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In February 2016, a group of around 20 LATI members visited Trelleborg Industrial AVS in Leicester, and were taken on a fascinating visit of the factory.
Simon Hobbs of Ingenia Design, who attended the LATi visit soon realised the company would be of interest to his daughter, Merryn, who was studying for a Masters in Chemistry at Nottingham Trent University. He asked whether Trelleborg take on placement students, and if they’d be willing to talk to Merryn. The rest is history as they say.
Merryn Hobbs says that the introduction to Trelleborg opened up a world of opportunities for her. It resulted in her being offered a summer placement job and the opportunity to work on an exciting research project. This experience has been formative in the career path she now wishes to pursue.
A good news story if there ever was one.
Merryn Hobbs tells her story:
“During the summer of 2016, I spent ten weeks at Trelleborg Industrial AVS on an industrial placement as part of my degree. Trelleborg is an international company, with many companies around the world working with elastomers to ‘Seal, Damp and Protect’. Markets include rail, marine agriculture and aerospace engineering.
The site in Leicester specialises in suspension and anti-vibration systems, which improve the passenger journey. I am studying for a Chemistry Masters at Nottingham Trent University and as part of this, completed 360 hours in an industrial setting which is the basis of my dissertation.
After a LATi visit to Trelleborg Industrial IAVS, my father suggested that I contact The Head of Innovation Bill Mortel to see if there were any opportunities available at Trelleborg for which I might apply. After a lengthy telephone conversation, Bill offered me the chance to work at Trelleborg over the summer between my second and third year of university.
When visiting the company, I met Herbinder Marway, who would be my supervisor for the project. He explained the assignment and what the company hoped to achieve if I was successful.
The task was confidential, but involved coating the existing rubber, which Trelleborg use for their products, with a dissimilar elastomer layer – a new development for Trelleborg. This layer aims to improve the overall properties of the rubber, particularly fire performance. However, the elastomer itself is highly unreactive, only bonding to itself and metal not rubber.
When applied to the rubber with no surface pre-treatment or primers, it could be easily peeled off. This was the problem which other chemistry experts, who had done some research on the project before, had previously encountered so asked me to help them find a solution. Trelleborg currently manufacture a coating which improves the products’ fire retardance, DragonCoat. This is a patented product and the aim of this new area of research is to improve the properties to a higher level than those of the current coating.
For my dissertation, I have to carry out my own research, experiments and testing and if a solution to the problem is found, draw my own conclusions and discuss why the other permutations failed. The project outline fitted to the guidelines required as I was given the task with little prior research.
After eight weeks at Trelleborg, a solution was found, with a mixture of a surface pre-treatment on the rubber itself, followed by a special primer. This exact combination, gave good adhesion between the rubber and the layer, with it being very difficult to remove. However, if there had been more time for experimentation at Trelleborg, there were many permutations which with a few changes, may have given better results and developed into good adhesion.
As I have now moved on to a years’ placement in Spain, working in a laboratory in an international school, the development team will continue the research and experiment with other rubbers and other grades of the polymer to see if the results carry through.
This opportunity would not have been offered to me if LATi had not held a visit/tour at the Trelleborg factory. I would not have thought to apply to a job in the materials development area of chemistry, as it is one not studied as part of the Nottingham Trent course.
Before this placement, I knew I wanted to work in the chemical industry after graduating because I enjoy being involved in current research which results in a practical benefit. My time at Trelleborg has reinforced that desire, as now I have had the experience of working in a research laboratory, and it has given me an insight into how I would like to specialise in the profession.
Many thanks to LATi and to Trelleborg for providing me with this opportunity. Another thank you to my tutors at NTU for assisting and for allowing me to use the equipment onsite for any additional research.”
About Trelleborg Industrial AVS
Trelleborg is a world leader in engineered polymer solutions that seal, damp and protect critical applications in demanding environments. Its innovative solutions accelerate performance for customers in a sustainable way. The Trelleborg Group has annual sales of SEK 30 billion (EUR 3.25 billion, USD 3.60 billion) in over 40 countries. The Group comprises five business areas: Trelleborg Coated Systems, Trelleborg Industrial Solutions, Trelleborg Offshore & Construction, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Trelleborg Wheel Systems, and the operations of Rubena and Savatech. The Trelleborg share has been listed on the Stock Exchange since 1964 and is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, Large Cap. www.trelleborg.com
Many thanks to Bill Mortel of Trelleborg Industrial AVS for giving us his nod of approval for this story to be told.
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