Xerox is a globally recognized workplace technology company offering business services, including office and production digital printing solutions and printers designed for efficient document workflows. Founded in 1906 as the Haloid Company, Xerox remains a global leader, thanks to its continual evolution and innovations that have helped them lead the workplace documents market for over 100 years.
With input from Ames Corp. Director of Product Development Ron Brush and Senior Production Manager Hank Dykstra, this article concludes our two-part case study blog series on how we helped develop the custom multi-layered fuser roller technology that would become Xerox’s longest-lasting fuser roller for its high-speed printers.
If you missed part one of the series, head to our blog for the background and challenges we encountered during this project. To find out what happened next, continue reading to discover the innovative solutions we helped develop and the resulting impact of our work.
In collaboration with Minco Manufacturing, we took the silicone substrate they were already making and using for hard coating aluminum cores and worked together to develop a novel spray process to enhance the roller’s wear characteristics.
Under the direction of our phenomenal chemist, we considered the three primary elements to develop the spray-on solution:
- Rubber material of the fuser roller – acts as a cushion for fluoroelastomer topcoat and helps with wear characteristics
- Silicone substrate base layer – makes an excellent base layer because of its softness and compliance
- Fluoroelastomer non-stick topcoat – helps enhance the roller’s release properties
Our first step was bonding a thin, compliant silicone rubber base layer to a metallic insert to form a barrier using a metered spray process. This step involved applying a primer to the prebaked rubber, allowing it to dry, and preheating the primed silicone base layer in an infrared oven to remove low molecular weight fractions.
Xerox’s fuser rollers required high release properties to prevent the toner from sticking. So, our next step was applying a spray-on fluoroelastomer non-stick topcoat over the silicone layer. This step proved challenging because the curing temperature was 750 degrees, and the fluoroelastomer typically cannot withstand temperatures greater than 500 degrees.
So, we developed and tested a dozen or more systems over a couple of years until we got the correct heating technology. Ultimately, we discovered that infrared lamps could impart energy very fast, allowing us to cure the fluoroelastomer without imparting so much heat that it would degrade. The real science behind this project is this precise heating methodology we developed to allow adhesion between the fluoroelastomer and the fuser roller.
To further enhance the roller’s wear characteristics, we recommended that Xerox modify the core insert configuration because the split rings were wearing out prematurely. However, they didn’t want to eliminate the split rings, so we glued the bearing to the core during the spray process, helping to extend the roller’s lifespan even more.
Finally, when we discovered that Minco Manufacturing was closing its doors, we rushed to manufacture a year’s worth of long-lasting fuser rollers with this new spray-on technology in half a year to ensure Xerox had enough inventory. In 2019, we took over the spray process, becoming one of the only rubber solutions providers in the world using this technology.
Before we co-developed the silicone and fluoroelastomer spray-on technology, Xerox didn’t have a long-life fuser roller. After this discovery, Xerox fuser rollers could produce over a million copies. Amazingly, a few expired sample rolls they sent back exceeded 2.6 million copies, an accomplishment we’re proud to have developed.
For several decades, Xerox has used these long-lasting fuser rollers in its high-speed copiers in hospitals, building centers on Wall St., and even the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). We’ve produced about 50,000 fuser rollers with this novel technology every year since the 1980s, and there’s no sign of stopping.
Today, we continue to work with Xerox to enhance its roller wear characteristics, including improving its pressure rollers, the fuser roller’s mating part.
With more than seven decades of experience, we provide high-performance rubber solutions for office automation, aerospace, medical, automotive, industrial, and other markets. We are the partner you can trust for novel approaches to optimize the wear and longevity of your rubber components. Contact us for more information.
Missed part one? Click here to read more!