Freudenberg Sealing Technologies’ laser welding process, which eliminates up to 73 percent of the engineered waste produced during traditional stamping operations, has won a Manufacturing Leadership 100 Sustainability Award from Frost & Sullivan’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.
Laser Welded Narrow Band Forming technology, also known as SUL – the initials of the process’ German translation – was developed and is in use in the company’s Weinheim, Germany plant. It offers the company faster setup, safer operations and elimination of up to 1,800 tons of scrap steel per machine per year, Freudenberg says.
The SUL process is used in the production of steel rings which improve the rigidity of radial shaft seals. Traditional manufacturing methods stamp the “L” and “C” shaped rings from large sheets of metal. As the ring size increases, more scrap is produced during stamping and in subsequent trimming and finishing operations.
The SUL process used a narrow band of steel rather than a sheet. The steel band is cut to length by a laser and wrapped into a ring. A laser welds the two ends of steel together forming a solid bond, and the ring is then formed to final shape through rolling and calibration.
Additionally, because the process does not use the petroleum-based lubricants used in traditional stamping operations and does not require that its parts be treated in a chemical bath after formation, it facilitates additional environmental improvements.
Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has implemented a strategic sustainability roadmap aimed at guiding its long-term efforts to reduce energy usage, lower its carbon footprint and produce greener, cleaner products and processes. Freudenberg has a goal of producing zero manufacturing waste over the next decade. Technologies like SUL will play a “crucial role” in its sustainability efforts, the company says. The process has previously won two other manufacturing awards for innovation in Europe.