A F1 wheel rim aero seal
Adam Hooper, Operations Director at Southampton-based Martin’s Rubber, flies the flag for the material’s role in some of our most exciting applications…even if we don’t always realise it's there.
Although it is a polymer family that dates back thousands of years, “rubber” is often overlooked these days, despite being a family of materials with remarkable properties, and, thanks to continuous developments, ever increasing capabilities.
While it is the more modern thermoplastics that tend to attract all the excitement and interest of designers and engineers, it is surprising just how often a more traditional thermoset material performs the key function in a product design, whether that is a humble O ring, or a complex bonded composite assembly. This is true across all products and markets, and the cutting edge of motorsport technology is a good example of this.
Rubber is the material of choice – and particularly in F1 it is functionality rather than cost that drives design decisions – in a wide range of motorsport applications. The versatility of various rubber polymer types allows our materials to operate in environments where high temperature is the issue, vibration needs controlling, moving surfaces of complex geometry need sealing, or low friction composite solutions are required. Of course, each application will require the right kind of rubber and an appropriate hardness since there is not yet a magic rubber that is all things to all men.
However, correctly specified rubber components have often proven to be the key element in enabling a design to actually function, or massively improve its reliability; recently, the latest generation of F1 Power Units have created new challenges for designers, and thermoset rubber has once again proved its worth in enabling these hugely complicated systems to deliver their full potential over a life cycle. In 2015 the performance bar is raised yet higher, and rubber continues to be the material of choice in many key applications on the new generation cars.
This recent article explains in more depth some of the specific uses for rubber on an F1 car quite apart from the tyres, but these kinds of applications are also found in Aerospace, Defence, Energy and general Manufacturing industries, so it is definitely the case that rubber has a huge and continuing role to play in products and services that we use on a daily basis, usually without ever realising it….