Parker Boosts Its Magnetics Technology Portfolio with $3.6 Billion Acquisition of LORD, World’s Biggest Supplier of Magneto-Rheological Fluids

Motion control company Parker Hannifin is boosting its already sizeable portfolio of magnetics products and technology with a $3.67 billion acquisition of LORD Corporation. A major provider of magnetic fluids as well as advanced adhesives and coatings used in magnetics manufacturing, Lord is largely a materials science company with an array of engineered materials products and stacks of patents. 

The deal closed October 29 as an all-cash transaction. Historically a pneumatics and hydraulics-oriented manufacturer of fluid power products, over its more than 100 years in business Parker has added many electromechanical products to its lineup. The new deal creates a combined organization with strong materials science capabilities, with more electrification and aerospace product offerings positioned to capitalize on emerging trends such as electrification and light-weighting. 

“We are excited about the opportunity to strengthen our technology portfolio by significantly bolstering our position in engineered materials,” said Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Parker. “We welcome the talented LORD team who have built a high performing business with strong product brands such as Chemlok,” said Andy Weeks, president of Parker’s Engineered Materials Group.  Going forward, we will work collaboratively to integrate our businesses by leveraging the best ideas, capabilities and practices of both organizations.” 

LORD has been working with controllable fluids since the 1980s and says it is presently the largest global supplier of commercial magneto-rheological (MR) fluids, much of its output used in automotive suspension systems and tactile-feedback steering systems.  

MR fluids consist of magnetic particles, typically iron, in a carrier fluid. They are depicted in the image above. In the presence of a magnetic field, the micron-sized particles link and change the fluid to a semi-solid in milliseconds. When the magnetic field is removed, the fluid just as quickly reverts to its natural free-flowing state. The degree to which the fluid changes to a semi-solid is proportional to the strength of the magnetic field, giving the fluid infinite controllability and precision. Key applications for their energy-dissipation capability are brakes, shocks and dampers. Response time always is less than 5 milliseconds; however, exact time is dependent on device design. The fluids are gray in color and redisperse easily with proper agitation. The iron particles contained in the fluid are between 1 to 20 microns. 

With hundreds of thousands of systems in the field and over 110 patents related to fluid formulations, device design, control algorithms and manufacturing methods, LORD stands as a market leader for adaptive suspensions. It is the exclusive supplier of MR fluids to BWI for its MagneRide automotive primary suspensions. 

In an MR suspension, controllable MR fluid replaces traditional hydraulic fluid in each shock absorber. As sensors monitor road and vehicle conditions, a controller modifies the damping characteristics up to one thousand times per second. This enables dramatic improvements in both ride comfort and handling and can be used to improve the driving characteristics of any vehicle, from high-end sports cars, to sedans and SUVs. First introduced in the 2002 model year, the system now appears on more than a dozen models from a wide variety of OEMs, including Audi, Buick and Ferrari. 

MR fluid in shear mode 

MR fluids also can be used in shear mode, with the fluid flowing between two surfaces, as in a tactile feedback device, or in a valve mode with fluid flowing through an orifice as in a damper, which move relative to each other. In the absence of a magnetic field applied across the gap the fluid occupies, the fluid flows freely or allows free movement. Upon application of a magnetic field, the particles align like chains with the direction of the field. 

MR damper and piston assembly 
GVM motor from Parker 

Parker, meanwhile, has an extensive portfolio of magnetics technology of its own, primarily in motors and electromechanical components, also in materials for electromagnetic interference (EMI). It has recently been building its line of GVM series of permanent magnet motors for mobile applications, one of many lines of motors the company produces. Parker’s full line of high and low speed motors provide power ranging up to 15,000 inch-pounds of torque with speeds ranging from 1/2 rpm to 13,000 rpm. A complete range of sizes is offered in gear, gerotor, vane and piston style operating configurations. 

Parker Chomerics EMI shielding sheet 

Its Parker Chomerics family of EMI shielding products span a wide variety of uses and applications, including an extensive selection of EMI gaskets, shielded windows, shielded honeycomb air vents, cable shielding products, grounding solutions, shielding laminates, and metal foil tapes. It also includes conductive adhesives, coatings, sealants, greases and inks, as well as conductive plastics. 

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