Volkswagen Car - for ElastAbrasion Elastomeric Abrasion Tester

Bespoke testing solutions in partnership with Volkswagen

An observation by our Service Engineer creates potential to change global elastomeric testing

Working to solve an industry problem to create a new instrument which will significantly change the way elastomerics are tested within the Automotive sector.


Established in 1937, Volkswagen is the world’s second largest automotive manufacturer – their research facilities ensure they remain at the forefront of automotive innovation.

To test the elastomerics used in their vehicles, they were using a Rotary Drum Abrasion tester, which presented them with three main issues:

  1. The results produced by this tester were too wide in range, leading to concerns over the variability of the results;
  2. Set-up time was long and inefficient, and operationally VW felt it wasn’t ‘user friendly’;
  3. It was very expensive to operate, due to the high cost of the reference materials.
Volkswagen needed to find a better method of abrasion

Having researched five other types of testing machines to identify the method that most represented real-life abrasion, the Martindale method was proven to be the best.

Volkswagen experimented by modifying one of their own James Heal Martindale instruments.

It wasn’t until during a routine Calibration visit, that one of our Service Engineers spotted our Martindale in Volkswagen’s elastomer lab, and the evolution of a totally new instrument began…

Volkswagen were already using James Heal’s Martindale to test the abrasive resistance qualities of fabrics in our vehicles, including car seat covers and the headlining interior material. Aware of James Heal’s reputation for innovation and quality in the area of textile testing, we visited the James Heal offices in in the UK, and we were impressed that they designed, manufactured and tested our instrument all under one roof giving total control over product quality.
Technical Officer, Materials Engineering Polymers - Volkswagen
Our solution

Volkswagen’s modified Martindale still wasn’t giving the results needed; the range was too large. This machine was an early prototype and needed much refinement.

So we took on the task of creating an instrument with the following project objectives:

Objective 1: Achieve the tolerances:

It was necessary to reduce the range of results to make the variations as small as possible. Neil Pryke, our Innovation Director, examined how the specimens were behaving on Volkswagen’s modified instrument, and realised they had used an instrument designed to test textiles: “Textile samples need to be free to rotate during testing on the instrument,” explained Neil. “Whereas the elastomeric samples reacted differently: the sample would spin, without much abrasion, in the corners of the lissajous pattern which generated some random amounts of abrasion. This was identified as the main reason for the variance in the results.”

Consequently in our own design, the specimens were  fixed to prevent the rotation. Additionally, Neil studied the science of how lissajous patterns were created and came up with a softer motion for this purpose, which also prevented the specimens travelling so aggressively into the corners. This made the testing more accurate and the range significantly narrower.

Objective 2: Improve ease of use

There are a number of features we included to increase ease of use, including the hinged lid giving exceptional ergonomic access to the test areas. We also created a far easier method of inserting the elastomeric specimens into the sample holders.

During testing on the Rotary Drum Abrasion tester, the operator has to manually brush away the particles worn from the specimen otherwise they adhere to the abrasive paper and affect the test results. The new ElastAbrasion as it became known, incorporates three
pneumatic nozzles per station to blast away the specimen debris from the abrasive paper.

The pneumatic air supply is automatically turned off at the end of the test to save energy. ElastAbrasion also has its own chamber to contain the specimen particles and pneumatic air supply.

Objective 3: Time and cost

Volkswagen also desired a reduction in the time and cost of the testing process. This has been achieved in comparison to the Rotary Drum Abrasion tester. “Inserting the abrasive material is much easier with the ElastAbrasion and the requirement for expensive sample materials has been eliminated“, elaborates Neil.

Four samples can be tested simultaneously saving time. The ElastAbrasion pays back in just one year of purchase and saves 80% in cost and time, leading to higher efficiency compared to the Rotary Drum abrasion tester.

Neil added, “The testing stations were fitted with air jets to continually remove the rubber debris during the test process, removing the need for an operative to stand with a paint brush to brush off the debris for the duration of the test as is required on the Drum abrasion tester.”

The ElastAbrasion pays back in just one year of purchase and saves 80% in cost and time, leading to higher efficiency compared to the Rotary Drum abrasion tester.
Neil Pryke - Innovation Director, James Heal
The new standard for the rubber & elastomerics industry

We achieved the needs of the customer and have since gone on to produce a production batch, the first of one was bought by VW, around which they have developed a totally new standard PV 3984.

ElastAbrasion – tester and approved by Volkswagen

Volkswagen also made a presentation at the IRC (International Rubber Conference) in Nuremberg, Germany at the end of June 2015. In Nuremberg, Volkswagen stood up amongst an audience of industry experts to announce details of the solution we had created in partnership – an excellent endorsement of their firm belief in the testing qualities of this instrument!

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