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4 Trends in Aerospace Seals: An Interview with Our New Global Aerospace Marketing Manager

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It’s an exciting time in the aerospace industry, with a record four billion passenger journeys taken in 2018 and 8,000 to 20,000 planes in flight at any given moment transporting people, supplies, and freight. Air transport supports tourism and trade, brings aid to people in need, enhances our mobility, and helps to brings us all together regardless of geographic divide. At Saint-Gobain Seals, we are inspired by the industry and excited to be a part of it through our seals and polymer solutions.

In fact, our high-performance solutions are in many critical core systems of commercial and military airplanes as well as helicopters.  Where are our critical parts?  Our OmniSeal® spring-energized seals are used in Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) that power electricity before engines ignite; in gas turbine engines, the turbine shaft, air inlet vane, internal, and accessory gearbox and accessory drive shaft and units, and much more. High-temperature, lightweight Meldin® polyimide parts are often used in APUs and electric harnesses to ensure tolerance control and reduce weight. And Saint-Gobain ASE metal C-Seals, E-Seals, and custom seals are frequently in the combustion chamber and engine in commercial, military, business, and general aviation engines and airframes.

To share more information on our business and products, we recently sat down with Arnaud Verger, Saint-Gobain Seals’ new Global Aerospace Marketing Manager, to discuss his new role in the business, the future of the industry, and how Saint-Gobain Seals is helping the future of aerospace “take flight.”

Thank you for taking the time to meet, and congratulations on your new role, Arnaud. With your diverse background in digital and other responsibilities at Saint-Gobain, what most appealed to you about the Global Aerospace Marketing Manager position?

As someone who draws on an engineering background and interest in the potential for flight travel, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to be promoted to Global Aerospace Marketing Manager at Saint-Gobain Seals. With a strong background in marketing across corporate positions, I knew this role would enable me to work more intimately with customers in this very attractive industry, allowing me to have more frequent interactions with them to help address their market needs.

Why are seals so important in the aerospace industry? How are they making THE difference, as indicated by our brand promise at Saint-Gobain Seals?

Seals in aerospace are critical parts, making quality and reliability essential. If a seal is broken or has an issue, leakage and other consequences, depending on position of the seals, may result. For instance, air might leak or temperatures might rise, interfering with, or leading to destruction of electronics. Parts may no longer maintain oil to prevent exposure to wear and increased temperatures close to spool systems, potentially causing these parts to fail. Fuel might escape systems, increasing risk of fire. All those breakdowns may lead to catastrophic failures. The right seals are essential to ensure proper operations in aerospace.

At Saint-Gobain Seals, we draw on an advantage in this space with proven expertise and quality. For decades, as far back as the 50s when we started making seals for rockets, quality and reliability have been our focus. In aerospace, much like in space, failure is not an option. We draw on a track record of quality, and our parts can sustain higher ranges of physical conditions over other current products on the market.

Additionally, the way we organize our company—continually expanding R&D testing and structuring our teams (as seen at our Kontich site) to leverage decades of experience and to work engineer to engineer with our customers—enables us to be more involved with them, to build trustful and close relationships, and to better understand their specific needs. We are problem-solvers with a long-term mindset; it is natural for us, coming from a 350 year background with our parent company, Saint-Gobain. 

What do you see as trending in the aerospace industry? What are some of the biggest challenges aerospace customers face today and how can the right parts make THE difference? 

As a leading provider to this market for decades, we have noticed a number of trends. 

1. Safety and security – The need for safety and security is critical. While often in constant conflict with the need for innovation, security needs to be of utmost importance and will only continue to be a priority with requirements continuing to grow. At Saint-Gobain Seals, this is another area in which we excel, with the reliability of our seals always a priority. For example, our OmniGasket™ sealing solution is used in the deicing system to protect aircraft wings – an excellent way to show how sealing is so critical on airplane systems!

2. Continued need for innovation – Today’s continued quest for innovation in aerospace and other industries comes as a strong push from the digital revolution, characteristic of the 2000s. From zero-fuel aircraft and green aviation, to new materials, and advanced systems, to digital software changes, and increased efficiency—the industry is looking for new ways to cut costs, increase speed, and reduce weight. The quest for innovation is strong!

As just one example, we are seeing a push for innovation in electric integration with electric-driven engines and functions like taxiing and taking off. Local systems directly manage energy, reducing engine requirements (and weights). The move toward electronic systems is also being driven by opportunities to reduce fuel consumption, especially given rising gas prices. Providing parts for electric driven technologies is an area in which we excel, with our seals already being used in many of these systems today such as automotive

3. Reduced weight and greater efficiencyWith the price of jet fuel on the rise, weight reduction continues to be a priority. Some airports also tax carriers, whose planes exceed noise levels during takeoff, also making noise reduction and efficiency important considerations as airlines seek to decrease costs.

Demand for lighter-weight composite parts is being driven by the need to reduce costs. Advanced composites are projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.89% from about $21 billion to over $38 billion US from 2016 to 2022 with aerospace and defense largely contributing, according to Markets and Markets. These materials are being used in large structural to mechanical components. 

At Saint-Gobain Seals, we draw on the expertise in this space to propose composite solutions that enable customers to reduce weight (given our recent acquisition of Saint-Gobain HyComp). Simultaneously, our seals push the limits to address requirements for higher performance in new engine generations. We can withstand the most challenging environments and conditions required in these advanced engines. 

4. Increasing industry standards – Today, more people are travelling than ever before. To keep up with demand, leading manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing are reaching record numbers in A320 Neo and other aircraft production, simultaneously reaching backlog with orders that have never been reached before. In fact, figures on Airbus and Boeing support that they are each producing about 65 - 70 planes per month. On top of this, current aircraft being produced today are more efficient than ever before. As a result, there is a need for higher quality parts, better on-time delivery, and cost reduction in the industry.  

At Saint-Gobain Seals, we take pride in being a true partner to manufacturers in aerospace, offering the best solutions for the application, ensuring reliability, on-time delivery, and value.

Speaking of offering the best solutions for the application, how do the addition of HyComp composite parts help to strengthen Saint-Gobain Seals’ product portfolio?  

In acquiring the HyComp® business, Saint-Gobain Seals expands on its existing product line of Meldin® polyimide solutions and high temperature thermoplastics with polyimide composites that can also offer customers even greater mechanical performance. While Meldin® polyimides excels in addressing consistently higher temperatures, HyComp® composites offer an even higher mechanical position, giving us a complete portfolio of high temperature/high wear polymer parts, in addition to our seals, to address specific customer needs. 

Additionally, the HyComp® team also brings co-molding part manufacturing expertise, simplifying the process of generating complex parts. Metal parts can be integrated directly within composite parts to provide a complete solution that addresses mechanical and electrical properties. Instead of needing to set up screws, screw contacts and wires, parts are integrated in a single-step design. This enables us to simplify the process of integrating multiple functions in the same part at order. The number of steps, complexity, and weight of parts can all be greatly reduced in elliptical and electrical contact parts in engines, APUs, and other non-engine applications.

What about Saint-Gobain’s acquisition of American Seal and Engineering Company (ASE) and the recent acquisition of High Tech Metal Seals (HTMS)? How do they complement Saint-Gobain Seals offerings?

ASE, as a provider of custom metal sealing solutions founded in 1971 in Connecticut, and HTMS, providing advanced metal sealing solutions since 1999 from its headquarters in Belgium, are each metal seals specialists. They each share some common, and have some distinct, products, and their solutions are complementary to Saint-Gobain Seals’ offerings overall. The main difference is that HTMS is more focused in European markets and ASE in the US. 

Both ASE and HTMS becoming part of Saint-Gobain expands our product portfolio for custom solutions in the sealing industry. As we push the limits of spring-energized seal capabilities to reach higher and higher temperatures, there are still some applications such as in the combustion chamber or the high pressure turbine stage of a jet engine, where temperature and leakage requirements are best addressed with metal seals. With the addition of these two leading companies, we can now better address the full spectrum of sealing challenges and offer a complete product set for most the most demanding applications. When it comes to addressing temperatures and leakage, we can offer the best solutions for the specific application. 

Wow, it seems like there are numerous opportunities in aerospace. What do you specifically hope to accomplish as our new Global Aerospace Marketing Manager?

I agree that there is huge potential. These are exciting times in aerospace for Saint-Gobain and its partners and customers, given our position in the market and opportunities to provide high-end seals and wear composites. I look forward to further expanding on this position and increasing our brand recognition. I also look forward to aligning with our customers to more completely understand and expand on our ability to address their changing, complex service needs around our solutions.

Learn more about how Saint-Gobain Seals' seals and polymer solutions can address unique needs for your aerospace applications. Contact us today to see how experts like Arnaud and our aerospace team can help you.

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