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From craft breweries to calf feeders – Our more curious customer cases

V.A.V. Group is best known for top-quality seals and profiles for transportation, construction and heavy industry. Those three categories are indeed the largest sectors we do business with, but they surely are not the only ones. We looked back on our more curious customer cases along the years with project manager Hannu and head engineer Tuomas.

A smelly sample

Hannu recalls a case when a craft brewery contacted us a few years back, Pyynikin Brewing Company, that needed specific replacement gaskets for their brewing tanks. To be more specific, the manhole latch gasket for their bigger tanks that were so large someone could crawl inside them to wash them thoroughly. “As usual, we asked them if they could provide us with blueprints or a sample of the seal they needed. They sent us their old gasket and boy, that was a smelly one!”, Hannu laughs. Years of different hops, malts and yeasts had left their mark on the gasket that was already so worn out that the yeasty smell refused to wash away.

Having produced several applications from food-safe silicone, the choice of material was not a difficult task. The sample, although being smelly, made it easy for Hannu and Tuomas to make the custom tool for manufacturing the seals for brewing tanks. Since then, V.A.V. Group has delivered more brewing tank seals and gaskets on several occasions as Pyynikin Brewing Company has increased their production over the years. “I guess you could call us the craft beer experts at V.A.V. Group now”, Hannu adds with glint in his eye.

Speaking of smells, there is another sealing solution meant to protect a delicate process from the elements: composter seals. Composting has become rather popular in Finland, and most of Europe as well (we even have an official compost inspector) because it is a great way of disposing biodegradable waste and getting nutrients for growing plants and herbs in return. A good composter is solid, insulated, and has an airtight lid that allows the microorganisms to work in peace. As a result, hundreds and hundreds of composters on people’s yards have our seals that help them in being environmentally friendly and grow their own crops!

Silicone sleeves add protection

Not all our products are for sealing purposes. Being able to produce any custom shape from panels to tubes, the possibilities range from the tiniest nit-bit (but needed in massive quantities) to several metres long profiles. We are used to having seals protect us and our valuables from the elements, but sometimes it is even simpler than one could think.

A paint shop approached us some years ago, asking if we could produce a special silicone tube to protect the bolt threads when painting the bolt heads and other parts. Using masking tape is the first solution that comes to mind, but taping up bolt after bolt would take a lot of time, not to mention scraping it off from the threads afterwards. To be able to use the same tube for multiple bolt diameters, the solution was to make it in a specific shape: “We made this gingerbread-shaped tube that would fit the smaller bolts just like that, and thanks to its shape, could expand to fit over the larger bolts and screws just as easily”, Tuomas explains. Silicone was the optimal choice of material since paint doesn’t stick to it and can be wiped or easily chipped away if it dries. “The paint shop can just cut the tube to length and have a virtually endless stock of reusable thread protectors”, Tuomas continues.

In the world of agriculture

Our agricultural endeavours are not only limited to composters! Of course many of the machines, tanks and equipment may include our seals and profiles, but there is one special request from Finnlacto that both Hannu and Tuomas look back at with pleasure. “Feeding tubes for calves. We got to make milk feeding tubes for baby cows”, the two men say with a smile. As we know, baby bottle nozzles are made of silicone because it’s safe, hygienic and comfortable. Calves are not that different from human babies, and their needs are similar: a safe, comfortable and easy feeding tube ensures that the calf is willing to suckle milk from the feeding machine. “We are not cow experts, so we’re happy that Finnlacto provided us with enough information about the shapes and sizes, but also the strict material requirements. Food-grade silicone is required for livestock as well as humans, so we followed the instructions carefully. Technically, the same silicone mix is used in hospital environments, so it is indeed very safe for livestock and humans alike”, Tuomas explains.

Producing tubing of the most versatile shapes is nothing extraordinary for V.A.V. Group, even though it is rarely requested as such. “If a client is used to ordering replacement seals and profiles of highly hygienic and safe materials for medical use, for example, they may not realise they could order special tubing from us as well. We could easily produce dual tubing for milking robots as well, now that we are talking about agricultural needs”, Tuomas continues.

Sometimes it is all fun and games

We previously wrote an article about assembly and connections, where Sari Silvennoinen talked about a gaming solution that required a very specific damper system. The gaming solution was a mat with several pressure plates acting like keyboard buttons when the user stepped on them. The pressure plates needed a damper system that allowed the “keys” below the plates to be pressed easily, would let the plate move in all directions, but still keep it in place and prevent it from slipping out of the frame. “The challenge was that the profile had to be equally flexible in every direction but still act as a damper. We came up with this accordion-type profile that is both flexible and supportive, and because of the shape, it was rather tricky to join into a rectangular profile. But we did it, and it worked well!” Sari Silvennoinen recalls.

Hannu and Tuomas both remember the curious case and agree that it was an interesting task that involved some prototyping with different hardnesses.

But sometimes the prototypes never become a mass product, and that is part of the industry, the two men admit. “There are times when a customer orders a prototype to test their application, but after receiving the samples we may never hear from them again. Of course our sales team contacts them after some time, but the most common reply is that they had to go back to the drawing board because their original idea didn’t function as planned. Nevertheless, we store the custom tools made for the prototype in case the test version does go into production after all”, Hannu and Tuomas explain.

Making prototypes for new products or applications is something that comes up on a regular basis, and it’s always an interesting journey. “The customers understand that making a prototype is costly compared to mass production, because we have to 3D print the custom tool, mix the materials and run the production for a small sample, so obviously producing 10 metres of a custom profile takes as much time and effort as producing 1000 metres of the same profile”, Tuomas enlightens. “But if the prototype works as planned and we can continue with the original design, the costs are significantly lower in the mass production phase”, he continues. His advice is to contact the V.A.V. Group sales team and carefully plan all the details before proceeding with the prototype. “With our experience, we can give some valuable insight that may save the customer a lot of money in the long run.”

Innovative people find new use for leftovers

Working with seals and profiles makes you notice your surroundings in a different way. Anywhere you look, there are seals and profiles – visible or hidden inside a casing. “Oh you wouldn’t believe where you can find our profiles!” Hannu exclaims. Driving lights for cars, damper seals for air conditioners, industrial vacuum cleaner nozzles – just to name a few. In fact, even our trusty steed, the 3D printer used for printing every single custom tool, has its recoater blade replaced regularly with our own product. “We have delivered the same recoater blades to a few universities using similar 3D printers, and they say they’re even better than the original”, Tuomas laughs.

At the end of our discussion, Tuomas and Hannu tell about a coworker – let him or her be unnamed – who used leftover profiles to seal their garage door with a sturdier profile. “They were happy that the garage door is now better insulated and that the leftover pieces didn’t go to waste, but admitted they had to use a lot of elbow grease to fit the sturdier profile into the door profile slots”, the two giggle while looking at each other, knowing very well which coworker they’re talking about.

If you have any questions about whether we could find a solution for your specific needs, or happen to need some assistance with prototyping, do not hesitate to contact us!

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V.A.V. Group specializes in producing tailor-made profiles for customers who have specific requirements for their products. Our production process is extremely flexible with an ability to quickly produce small to medium size production series. We work together with our customers to find the best solution. The company was founded in 2005 and is located in Ii near Oulu in northern Finland.

If you have any questions about our products or company, don’t be afraid to get in touch with us.

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