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Let’s Explore: We’re Taking You On a Global Tour of Saint-Gobain Seals’ R&D Sites

Your Source for Designing Critical Parts in Core Systems:

Saint-Gobain has been a leader in innovation for over 350 years: 396 patents were filed in 2017, one in four of its products sold today did not exist five years ago and it has been awarded Top 100 Global Innovators seven years in a row. Along with its parent company, Saint-Gobain Seals is also committed to advancement, focusing on products, processes and services to serve its global customers. 

Saint-Gobain Seals’ polymer seals and materials are often relied on to address the most difficult challenges; many of our breakthough solutions have made a significant contribution in history. In space applications, OmniSeal® RACO spring-energized seals solved the issue of extreme wear and temperature where elastomers had failed in the past, resulting in the innovative seal being used on every space shuttle mission since the first human spaceflight. The seal became useful for other applications with harsh chemicals, high-pressures and extreme temperatures such as in oil and gas exploration and were on the world’s first subsea gas compression station.  

In the field of life sciences, Saint-Gobain Seals’ OmniSeal® seals and Meldin® bearings set a new standard when the critical parts were used on one of the first full-powered, reusable endoscopic staplers in the world; in present day applications, the seals are now made to be miniature to be used in life-saving microsurgical tools and our Rulon® polymer cup seals continue to be valuable in stationary and portable oxygen concentrators. Meldin® polymer materials reduce wear and weight and offer higher precision in automotive transmission and braking systems.  Rotary lip seals are used 24/7 in industrial air screw and scroll compressor equipment that are essential in keeping manufacturing plants running. 

Being a leader in applications that support and improve daily life is important at Saint-Gobain Seals. Along with its parent company who believes that the heart of innovation is its commitment to research and development, Saint-Gobain Seals is constantly investing in our R&D teams to innovate in materials and processing, application testing and numerical simulation.  

Saint-Gobain Seals R&D Teams: Addressing Critical Sealing & Polymer Applications 

At Saint-Gobain Seals, the R&D teams are part of the global technical team, which includes design engineering and application engineering, all working closely together. The R&D teams support the different markets—industrial, life sciences, aerospace, automotive, etc.—and work with sales, customers and engineering in the respective industries. 

The sites for Saint-Gobain Seals R&D include local teams/centers dedicated to the Seals business as well as a network of eight Transversal Corporate R&D Centers that serve all Saint-Gobain businesses worldwide. These transversal centers acquire core technologies, work on longer-term, more fundamental projects, focus on innovation and global requirements, serve as hubs for academia and external contacts and aim to attract and develop talent.

Saint-Gobain Seals’ R&D resources are included in five locations: Garden Grove, California, USA; Kontich, Belgium; Bristol, Rhode Island, USA; Saltillo, Mexico; Willich, Germany; and Wertheim and Neuhaus, Germany. Seals R&D is also included in three corporate transversal R&D centers: Northboro, Massachusetts, USA; Shanghai, China; and Chennai, India. 

Each of these sites are unique and incorporate specific expertise and experience when it comes to polymer materials and sealing innovation.  We invite you to join us for a tour of the R&D sites that are making THE difference for our customers. 

Saint-Gobain Research China - Shanghai, China

Housed in a newly-constructed building in the heart of the Shanghai industrial complex, this Transversal R&D center is adjacent to Saint-Gobain plants for high-performance plastics, automotive glass, abrasives and ceramics. It is also close to the subway and universities like Tsinghua and National University of Singapore. 

You might be surprised that the industrial complex is surrounded by large trees and greenery that gives the more than 185 team members a pretty view as they look out their windows and develop and launch innovative products with enhanced performance for the Asia market. 

The Shanghai site was established in 2005; however, Saint-Gobain has had a presence in China since 1985 (employing 6,570 in the country). Academia is key here – 54% of researchers at the site also have PhDs and the scientists have generated hundreds of patents. 

The Saint-Gobain R&D Shanghai team working on Seals projects is focused on material analysis and characterization and development, application testing and numerical simulation support.  As you walk alongside the team, you will see them monitoring several test rigs. The machines make a quiet whirring sound as they run the entire day. What are they testing?  Cup seals used in stationary oxygen concentrators in life sciences as well as high speed rotary seals for industrial applications in order to assess potential wear and degradation of the materials over time. In all these applications, safety is a high priority. 

Seals R&D Site - Garden Grove, California, USA

This site houses one of the largest R&D teams in the Saint-Gobain Seals business. The open, newly-renovated office offers plenty of space for technical teams to work closely, collaborate and build comradery. 

The focus here is on OmniSeal® spring-energized seals, used in ultra-low friction, chemical, and extreme hot or cryogenic temperature environments. The Seals R&D team here specializes in material development, high-speed application testing for aerospace (up to 20K RPM for lip seals in rotary applications) and high temperature seal testing – drawing on over 50 years of expertise in seal design engineering. It also offers support for manufacturing and quality and analysis of products and raw materials. 

Due to its location, the Seals R&D team has collaborated with many of the key space companies in the area who are working on NASA space projects. If you visit, you may see one of the application engineers heading off to meet with a space engineer or one of the other team members showing new visitors the space shuttle or helicopter displays. The site has had the honor of having past astronauts visit to tell their “space tales” and military personnel describe their “supersonic flights”.  On the outside of the site, you will encounter the new AI-driven energy storage system that is helping in sustainability.    

Saint-Gobain Research North America - Northboro, Massachusetts, USA

When arriving at the Saint-Gobain Research North America site, you can instantly see why it is one of Saint-Gobain’s largest industrial research laboratories with 200,000 square feet of office space situated on 26 acres. Initially established in 1985 when Norton Company became a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, this site comprises several large buildings hosting 350+ team members (100 of which are researchers with PhDs) who are at work and “play” testing, researching and discovering advanced materials to help in a variety of markets and applications. Diversity in cultures, gender and age is flagship here, with approximately 30 nationalities represented on campus (check out this video for more visuals). 

Plush, green surroundings make for an enjoyable environment to have lunch, plant vegetables and flowers in the community garden or take a walk that support healthy initiatives as part of the LiveWell program. The site also hosts a number of events, has a gym, sports teams, employee committees and opportunities to give back to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Worcester Science Fair, and more. 

But the majority of time at Saint-Gobain Research North America is spent helping customers to solve some of the biggest challenges. 148 patents were granted to site researchers in 2016. The focus on R&D here for Saint-Gobain Seals is on longer-term research on material development and characterization, polymer synthesis, mechanical and tribological testing. The team may show you one of the larger-diameter spring-energized seals it is working on for the oil and gas team or some of the critical parts that were given to Greentown Labs to share polymer solutions for start-up projects.

Seals R&D Site - Kontich, Belgium

Next to Garden Grove, this site is home to one of the largest R&D teams for Saint-Gobain Seals. The Saint-Gobain Seals R&D team here is focused on application testing and prototyping to validate seal design and materials in advance of shipping them to customers for testing. 

The first thing you may notice as you approach Seals R&D Kontich is its modern design that capitalizes on window space, resulting in a bright working environment. In 2017, Saint-Gobain Seals expanded the Kontich R&D laboratory from 150 to 390 square meters in this new space. This allowed the team to further customer testing and enhance time-to-market with seal design pre-validation by using a variety of application test rigs and mock-ups for simulation of application conditions in life sciences and oil and gas, in order to test products for cryogenic, high temperature, high pressure and other extreme conditions. 

Even with the recent doubling of space, plans are underway to add a training and customer onboarding center to enhance learning and customer focus this year. The former will be an internally-managed teamworking and employee-driven facility encouraging innovation and design.  As with the Garden Grove site, OmniSeal® seals is a primary product here because of the oil and gas presence in Europe. As you walk on the manufacturing floor, you may stop and stare at the large-sized diameter seals that are being used on FSPO turret swivels and large engineered ball valves. 

Saint-Gobain Research India - Chennai, India

Established in 2012, the R&D Chennai site is located within the IIT Madras Research Park in the heart of the city. This transversal site, spread over 120,000 square feet, is in a former university building. A colorful, modern, open interior enhances collaboration for 115 employees. The site also holds an impressive customer show room to educate visitors on how Saint-Gobain parts are installed and used in automotive, building construction and other applications. The site also draws on close proximity to IIT Madras, a premier academic institute in India, to help foster innovation through collaboration with academia as well as start-up companies.  

The Saint-Gobain R&D team working on Seals project at this site is focused on material characterization, mechanical testing, simulation and modeling.  This team works closely with our marketing, application and sales team at the Bangalore, India site on projects such as critical Meldin® thermoplastic and injection-molded parts that are being used in powertrain and braking systems or Rulon® 123 polymer seals that are used in industrial fuel dispensing equipment, which are being locally manufactured at the Bangalore site.  

Seals R&D Site - Bristol, Rhode Island, USA

Head over to our Bristol, Rhode Island site, with its proximity to the seaport and Roger Williams University. Just last year this site was upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment to make it production-ready to serve the U.S. automotive market. It is the only Saint-Gobain site that manufacturers both Meldin® thermosets and thermoplastics in the United States for aerospace and automotive.  These materials are also used in life sciences and industrial applications. 

The Saint-Gobain Seals R&D team here consists of a small, yet important, team focused on simulation and modeling. The site has been recognized for its consistent safety initiatives. 

Seals R&D Willich, Germany

Located at the heart of Germany’s industrial area near Dusseldorf, Saint-Gobain’s Willich, Germany site is focused on materials and bearings for applications in automotive and industrial. The Saint-Gobain R&D team here focuses on polymer sciences..

The automotive team for Seals is focusing on e-vehicle applications using lip seals, a topic they will share during the Dritev show in July where more than 1,500 experts with a technical background will meet to exchange thoughts on current developments in the field of drivetrain and transmission. This site also supports our industrial activities for Marathon® diaphragms and pump components

Seals L+S Site – Wertheim, Germany

Travel with us to picturesque Wertheim, Germany, home to lush, green surroundings, an old town center, the Burg Wertheim castle and Saint-Gobain L+S GmbH site, which was established with the December 2013 acquisition of LS Kunststofftechnologie GmbH. It is known for its cutting-edge expertise in designing, tooling, testing and processing high-temperature polymers as well as developing specific grades for automotive transmissions and drives and industrial applications. 

The Seals R&D team at this site is focused on processing, including injection molding; polymer science, and application testing for automotive. The building features a dedicated global training and technology center, offering an inventive and constructive environment for our engineers to develop individual customer solutions based on growing and future needs. 

We have taken you to many worldwide locations but wait … our global tour continues. Did you know that Saint-Gobain Seals also has an R&D presence in: 

  • Saltillo, Mexico – focused on materials and providing support to the plant for Rulon® solutions.
  • Cleveland, OH – with the acquisition of Saint-Gobain HyComp in 2018, technical personnel here is also contributing to Saint-Gobain Seals R&D and engineering relating to carbon fiber composite materials.
  • Orange, CT – with the recent acquisition of Saint-Gobain American Seal & Engineering, its R&D and engineering team is working on development and testing new designs for metal seals. 

At Saint-Gobain Seals, we are proud to draw on a global team working together closely to develop solutions to address the most challenging applications. By investing in new application testing and continually recruiting and fostering team member growth, we successfully address our customers’ changing needs. 

Together, we are focused on R&D and improving daily life. 

Contact us to learn how we can help you to best solve your sealing and polymer needs.

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