May 31

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SplashTRON® for Offshore Wind Energy Platforms

Two basic rules that all sailors were instructed to live by while aboard ship were created to establish a sense of respect. That is, a respect for ranking officers and a respect for the relentless, destructive power of the sea.

Ask any enlisted man or woman what the rule of thumb was for avoiding unwanted attention from a superior officer, they would likely respond by saying, "If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, paint it.” In those days, adding layers upon layers of paint was the only way of preventing wind and water from eating away at the metal surfaces on the ship.

Today, as engineering and manufacturing companies around the world are working to develop safe, durable equipment, floating production platforms and other specialized structures to support the growing demand for offshore wind energy turbines, one of the biggest challenges they will face will be designing seaworthy structures – while maintaining a healthy dose of respect for the type of corrosive environment they will have to operate in.

Thankfully, the days of endlessly painting metal structures are long gone.

Since the late 1960s, Mark Tool & Rubber, a family-owned and operated business in Louisiana, has been a trusted resource and the leading supplier of a uniquely formulated pipeline coating for the offshore oil and gas industry. Currently, there are multiple installations of offshore equipment coated with SplashTRON® that have been in continuous service for more than 20 years.

Proven protection. Where it matters most.

While much of the development of specialized offshore wind power components has focused on issues of scale, production and efficiency; another issue, structural durability, has the potential to overshadow any technological achievements to improve turbines, blades, or transmission lines. After all, any machine, no matter how technically advanced its design, is essentially worthless (if not increasingly expensive) when it’s not operational.

For commercial offshore windfarms to be economical viable, the materials used to build everything from underwater substructures, jacket support structures, and work platforms to the tower shaft and turbine blades must to be able to survive for decades in one of the harshest environments on earth. Downtime is expensive and the failure of any single component across multiple turbines can be devastating to the entire windfarm installation.

For decades, Mark Tool has specialized in developing unique, industrial strength anti-corrosive coating products. SplashTRON® was created specifically to address one of the biggest concerns of design and corrosion engineers of offshore equipment - the ‘splash zone’. Located in a constantly fluctuating area either above or below the mean water level, the ‘spash zone’ can be especially difficult to protect.

As ocean tides cause water levels to rise and fall, the metal surfaces of offshore platform legs and risers are alternatively wet and dried, making traditional protection techniques used in areas above or below the ‘splash zone’ unreliable. This potent combination of brackish water, exposure to salty air, and the constant motion of waves creates a highly corrosive environment for metal supports.

Chemically-bonded. For a lifetime of protection.

When applied to structural members during fabrication, the tough, long-lasting elastomer coating with SplashTRON® is chemically-bonded – as opposed to mechanically-bonded – with the metal surface of the structural component. This bond provides complete protection against the erosive action of abrasive-laden seawater, the harsh attack of ozone and ultraviolet rays, incidental impact from boats and floating debris and the effect of sea life which builds upon all offshore installations.

Although marine growth will eventually build up on a surface protected with SplashTRON®, it will not adversely affect it because there is nothing in SplashTRON® that either barnacles or other sea life can feed on.

There’s no doubt that a bright future awaits the offshore wind industry. 

Projects such as the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, are just the beginning. With the project’s potential to reduce island residents’ electricity rates by an estimate 40 percent, a new source of clean, reliable, and renewable energy may really be just over the horizon for the rest of us landlubbers too.

Uncovering the long term value of using cast polyurethane in the Mining Industry

There are very few industries that expect more from its tools and machinery than mining. Between the often hazardous, dirty, dusty, or damp environments where mining generally takes place, to its tendency to run equipment (if not the men and women operating it) as close to continuously as the law, and/or mother nature will allow, if you are making equipment for the mining industry, it needs to have two key features: durability and resiliency.

All too often, it’s not any type of large, catastrophic equipment failure that can bring a mining operation to a grinding halt. Instead, the single point of failure is usually a relatively small component that’s supposed to prevent two or more larger components from coming in direct contact with each other and wearing each other out.

The weakest points on most machines are places such as joints, pivot points, and other high friction areas. If these critical pieces are not routinely inspected, lubricated, or otherwise maintained, they too will all to quickly succumb to the very pressure they were designed to protect against.

In these types of harsh environments, where operating time is the most valuable commodity, mining equipment designers and manufacturers are increasingly paying more attention to many of the "little things” that go into making their big machines go – longer.

For example, cast polyurethane components, long known for their high load bearing capacity, impact strength, resilience and abrasion resistance are becoming very popular in a wide variety of applications to help increase the performance and longevity of mining equipment.

One of the major benefits of using castable urethane components is flexibility, not just in terms of the items physical performance as a rubberized material, but also because the components are liquid, allow configurations to be mixed, metered and dispensed with almost infinitely variable precision.

This unique process allows components to be made in any shape, size, weight or density, while still insuring the piece remains completely uniform and homogenous throughout the entire run.

Other advantages of cast urethane, when compared to other elastomers and plastics, include greater strength, toughness, durability, and versatility. These cost effective and dependable elastomers that combine some of the performance advantages of engineering plastics, metals, and ceramics along with the resiliency and flexibility of rubber.

Again, the adjustable nature of the chemical properties of polyurethane can be easily adjusted to provide many new opportunities to address performance problems that other materials could not solve.

Lastly, cast polyurethane components will also deliver a much better long term value for end customer. Unlike other materials, urethane components are much less likely to fail due to cracking, swelling, breaks, tears, abrasion, and deterioration.

Another unique characteristic of cast polyurethane products is that they also can be molded and bonded to many different types of substrates, including steel, aluminum, fiberglass. Providing additional strength and rigidity if necessary. Alone, urethane components can be molded to meet various durometer hardnesses to accommodate the requirements of different applications.

Cast urethane components for mining and many other demanding industries created at Mark Tool & Rubber can be custom molded for both high and low volume production and are available in a variety of hardnesses from Shore 10A to Shore 80D. In addition, parts can be cast that are as small as a few ounces or as large as several hundred pounds.

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