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Freudenberg Xpress® Delivers Rapid Solutions

Discover how Freudenberg Xpress® rapidly got a US steel mill back into production.

With constantly harsh environments, steel mills pose some seriously unique and demanding challenges requiring specialized solutions. Within steel mills, it is normal for extreme temperatures, high pressures, and abrasive materials to put pressure on every seal within the system. While these seals are battling the conditions of continuous movements and heat from molten metal, the seals are the linchpins of the entire system by providing leak-free sealing for extended periods. A single sealing failure can result in the shutdown of the production line or even risk the safety of the workers within the mill. Specialized seals are required with specific materials and designs to ensure the performance of the equipment while preventing the risk of catastrophic failure.

The Challenge

Steel tapping

Over the decades, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has developed a reputation for designing and manufacturing exceptional sealing solutions for heavy industry applications such as steel mills. One of our distributors in the United States has a relationship with this particular steel mill and recognized our expertise as an opportunity to grow their business with the mill while helping make the mill more efficient. Our team joined our partner for an onsite visit to the mill specializing in structural steel and railway components. This visit provided our team with an in-depth understanding of their operation. Initially, the mill was hesitant to make any significant changes due to concerns that it would have a negative effect on their productivity. They decided to start small with a few preliminary tests to understand the capability of our products and team. One of these tests brought us a challenge where they repeatedly had issues with their water guard seal not performing as required and allowing water into their chocks. We quickly provided them with the solution of using our Merkel® Environmatic seal, this was the perfect solution immediately resolving the issue.

After several successful preliminary test projects all providing incremental improvements their confidence grew significantly in the products and recommendations provided. With this newfound confidence, they asked for our support in a much larger project where they needed to rebuild 24 cylinders for their mill stands. Our team reviewed the application and provided recommendations for every sealing element needed within these cylinders. We quickly found a solution from our portfolio with stock in one of our warehouses in Germany. Shortly, after they came back needing to have the product in hand in two weeks or less as they were about to begin their maintenance cycle. Due to the reduced timeframe, we knew shipping parts from Germany wasn't an option due to travel time and customs. We had to find a solution to get the parts into their hands quickly, or they would lose valuable production time that would be costly to the mill and put their customer's projects behind schedule.
Learn about seals used in steel mills with our 3D animation

The Solution

Without the time to wait for the stocked seals to cross the Atlantic for the initial rebuild parts, we turned to Freudenberg Xpress® in our Durham, North Carolina facility. Freudenberg Xpress® is our service whose purpose is to manufacture custom seals quickly for short batches, rapid prototyping, or equipment repair solutions just like what the steel mill needs. With consistent operation improvements, Xpress® in Durham was the perfect solution to getting the first batch of quality seals to the facility quickly. For each of the 24 cylinders, we manufactured 1 heavy-duty rod seal made from PTFE with an NBR energizer, 1 PTFE machined backup ring, 1 PTFE double-acting wiper with an NBR energizer, 2 PTFE heavy-duty piston seals with FKM energizer, 1 piston guide band with a 45-degree split from polyester resin, 1 rod guide band with a 45-degree split from a polyester resin and 1 vulcanized NBR O-ring.

Even with the short turnaround times, Freudenberg Xpress® was able to manufacture all of the custom parts for all 24 cylinders, and in hand to the mill in under two weeks. The remainder of the order will be used for regular maintenance and was shipped from our German warehouse so it will be onsite for the next maintenance cycle. With the rapid turnaround time the mill rebuilt all 24 cylinders and restarted production right on schedule.

The project has proved to be a win-win for everyone involved, as our partner was thrilled to gain $112,000 in new business today with a high probability of regular reorders in the future. As excited as our partner was, the mill was ecstatic with the development. Not only were they able to get their line back up and running quickly, but they also found a solution that provided the sealing function they needed with an exceptional sealing life ensuring, they made it to their planned maintenance cycle. Additionally, they were happy to simplify their supply chain only using one sealing supplier so they no longer had to coordinate with multiple suppliers. The success of this project has started to spread within the company of the steel mill to other locations who are now reaching out to our team looking for similar solutions at their facilities too.

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