Rothkopf’s Problem-Solving Can Save You Money

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Case Studies

The Client

It’s not uncommon for OEMs, mid-sized manufacturers, and small assemblers across various industries to request quotes from several suppliers at the same time. This allows them to feel confident that they are receiving the best value for their money because they know they’ve looked at all their options and chosen the one that has the right combination of cost, lead time, and quality for their needs.

For example, a manufacturer in the plumbing industry reached out to Rothkopf as part of their RFP to solve a problem they were having with a component in their product line.

When the manufacturer’s product began having field failures, Rothkopf had an opportunity to compete for the client’s business. The manufacturer communicated the problem and requested solutions from several major players in the rubber technology industry. Our team, including Rubberologist Tom Blair, got involved in the redesign effort and offered the best solution to prevent these failures in the future.

The Challenge

Our client’s customers were finding that, once installed, the rubber part would often “freeze” and fail to function properly. If the part were to “unfreeze,” or break loose, it would function just fine for the life of the installation. However, many of their units never “unfroze,” causing problems when they were put into service. Our challenge was to find out why the parts weren’t moving and make changes to the design to ensure it would function as intended. These parts are often used in new construction and rehabs in both commercial and residential buildings, so it is not uncommon for the units to sit on a distributor’s shelf for a year or more before making it into the field to be installed. Rothkopf quickly realized that when the parts sat waiting to be used, the rings took on a compression set, and the breakaway coefficient of friction was therefore greatly increased. If there was enough pressure in the system to overcome the coefficient of friction to move, the system became lubricated with water and the problem was avoided—but there was rarely enough pressure in the system to get that movement started. Why wasn’t the pressure strong enough to move the part? First, Rothkopf discovered that the bore was not completely concentric, which increased drag on the part. Furthermore, the design had three O-rings: one seal at each end and a third in the center. Upon review, Rothkopf determined that the O-ring in the center provided no sealing function thereby making it redundant, but it was also increasing drag and adding to the “frozen part” problem. In fact, the sealing itself could have been accomplished with just one O-ring; however, since we had discovered that the bore wasn’t completely concentric, we needed a second O-ring to center the part inside the bore and allow it to move smoothly up and down.

The Solution

So, we knew the client’s parts were unable to move freely because of the drag created by the off-center bore and the extra O-ring. How did Rothkopf reduce the amount of drag and enable the part to move freely? First, we took the part from a 3-ring to a 2-ring design, removing the unnecessary third seal in the center. Fortunately, Rothkopf had tooling available that allowed the client to make minor changes to their groove to accept our tooled part. This meant that we were able to offer the prospect a design plan that solved their issues without requiring them to pay to cut new tooling for each of their product line sizes, saving them both time and a significant amount of money. Among the vendors who were competing for this client’s business, the Rothkopf team was the only one to identify the off-center bore as contributing to the drag/freezing issue. We were able to recommend that they make the bore concentric, and they were able to do so. But we weren’t finished yet. Finally, to make sure this component would function flawlessly from here on out, we recommended an internally-lubricated compound to reduce the breakaway coefficient of friction, especially present in the parts that sat on the shelf for longer periods of time. An internally-lubricated part contains either Teflon or paraffin in the compound that will continually leech to the surface over the life of the part, giving it less surface friction during the application and use for dynamic applications. Our professional recommendation was to use paraffin because it performed perfectly in this application and cost less, saving the client money.

The Results

Rothkopf provided a unique solution to the client as the only vendor who took the design from 3-rings to 2-rings, and as the only team who caught the non-concentric bore. Of course, this solution paired with our excellent customer service, our extensive trusted network of suppliers, and our time-tested expertise won us the design. The changes we recommended solved the issues with the part, and their product now performs perfectly. We have had the business of this client ever since, and we plan to continue providing them with the kind of high-quality expertise they’ve come to expect from Rothkopf. If your brand reputation is on the line due to a poor quality part received from another supplier, Rothkopf offers a solution tailored to your needs. Our resolution involves recommending the right parameters for design and compatibility, considering your specific application requirements. We understand the importance of thorough testing, and our provision of samples empowers you to ensure product quality before it reaches your customers. With our expertise and unique approach, we work hand in hand with you to maintain confidence in your brand and deliver high-quality solutions. As you can see, Rothkopf doesn’t just know parts. We provide rubber part and material expertise that allows for credible troubleshooting and problem solving. If you’re experiencing a problem with a design or part, you can reach us by phone, email, or contact form, and we’ll have you and your production line back to peak performance in no time.

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