My background is primarily in mechanical design and manufacturing. One of the main reasons I took the Applications Engineering position with Stockwell was to move toward the front end of business, working directly with customers while, to some degree, maintaining my engineering roots.
I had been working at Stockwell for about a week, still wet behind the ears, when in a passing conversation Bill Stockwell asked how things were going. My response was, “this is all about the materials”. Bill got a kick out of my comment. My epiphany was something Bill Stockwell had been living for decades. By any measure designing and drawing cushioning pads and gaskets is simple, but specifying the correct material is a whole different game. There are literally thousands of “soft good” material variations to choose from. Determining the best one for a customer’s applications is the real challenge.
Stockwell recently changed its’ name from Stockwell Rubber to Stockwell Elastomerics. One of the reasons is that traditional “rubber” makes up only a small percentage of the business. We now deal with high end materials that stretch (no pun intended) well beyond the scope of “rubber”. There are high temperature silicones, thermally conductive gap pads, electrically conductive neoprenes, materials used for EMI absorption and ESD dissipation. Not to mention the medical grade urethane foams, LSR’s, and special adhesives. Within each of these groups there are many subsets, such as; fuel resistant, flame retardant, open cell and closed cell, foams and sponges. Each of which will help design engineers achieve a specific task. Many of the materials are designed to meet specific standards such as IP, NEMA, Mil, AMS, or UL that are required if a product is to be sold to the military, commercial or consumers.
I’ve now been with Stockwell for over 2 years trying to absorb as much knowledge from Bill Stockwell as well as learn through my own research. I work with customers on a daily basis trying to understand their ultimate goal and it all comes down to the material selection. It’s like the classic line from the Chevy Chase movie, Fletch, when he’s posing as an airplane mechanic, “it’s all ball bearings these days”. In our case it’s all materials these days!