When ExxonMobil first introduced Santoprene, its customers had some confusion about it, according to Bednarik.
"We would go to rubber companies, but they didn't want to invest in new processing equipment," Bednarik said. "Plastics companies were interested in expanding their product lines, but didn't know who to sell them to."
Eventually these qualms were dispelled as rubber companies discovered that Santoprene could be processed less expensively than thermoset rubber and plastic companies discovered new customers.
Santoprene has enthusiastic customers in the appliance industry, brands such as Frigidaire, Whirlpool and General Electric, which have used Santoprene in dishwasher and refrigerator seals since the mid-1980s.
From the beginning, however, its biggest market always has been in the automotive industry. Today, according to Bednarik, automakers account for more than half of all Santoprene sales.
Toyota was one of the first automakers to use Santoprene extensively, but now the material is used widely by OEMs around the world, according to ExxonMobil.
Santoprene was widely adopted for rack and pinion boots in the early 1980s because it reduced costs while improving flex life, fluid resistance and sealability, the company said. Now, more than 90 percent of all cars on the road have Santoprene rack and pinion boots, it said.
Automotive applications have multiplied over the years, according to Bednarik. An abbreviated list of auto parts made with Santoprene includes weatherseal systems, seals for fixed windows, belt line seals, clear air ducts, rocker panels, heating and cooling hoses, struts and mounts.
Santoprene offers ease of processing, and is 20-30 percent lighter than EPDM, according to Bednarik. The material's versatility allows reconfiguration of parts.
"One part now does the role of two or three parts," he said.
According to ExxonMobil, Santoprene also can help automakers meet their sustainability commitments. Besides Santoprene's lighter weight compared with other materials, it can reduce waste by as much as 50 percent in weatherseal production, the company said.
Because Santoprene does not require heat curing, it also cuts weatherseal production costs by up to 25 percent, it said.
ExxonMobil is expanding these benefits to the auto industry with the introduction of new Santoprene grades, beginning with micro-foaming grades, according to the company.
"Moving from a dense rubber profile to a foamed TPV profile allows the extrusion of profiles that are much lighter and use less material than thermoset rubber alternatives," it said.
The micro-foaming grades reduce the weight of Santoprene by a further 20-25 percent, according to Bednarik.