RUBBER, A STRATEGIC RAW MATERIAL
Assogomma’s 70th birthday
At the end of the year, Assogomma will celebrate its 70th year of activity. A commitment ranging between the worlds of tires and automotive
The event is scheduled for late November, when, during a special evening, the Rubber Awards will be presented for technological innovation, international scope, Made in Italy, safety and sustainability. Following this a video, as well as a publication, will be produced, the former outlining how rubber products and their multiple applications have a direct impact on people’s daily life, and the latter will be entitled "Rubber in twentieth century society".
This way Assogomma, the association that brings together manufacturers of all kinds of rubber products, will celebrate its first 70 years of activity: so many years, in fact, have passed since Dec. 20, 1945, when representatives of 66 Italian companies producing not only tires but also technical items as well as cables, formed the association with the aim to "develop all the necessary activities to enhance the performance of the Italian Rubber Industry", as stressed at the time by Gianfelice Bertolini of S.A. Italiana Industria Gomma and first president of the newly born association. Or we should say, reborn, because already in 1918/19 Giovan Battista Pirelli chaired the Association between Rubber Industries and Electric Cables and Allied Industries, as explained following the Assogomma logo.
At the end of 1945 the founding companies had special needs, some different from today, others entirely similar. Immediately after the war, for example, rubber was subject to a quota by a national agency that established who to and in what quantity the raw material from Southeast Asia, South America and Central Africa was to be assigned; this issue has been overcome, over the years, thanks to the greater availability not only of natural rubber, but also of a variety of synthetic rubbers. Other issues, however, have always been central to the Association, such as the defense of the interests and representation of the sector, export / globalization, technical training, as well as the collective agreement that governs the relationship between employers and employees.
About a dozen of the founding companies are still part of Assogomma; among them, we find Pirelli and Michelin Italia, while among the newer members we find Datwyler, Parker Hannifin, Prysmian, Tesa, which replaced respectively Selgas, Pirelli Treg and Pirelli Italia, Pirelli Cavi and Beirsdorf.
During these 70 years, the association’s important work has continued inconspicuously, perhaps too much, since Assogomma is now engaged in a research project to find its roots and retrace 70 years of the Rubber Industry. This is also due to the fact that the nearly 200 enterprises currently represented by the association, just as it was at the time of its formation, do not deal just with tires, but with many other items made of rubber as well.
RUBBER: UNIQUE AND IRREPLACEABLE
Today, more than ever, the technical characteristics of rubber products, such as the ability to withstand thermal excursions as well as the aggression of substances, pressures, etc. mean that within the automotive sector, in its broadest sense, including aerospace, rubber has numerous applications in the form of rubber gaskets, pipes and hoses, profiles, vibration dampers, engine mounts, sleeves, cables, self-adhesive tapes , etc. For the same reasons rubber items are present also in electric appliances (think of refrigerators and washing machines gaskets, and internal drainage pipes, as well as to all those special rubber features in fryers, coffee machines, etc.), in housing (such as round studded tiles for subways, railways, airports, seals for window frames, pipes for the evacuation of domestic gas, etc.), in the construction industry (from hoses for concrete placement to anti-seismic supports for buildings, as well as expansion joints for bridges, tunnels, etc.), telecommunications (telephone cables, optical fibers, etc.), food and dairy (from food hoses to convey milk, wine, beer, seals for coffee machines, to molds for sweets, etc..), packaging (see self-adhesive tapes for closing cardboard boxes, as well as double sided adhesive tapes for securing the carpeting, for masking / coating and for electrical insulation), Medical (plasters, emergency tourniquets and much more), baby care (baby bottles, pacifiers, toys), clothing (soles, footwear, raincoats, watch straps, etc.). It is a bit like saying that if we stop to think for a moment we will soon realize that in most products, whether visible or not, a rubber detail plays a key role.
Rubber still remains a strategic product totally unique and irreplaceable both in terms of performance, elasticity first and foremost, and reliability. That is why tens of years ago the members of Assogomma promoted the creation of Cerisie, known today as Laboratorio Italiano Gomma (Italian Rubber Laboratory), able to provide certifications on compliance of materials and products to a number of different national and international standards. An excellence that today can count on the collaboration of other similar European structures, such as the French LRCCP and the German DIK, to create the ERRLAB, a network of rubber workshops supported by the associations of the three countries (Assogomma SNCP, WDK) with the goal of sharing resources and expertise, to provide the rubber processing industry a better and complete service in the field of research and development.
This is nothing new: Italians have less money in their pockets compared to the past. The declining propensity to buy also involves tires and consequently road safety. This is the conclusion of the 2015 "Safe Holidays" project that Assogomma has been running for the last eleven years in collaboration with Federpneus and the Traffic Police.
Economic reasons can be considered responsible, for example, for the greater number of cars circulating with "bald" tires, or a tread thickness of less than 1.6 mm, going, from one year to the next, from 3.3% to 5.63%, just as vehicles circulating with winter tires even when the season and ordinances do not provide for it any more (from 12.4% to 17.18%). If we add to this that cars lacking MOT test approval increased from 5.29% to 7.09%, the overall picture is not exactly encouraging.
If, on the one hand, data shows a slight decrease of damaged (3.83%) and unapproved (2.32%) tires, on the other vehicles travelling with non-homogeneous tires are on the rise (3.41%). The project promoters believe that, in the light of the results, a general reversal of a virtuous trend is taking place. According to insurance companies, the trend of road accidents, after a steady decline for some time, shows a sudden increase once again.
Solutions are not easy to be found. Assogomma suggests tax-free car maintenance. Since this is already the case with, say, bathroom showers(!), why not for cars, which would probably not only save lives, but would save a lot of Government expenditure as well?