4 Trends in Aviation Seals
An Interview with Our Global Aviation Marketing Manager
By Arnaud Verger (August 2021)
With the growth in a vaccinated population and advancements in testing, the freedom to fly in the months ahead seem to be opening. Not only closing the physical gap in distance but air transport also 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 Omniseal Solutions, we are inspired by the industry and wish to be a part of its recovery through seals and polymer solutions.
These high-performance solutions have a long history as they are in many critical core systems of commercial 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 metal C-Seals, E-Seals, and custom seals are frequently in the combustion chamber and engine in commercial, business, and general aviation engines and airframes.
To share more information on the business and solutions, we sat down with Arnaud Verger, Omniseal Solutions' Global Aviation Marketing Manager, to discuss his role in the business, the future of the industry, and how the business is helping the future of aerospace “take flight.”
Thank you for taking the time to meet Arnaud. With your diverse background in digital and other responsibilities at Saint-Gobain, what most appealed to you about the Global Aviation Marketing Manager position?
Why are seals so important in the aviation industry? How are they Going Beyond The Boundaries of Possible, as indicated by the brand promise at Omniseal Solutions?
Seals in aviation 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.
Our team draws on an advantage in this space with proven expertise and quality. For decades, as far back as the 1950s when we started making seals for, pushing the boundaries in terms of solving problems to ensure quality and reliability have been our focus. In aviation, 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 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 365 year background with our parent company, Saint-Gobain.
What do you see as trending in the aviation industry? What are some of the biggest challenges customers face today and how can precision parts impact success?
As a leading provider to this market for decades, we have noticed a number of trends.
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. This is another area in which we excel, with the reliability of our seals always a priority. For example, our Omniseal® gasket 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!
Continued need for innovation – Today’s continued quest for innovation in aviation 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.
Reduced weight and greater efficiency – With the price of jet fuel on the rise, weight reduction continues to be a priority. Some airports also tax carriers, whose airplanes 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. We draw on the expertise in this space to propose composite solutions that enable customers to reduce weight (given our acquisition of 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.
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 to 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.
Our team takes 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 the business value?
In acquiring the Hycomp™ company, our business expands on its existing line of Meldin® polyimide solutions and high temperature thermoplastics with polyimide composites that can also offer customers even greater mechanical performance. While Meldin® polyimides excel in addressing consistently higher temperatures, Hycomp™ composites offer an even higher mechanical position.
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 the acquisition of American Seal and Engineering Company (ASE) and High Tech Metal Seals (HTMS)? How do they complement your 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 share some common but also distinct solutions, which are complementary to our 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 our business expands the solutions 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 high pressure turbine stage of a jet enginewhere temperature and leakage requirements are best addressed with metal seals. When it comes to addressing temperatures and leakage, we can offer the best solutions for a specific application or sealing challenge.
There seems to be numerous future opportunities in aviation. What do you specifically hope to accomplish?
I agree that there is huge potential. These are exciting times in aviation for us as well as the partners and customers we collaborate with, given our position in the market and opportunities to provide high-end seals and wear composites. I look forward to further expanding and increasing our brand recognition. I also look forward to aligning with customers to more completely understand their changing, complex service needs.
Learn more about how seals and polymer solutions can address unique needs for your aviation applications. Contact us today to see how experts like Arnaud and our aviation team can help you.