For more than 75 years, top companies have sought after Wellman Friction Products’ technology. Pat Whiteman describes how this innovator continues to keep the world in motion.
Starting, stopping, changing directions, shifting gears…Wellman Friction Products has a product for nearly any application in mechanical motion. Wellman Friction is a global, dynamic industry leader in friction technology. The company’s friction components go into the brakes and clutches of a world on the move. These products are sold and distributed to leading equipment manufacturers in more than 50 countries, touching the lives of millions of people every day in thousands of applications.
“We are committed to be the worldwide leader in engineered friction materials and related technology,” says Tom Jaros, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our business is about solving problems for clients through our experience and capability. That’s what we do best.”
The Right Chemistry
Each Wellman Friction component is created from a combination of scientific formulas and a precise manufacturing process, subject to the dynamics of physics and chemistry. Wellman Friction’s products uniquely combine up to a dozen or more materials in a precise blend. These materials are processed using heat and pressure to maximize integrity. Special chemistries and processes then bond these materials to backing plates, preventing separation even under the most severe conditions.
“What we create here are friction formulations — formulations of chemistries between iron, copper, bronze, ceramics, graphitics and paper,” explains Jaros. “In the multidimensional space of materials design, an almost infinite number of results are created by the slightest variation in material or manufacturing, engineering or application. To develop the best solution, we work with the industry’s broadest range of materials and countless combinations of the basics.” Wellman Friction also leads the industry in complex, large-diameter powder-metal (P/M) components. Powder metallurgy employs a highly developed method of manufacturing reliable ferrous and non-ferrous parts.
Wellman Friction provides a one-stop source for larger, near net-shape components, such as parts of up to 18 inches in outer diameter; parts with a uniform density of up to 100 square inches of surface area; and single and multilevel parts. “No one else comes close to these large sizes, because no one else has our 3,000-ton presses and extensive array of equipment,” Jaros states.
Wellman Friction’s world headquarters, located in Medina, Ohio, operates 158,000 square feet of plant space. There, the company produces organic, metallic and semimetallic friction products for the aerospace, agricultural, construction, truck, motorcycle and motor-sports industries. Its 111,000 square-foot Brookpark, Ohio, facility produces graphitic and metallic friction products for aerospace, agriculture and construction products, and trucks.
The Wellman Friction metal-stamping facility in Akron, Ohio, serves the aerospace and automotive markets. The company’s research and development center in Solon, Ohio, handles product development and testing across the entire Wellman Friction product family. Facilities in Orzinouvi, Italy, Concord, Ontario and Suzhou, China (opened in January 2001), produce a variety of materials for the agricultural and construction markets.
“We’re manufacturing on every major continent around the world,” says Jaros. “Our customer base is becoming multinational and we’re moving toward a global strategy. With representation across the world, we’re committed to providing leading technology with local service.”
In the Groove
Wellman Friction has one of the largest friction-testing capabilities in the industry. The company can:
• Duplicate the exact energy, torque, temperature and engagement cycle of virtually any application for precise results.
• Scale up from R&D to full production without delay or loss in transition due to prototyping facilities that are exact duplicates of its manufacturing lines.
• Continue long-term and comprehensive tests around the clock using computer-aided testing cells.
• Create new friction materials for custom applications.
• Duplicate the most severe operating conditions to confirm product application with the company’s inertia and engine dynamometers. For the ultimate in real-world applications, Wellman Friction has the ability to test its products using 600-horsepower diesel engines as power sources.
• Photograph, review and analyze friction materials with the latest technology — i.e., spectrophotometer, scanning electron microscope, differential scanning calorimeter or thermal gravimetric analyzer.
“More power, greater loads, less wear and increased demands are the basic requirements challenging designers of truck and commercial-vehicle friction components for clutch, transmission and brake applications,” explains Jaros. “Each factor in a friction product design, from the material to the grooves, is an opportunity for performance improvement. Wellman Friction is an expert in helping manufacturers establish and develop the correct friction material for their specific applications.”
This assistance goes well beyond just the material. Wellman Friction experts also devise solutions for the groove pattern, oil type, opposing plate specifications, configuration and service requirements. The company designs friction disk grooves, for example, to meet specific application and oil flow requirements for optimum performance.
While Wellman Friction can help other companies put on the brakes, this powerhouse shows no signs of slowing its momentum. “When a clutch engages or a brake engages, the performance characteristics must be specific, predictable and repeatable. We’re advancing the technology over these major product groupings,” Jaros says. “We deal with friction life, fade, heat, matrix strength and system efficiency by using world-class engineering techniques and the finest materials. It is our passion to keep this world on the move.”