simulation a great tool for developers, but it is changing the industry as we know it. From engineering to avionics, the presence of virtual reality (VR) is increasing.
Benefits of Virtual Reality
Labs the produce products are finding that they can do more with VR. The main reason that augmented reality is beneficial is because designers can build and test products in theory before building a physical prototype or product. Manufacturers and designers are finding that it is more efficient and cost productive to take a VR route before a reality approach. There are four main areas that designers are finding the best use of VR in development.
Viewing Blueprints and CAD Designs. When customers come in to review their purchase orders, they want to see more than blueprint sketches. Instead, designers can pull up the design on their computer screens and show the customer a 3-D view of their product. This is a more realistic view of what the final product will look like and can show proper function better than a drawing or printing can show. Designers can spot flaws and adjust details easily in this form with less cost to the company and consumer. Customers can provide helpful feedback that can prevent problems after production. Together, they avoid miscommunication, and both save a lot of time and money in the end.
Smaller Scale 3-D Parts. One of the most expensive parts of design is creating scaled models of products before production. Sketches don’t give enough detail to those who are creating the parts and changes are more difficult. Using 3-D printing, engineers and designers can create smaller scale 3-D parts and test them out before creating a product to scale. This is a much more affordable option for companies.
Creating in a Virtual Space. Realtors and construction companies have been using VR to sell properties and show off homes pre-construction for a few years now. It has helped expand their potential buyers to those across the country, rather than limiting it to those who can walk through a model home. This same concept is open to other industries too. Cars, buildings, boats, and even small parts are easy to create and view in a virtual space for potential customers. The ways companies can save money in materials, storage, space, and resources are almost endless with VR.
Improving Prototypes. As mentioned, manufacturing and design companies have historically created products to spot problems and adjust designs. With more complex products, each piece is created individually to ensure they work together correctly. Simulation does more than create a 3-D model, it also allows designers to see how all the different parts will work together before creating the first physical prototype. Sizing of pieces is usually an expensive process to figure out, but with simulation, individual pieces are sized or alternatives found before creation to ensure the entire product functions properly. This saves recalls, tests, bad contracts, and most of all, stress.
Changing the Experience
Using VR in design and manufacturing is saving companies time and money. This allows them to create more products and earn more contracts. The digital transformation is improving the customer experience and changing the manufacturing market. The best part of all is that more superior products are created, helping everyone involved to succeed.
How Technology Makes Manufacturing Work
Manufacturing is the backbone of America, playing a part in so many different industries. Evidence of its importance can be found on stickers at the bottom of toys, tags on clothing, and even political discussions over the last decade. With China being a major competitor, it’s small differences that can make a manufacturing company successful. Just like every other sector, technology is taking manufacturing companies and helping them become more efficient and a player in the large, global arena.
The Design Difference
The process and complexity of designing products vary between industries. Even within industries, companies often manufacture many different types of products. Traditionally, molds and prototypes are made multiple times until it is done right. With technology, the processes are reduced with programs that help designers create 3D visuals. Program inspections more easily find flaws which means less time, materials, and energy are required to create correct designs.
Another benefit of technology in design is that the programs used to create the designs can be synced to machinery. The syncing cuts out a lot of waste, streamlining the overall process. Manufacturers no longer have to spend time moving files over, inputting complex programming codes, or training workers on design details and expectations.
The biggest benefit of technology and machinery is that it increases efficiency. When people are doing the manufacturing themselves or running machinery, it limits the hours that the facility is working. Automated systems are more efficient because they don’t require breaks and can manufacture different parts around the clock and every day of the year. The quality of the products is not compromised after long hours either, keeping standards high and the reputation of the company intact. With a higher production rate and high-quality products, companies can offer competitive pricing while still making a higher profit.
Automation is also great because it uses fewer materials in its production. Products that require complex designs are especially benefited by technology because fewer mistakes are made. The fewer materials that are wasted, the more money companies can save on their costs.
Boosting the Economy
Technology is the key to boosting the economy. When manufacturing companies do better, they can offer more jobs to the communities that house them. The more successful they become, the more they can expand and create more products. Some companies manufacture all their parts while others outsource small parts and help build other companies in their products too.
The items that they sell help create value, but it isn’t always the thing that gives them the competitive edge in their industry. While many people believe that things like location, taxes, and labor rates are the biggest factors in determining manufacturing success, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some of the biggest influencing factors include quality design, unique ideas, engineering, marketing, material sourcing, and customer support. There are many qualities that work together still determine if the company will be successful in the long run.
Technology is a key that many manufacturers have found to make all the difference in the way they run their companies and benefit the economy. While it may not make the only difference, it is a tool that can help manufacturers succeed in a world where cheap labor is often the compromise.