Founded over a century ago, Grote Industries (Madison, IN) remains a leader in the manufacture of lighting and safety equipment for commercial trucks and other vehicles. As such, it is at the center of the ongoing transition from incandescent vehicle lamps to LED-based lighting.

Key to the success of these new products is the use of printed-circuit-board conformal coatings and advanced potting materials, which promote both performance and reliability. Potting materials, in particular, must deliver superior environmental resistance and long-term material integrity to ensure the correct function and safety of the products for which they are designed.

With this in mind, Grote engineers recently set out to find a new potting material that combined the necessary performance with fast flow and cure rates. The latter were needed to accommodate a new, high-speed automated production line.

As part of the selection process-which included 80 different materials from 11 different vendors-Grote engineers established 19 separate engineering requirements for the material, including low viscosity; self-leveling characteristics to minimize air entrapment; improved thermal conductivity and increased cooling capacity to enable greater light intensity and longer life; UL94 V0 fire resistance approval; and environmental safety and friendliness.

The material also had to be extremely versatile, due to the fact that Grote’s line includes 10 different product families constituting more than 60 different part numbers.

Ultimately, Grote selected the Hysol family of custom formulated potting materials manufactured by Henkel Corp. (Düsseldorf, Germany). The resulting custom material proved so successful it is allowing Grote to take full advantage of its new system, cutting production costs dramatically.

“The ability to fully automate our lamp assembly has enabled us to produce superior LED products with nearly a 35 percent reduction in cycle time as compared to the manual assembly process we were using previously,” says Grote Industries production development engineer Ed Sitarski. “With this increased efficiency, Grote has been able to reallocate its third shift labor to other shifts or work areas.”

Grote Plant Manager Tom Blades agrees. “Material savings alone easily paid for the robot cells [in the new system],” he says. “We also had direct labor savings, quality improvement and enhanced aesthetics.”

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