When Thule Group developed a new generation of roof racks, the company turned to Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation for help with the design of a more aerodynamic rubber strip. The solution became a new method of extrusion for which a patent application has been published. The roof rack, Thule WingBar Evo, has also been nominated for an Automechanika Innovation Award.
Thule Group is a market-leading producer of products such as roof racks, roof boxes and bicycle racks for cars. The company also develops camera bags, multisport and bicycle trailers, sport and travel bags and jogging prams. The Group has approximately 2,300 employees, an annual turnover of SEK 6.5 billion, and products in 140 markets around the globe.
Thule Group also has a long-standing customer-supplier relationship with Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation.
‘We have worked closely with Thule since the late 1970s,’ says Peter Ericson, Sales Manager at Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation. ‘Our collaboration began when they developed their first ski racks; we were an obvious choice of supplier since our companies were based about 30 km from each other.'
Roof Rack with Lower aerodynamic drag
It was also an easy decision for Thule Group to turn to Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation once again in 2015, when the company began developing an entirely new generation of roof racks, later named Thule WingBar Evo. The purpose of the new product was to offer both a simpler solution for mounting accessories and a design that lowers aerodynamic drag in order to reduce noise and fuel consumption.
The challenge for Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation was to deliver cover strips, the rubber strips on the upper side of the roof rack, with an imprinted V-shaped pattern that could help decrease the aerodynamic drag.
'We work with extrusion, and the process doesn't normally allow for the imprinting of patterns in the rubber strip,’ explains Markku Björkqvist, project manager at Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation. ‘However, we came up with a solution whereby we essentially use a wheel that is pressed against the material to create the required pattern. We have now a patent for this solution.'
Nominated for Automechanika Innovation Award
The solutions for the cover strips that Trelleborg came up with has proven to be outstanding in practice. Thule WingBar Evo has also been nominated for the Automechanika trade fair's Innovation Award.
The new method also means new business opportunities for Trelleborg’s seals and profiles operation with respect to other types of products.
'With this method, we can offer the rubber products today’s market is demanding but that have never been produced until now,' says Markku Björkqvist.
Text: Erik Aronsson