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SR Telecom designs, manufactures and deploys versatile, Broadband Fixed Wireless Access solutions. For over two decades, carriers have used SR Telecom’s products to connect millions of people in both urban and remote areas around the globe.
The company had been using EPDM extrusions to seal the joints on their symmetryMX™airlinkproduct due to their wide compression range. The problem was these extrusions had to be cut and the joints vulcanized (glued) – two processes that don’t allow for very tight tolerances.
“Not only were the tubes expensive, but we were having a lot of variation in our seals, which meant we had to test every station to make sure they were watertight,” states Simon Benchimol, Manager of the Mechanical Engineering department at SR Telecom. “They were also difficult to install which was a problem because they are used on a high-volume product that is assembled manually overseas.”
SR Telecom’s engineers knew they needed a custom design for a critical component that not only needed to seal and protect electrical components from inclement weather, but also meet specific conductivity requirements to ensure proper functionality. They turned to the rubber experts at Vicone for help.
“They knew exactly what they wanted, but weren’t quite sure about how to get there,” recalls Vicone’s President, Eric Leclair. “We knew the seal had to be easy to install with a cross-section that would be tall enough to make the seal and yet soft enough to allow for metal on metal contact.”
After consulting with SR Telecom’s engineers and understanding all the necessary requirements, Vicone recommended a molded cross-section that had much tighter tolerances than the vulcanized extrusions they had been using. This meant the units no longer had to be tested because the precision of each seal was guaranteed to be consistent.
“Vicone came up with the brilliant idea of filling up the cavities while you compress it,” explained Mr. Benchimol. “Their design was quite ingenious because the gaskets are now held in place while the units are being closed so they fit no matter which way they’re installed. Before, if you didn’t have the gasket the right way up it would fall off.”
Vicone’s knowledge and expertise not only saved SR Telecom 35% in material costs, but also helped shave over a minute off the time it takes to install the seals.
“The old gaskets used to take over a minute to install, while the new ones can be done in ten seconds flat, so it certainly reduces our labour costs,” said Mr. Benchimol. “And because the mold can be amortized very quickly the overall cost savings are quite significant.”
SR Telecom was so impressed with Vicone’s ability to figure out the ideal solution to their problem that they now plan to upgrade all their products using tubular seals to molded gaskets. They even referred Vicone to some of their other suppliers who were having problems with gaskets and seals.
“I told them what Vicone had done for us and how they could benefit as well,” said Mr. Benchimol. “Of course, they too were amazed by what Vicone was able to do. Our previous rubber suppliers just didn’t have the technical expertise required and so the relationship was purely transactional. They would give us heat tolerances and then leave us to figure out what the lengths and elasticity should be. Vicone, on the other hand, is more of a strategic ally than a vendor, as they are capable of actually finding solutions rather than just filling an order. We will definitely use Vicone for all our high-performance rubber needs from now on.“