ExxonMobil’s Bengaluru Research and Development Technology Centre (BRDTC) is celebrating 25 years of innovation and ingenuity. We look back at how the centre has evolved and its plans to adapt to the demands of the future.
The BRDTC initially focused on butyl rubber used in tyres, including researching ways for improving tyre pressure to keep two- and four-wheelers on the road for longer. However, as the needs of the world evolved, so did the BRDTC.
“When we started out, the objective was to minimize air leakage from tyres. Additionally, we focused on reducing the weight of plastic-packaging solutions,” says BRDTC Senior Engineer for Customer Development Nilesh Shah.
“Factors such as sustainability or using recycled materials became increasingly important for us over time, particularly following new government rules regulating the use of plastic,” Nilesh adds.
“We quickly changed gears to develop more solutions in this field, such as packaging solutions that are easier to recycle and can help our customers incorporate more recycled materials. We’re always looking at how to make things better.”
UPGRADING THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR BETTER TYRES
Tyres have been at the heart of the technology centre since the beginning; making materials that quite literally help keep people on the move.
“We’ve long focused on the butyl rubber used in tyres. The butyl layers are critical to maintaining tyre pressure,” Nilesh says. “If tyres have conventional rubber instead of butyls like that from ExxonMobil, air escapes and the pressure drops significantly—even as early as within a month.”
“Properly inflated tyres experience less friction, which means less fuel is needed. The butyl layers — which play a crucial role in tyre innertubes—ensure that the pressure doesn’t drop, and you can drive for longer,” he adds.
“Currently, the most critical challenge for the tyre industry is to meet performance standards … while meeting sustainability requirements,” says Hari Shankar Singhania Elastomer and Tyre Research Institute’s chief scientist Dr. Saikat Das Gupta. “But this has also opened opportunities for the industry to experiment with newer materials and out-of-the-box tyre concepts.”
“With its innovative products, ExxonMobil has supported the tyre industry in developing new concepts to improve tyres and provided advanced testing support for product validation in the shortest possible time,” adds Dr. Gupta.
“When it comes to packaging, our goal at the BRDTC is to do more with less,” Nilesh explains. This means helping our customers to make materials lighter and using more recycled materials in their packaging. It also includes changing from packaging using multiple kinds of plastic to options with a single type of plastic, which can be easier to recycle.”
“We’re helping our customers to redesign packaging, making it thinner, stronger, reducing weight by 20-40% and blending recycled materials with new ones,” Nilesh says. “This is helping society address plastic waste.”
Customer Shrinath Rotopack’s director Manish Rathi is impressed with the “BRDTC’s ability to work on unusual requests and willingness to go out of their way for customers” after working together to develop stronger recyclable packaging.
“Thanks to their advanced testing methods, we’ve been able to successfully leverage ExxonMobil’s state-of-the-art lab to develop [packaging] solutions of the future,” Manish says.
“Their technical experts are very professional and capable, which helps in a fast turnaround on Shrinath Rotopack’s requests.”
Huhtamaki India Ltd.’s Head of Innovation and Product Development (Flexible Packaging) Ashwinikumar Singh echoes the same. “Our longstanding partnership with ExxonMobil has been instrumental in driving innovation and sustainability in our flexible-packaging solutions.”
“Additionally, their certified-circular plastics [leveraging advanced recycling] in packaging materials should play a pivotal role in advancing our sustainability agenda,” he adds.
EPL Limited’s Creativity and Innovation President Hariharan K. Nair says, “As the market leader in the [plastic] tubes segment, the industry expects us to drive new innovations for improving barrier properties, stiffness, ease of sealing, etc. ExxonMobil’s products often help us in pushing the functional limits of our tubes.” These tubes are used to pack toothpastes, cosmetics and other such products.
EPL has even leveraged the BRDTC’s technical expertise to customize training for their team, which led to capability improvements.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
Nilesh says that the BRDTC’s vision is to expand the capabilities and technology on offer to customers. “The next step would be to help make the manufacturing process for tyres and plastic-packaging solutions less energy intensive, thereby expanding our offerings for customers.”
Despite 25 years of operation, Nilesh says the one thing that hasn’t changed is the team’s approach and “our methodical manner.”
“Our ethos is that we don’t just work as a supplier but as a partner alongside our customers, creating value together. That’s something we aim to continue doing in the years to come.”