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October is a month that is especially close to Saint-Gobain Seals as we and the rest of the world celebrate Manufacturing Day on October 4th. Typically held every first Friday in October, Manufacturing Day not only highlights the importance of this industry to local, national and global economies but is also used to inspire the next generation of creators.
What better time to reflect on our promise as a global manufacturing company of critical parts making THE difference in many applications that are key to everyday mobility and wellbeing? At Saint-Gobain Seals, we are proud to draw on over 50 years in design, engineering, R&D and manufacturing as well as a global presence of 13 manufacturing facilities (in addition to five in sales and eight in R&D) in 14 countries that are certified ISO 9001, ISO 14001, AS 9100, and/or ISO 16949.
We also cannot think of a better time to make a major announcement about our Kontich site!
Focusing On Life Sciences & Aerospace
Saint-Gobain Seals is further expanding capabilities of our Kontich, Belgium site to specifically address the growing need for polymer parts in aerospace and life sciences. The site, which has been working in aerospace and life sciences for years, will now expand its focus in both of these industries due to increased opportunities. In addition to this expanded focus, the site will continue to support major oil and gas customers who rely on our custom, unique designs such as large diameter seals.
Saint-Gobain Seals is well-poised to help address the most demanding requirements for critical parts in aerospace as a result of growth in global aerospace and defense (the leading net exporting business in the US, and also expected to increase in France and, potentially, the UK), increased passenger travel and the race to space. Deloitte predicts the commercial aircraft order backlog is at a high of over 14,000, with about 38,000 aircraft expected to be produced worldwide in the next 20 years, as an example.
Saint-Gobain Seals also sees opportunities for its critical parts in healthcare, given increasing aging populations and opportunities to address diseases, greater focus on wellness and innovation and a digital mindset, overall, in life sciences. According to Research and Markets, the global medical device market is expected to reach close to $500 billion by 2023, growing at a compound annual rate of 4.5%.
Focusing On Our Global Expertise For Local Use
In order to be successful at supporting this new aerospace and life sciences initiative for the region, the Kontich site is leveraging extensive experience that has been gathered over many years as well as proven application success in these industries from Saint-Gobain Seals as a company.
For example, Saint-Gobain Seals’ OmniSeal® spring-energized seals are currently used in core life sciences systems such as Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC) & High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), in-vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs), surgical tools and portable insulin delivery for their ability to run dry, be chemically inert and support low friction and long life. Our proven polymer solution, Rulon® J cup seal, improves the quality of life for many users of portable oxygen concentrators (POC), and other Rulon® materials are FDA Compliant and USP Class VI certified, most often used in bearings in pharmaceutical and food industries for their ability to support strict sanitation requirements. Our Meldin® injection molded PEEK bearings were used in one of the first full-powered, reusable, battery operated endoscopic staplers in the world.
When it comes to aerospace, Saint-Gobain Seals has been a leader in providing critical parts in the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, Mars Rover Curiosity, the Space Launch System and advancements in commercial and military aircraft. Its polymers, composites and metal seals address high-temperature, cryogenic and performance needs of aerospace and space Tier 1s and OEMs, with their use also in auxiliary power units, jet engines, actuators, landing gear, rotor heads, turboshaft, fuel tanks, and more.
And in oil and gas, its spring-energized seals address high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) conditions with pressures over 15,000 psi and temperatures greater than 350°F (177°C). They have helped to ensure a tight seal in the world’s first subsea gas compression station in the Åsgard field offshore Norway at depths of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), pressures beyond 15,000 psi (1,034 bar) and temperatures above 150°C (302°F). Given its proven expertise in NORSOK M710, API 6A, and other leading standards, Saint-Gobain Seals was called upon by a major U.S. oil and gas customer to develop a technical engineering manual with selection guidelines for polymer lip seals in API 6D isolation valves.
Focusing On Our Customers
This announcement prioritizes customer needs, increases our global focus, customization abilities and speed to address market needs. It is based on the Kontich management team’s five-year road map for the site, which is regularly reviewed based on contributing to the overall Saint-Gobain, High Performance Solutions and Saint-Gobain Seals strategy, as well as successful operational practices at other Saint-Gobain sites. It will involve new construction, structural changes to the way teams are set up, increased digitization and a greater focus on employee advancement.
Focusing On Our New Construction
As part of the announcement, the Kontich site is further expanding R&D technology and testing capabilities aimed at co-development to support customer implementation plans. Already, it has received positive feedback from customers and quality auditors on these developments relating to customer testing capabilities and time-to-market process. It is also planning the construction of a customer onboarding center that will consist of a new two-level area with open meeting rooms full of light, conducive to brainstorming, and a technical center, where ideas can readily be machined, milled and 3D-printed. The latter will also be used internally to train computer numeric controlled (CNC)-operators.
Today, Saint-Gobain Seals’ Kontich, Belgium location is a leader in R&D. With years of close cooperation with customers, the Kontich site has become a leading manufacturer in Belgium and worldwide, addressing the most demanding requirements through its custom solutions.
This location became part of Saint-Gobain Seals with the acquisition of Furon in 1999. Since then, it has become known for its innovations in designing and manufacturing advanced polymers, particularly OmniSeal® spring-energized seals in large diameters up to 3,000 mm (118 inch) that very few others can produce. The seals address customization and extreme needs in offshore, onshore and subsea environments, FPSO turret swivels, large engineered valves, wind turbines, compressors and turbines, and other gas applications, as well as in healthcare, aerospace and other industries.
Throughout the years, the Kontich site has gone through numerous advancements. In 2017, its R&D laboratory was expanded from 150 to 390 square meters in its new space, enabling further testing and enhanced time-to-market with seal design pre-validation through application test rigs and mock-ups. In February 2016, a new compression-molding press, sintering ovens, large diameter CNC lathe, flexible forming and welding technology, special transportation racks and assembly and inspection areas were expanded on, and numerous advancements were made before then.
In our next blog post, we will provide more insight into team structure, digitization and other advances that are being made to address customer needs with this initiative in life sciences, aerospace and oil and gas. Be sure to check back in a few weeks or to sign up to get email alerts on new blog posts to learn more.
On this Manufacturing Day and every day at Saint-Gobain Seals, engineering, R&D, manufacturing, and our partnerships with our customers are a priority. Contact us today to find out how we can put our manufacturing expertise to work for you!