Let’s Explore Omniseal Solutions' Technical World
We’re Taking You On a Global Tour of Technology Sites
By Melanie Kuhn (April 2021)
Omniseal Solutions' global team is composed of experts in sealing and material technology, who are committed to advancement, focusing on precision solutions, capabilities and services to support its global customers.
Our polymer seals, metal seals and materials are often relied on to address the most difficult challenges; many of our breakthrough 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 science, our 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 satellite 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 Omniseal Solutions™. The heart of innovation is commitment to research and development; therefore, our business is constantly investing in R&D to innovate in materials and processing, application testing and numerical simulation.
Technical Teams: Addressing Critical Sealing & Material Applications
R&D teams are part of the global technical team, which includes design engineering and application engineering, all working closely together. Teams support the different markets—industrial, life science, aviation, etc.—and work with sales, customers and engineering in the respective industries.
The technical sites include local teams/centers dedicated to our 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, fundamental projects; focus on innovation and global requirements; serve as hubs for academia and external contacts; and aim to attract and develop talent.
Our main technical resources are included in the following locations: Garden Grove, California, USA; Kontich, Belgium; Bristol, Rhode Island, USA; Saltillo, Mexico; and Willich, Germany, including those 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 these technology 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's presence in China started 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 our 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 science 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.
Garden Grove, California, USA
This site houses a large R&D team. 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 team specializes in material development, high-speed application testing for aviation (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 solutions and raw materials.
Due to its location, the team has collaborated with many of the key space companies in the area who are working on NASA and private 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 been honored to host past astronauts' visits to tell their “space tales” and personnel to describe their “supersonic flights”. On the outside of the site, you will encounter the 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 380+ team members (57% 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 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. Our technical team focuses 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.
Similar to Garden Grove, this site is home to one of the largest R&D teams for the business. The 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 the technical area is its modern design that capitalizes on window space, resulting in a bright working environment. In the past few years, Omniseal Solutions™ expanded the laboratory from 150 to 390 square meters. This allowed the team to further customer testing and enhance time-to-market with seal design pre-validation. Using a variety of application test rigs and mock-ups formulation of application conditions in life science and oil and gas, the team was able to test solutions for cryogenic, high temperature, high pressure and other extreme conditions.
A training and customer onboarding center was also added to enhance learning and customer focus. 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 solution 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. The site has grown to support aviation and life science needs.
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 our projects 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 Rulon® 123 polymer seals that are used in industrial fuel dispensing equipment, which are locally manufactured at the Bangalore site.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Head over to our Bristol, Rhode Island site, with its proximity to the seaport and Roger Williams University. Over the past few years, 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 aviation and automotive. These materials are also used in life science and industrial applications.
The 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.
Located at the heart of Germany’s industrial area near Dusseldorf, the Willich, Germany site is focused on materials and bearings for applications in industrial. The Saint-Gobain team here focuses on polymer sciences. This site also supports our industrial activities for Omniseal® diaphragms and pump components.
We have taken you to many worldwide locations but wait … our global tour continues. Did you know that our business also has a R&D presence in:
Cleveland, OH – with the acquisition of HyComp in 2018, technical personnel here is also contributing to R&D and engineering relating to carbon fiber composite materials
Orange, CT – with the recent acquisition of American Seal & Engineering, its R&D and engineering team is working on development and testing new designs for metal face seals, axial seals and special designs
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, agility, technology advantage and improving daily life.
Contact us to learn how we can help you to best solve your sealing and polymer needs.