In today’s connected world, there are many devices we commonly encounter everywhere and every day that make our lives better. Even if we can’t see them, these devices are out there whirring away, minute by minute day after day performing programmed tasks without fault or failure. Thousands of different devices are inter-connected, and the key to the reliability of their connections is the mechanical seal and in a large number of these applications, the O-ring. Without O-ring seals, unwanted leaks and untimely disasters can occur causing major issues for you, your business, and your customers.
Where do you find O-Ring Seals?
Typically molded from a rubber compound that has been specifically designed to meet the performance requirements of its unique environment and application, o-ring seals are everywhere.
From gas caps to hub caps & hood ornaments, you can find rubber o-ring seals throughout your vehicle. These molded rubber components seal the connections in all your pumps, filters, valves, cylinders, hoses, lines and sensors. And your vehicle contains many other types of mechanical seals from the engine through the transmission, ensuring its proper functioning and your safety.
When you pull up to the pump to fuel your vehicle, rubber O-ring seals made from fuel-resistant seal materials are present throughout the systems dispenser, nozzle, valves, and lines. Even many gas cans feature an O-ring seal!
In your home, there is a wide variety of unseen O-ring seals at work in every utility system that delivers water, gas, and power to your home, not to mention that they are in almost every appliance in your home. From the kitchen sink faucet through the high-pressure regulator to the main shut-off valve, O-ring seals certified for use in water are present, to prevent leaks and manage varying levels of pressure. It’s much the same for the natural gas valves, connections, and safety systems that utilize a broad range of elastomer molded O-rings. Made from rubber compounds that are compliant with safety codes, these seals provide heat resistance and prevent leaks that can cause severe problems.
Other recognizable applications that use standard O-rings, back-up rings, metric O-rings in a variety seal materials and o-ring sizes are found in medical equipment like oxygen concentrators, infusion pumps, and monitoring systems. O-rings are also present in retail applications like refrigeration valves and regulators, and beverage dispensers that also use shaft seals to keep beverages mixed and ready to dispense on demand.
What all of these applications have in common is the need for an exacting “fit” of the mechanical seal and the proper selection of the seals material. A standard O-ring’s dimensions—inside/outside diameters and cross-sectional area—have to be precise for it to fit in the O-ring gland or O-ring groove and provide a sufficient seal. What’s more, the dimensions must be determined with the inherent performance characteristics of the rubber seal material thoroughly understood, so it will function as designed for each applications unique requirements.
Why Do O-Ring Seals Fail?
Why do these seals made of elastomeric material fail? Eventually given enough time or use all mechanical seals will fail. The key is to design the seal so that it maintains its integrity for the desired length of time. There can be any number of reasons for failure, but often they occur when a combination of issues arise. Environmental factors, like varying temperature ranges, or extreme temperatures occurring frequently or for prolonged periods of time can break down the seal. Higher than anticipated pressure or the introduction of a foreign fluid or substance can stress the seal material and cause failure. Age, misuse, “wear & tear” can also, over time, affect the mechanical seal or seal material enough to cause a minor compromise of the seal interface. We find in many cases of failure that the integrity of the o-ring seal or molded rubber part has been maintained, but the material around the seal has been impacted compromising the seal’s effectiveness. Any one of these conditions or—combinations of them—can cause degradation sufficient to lead to failure.
It is pivotal to the success of every device, piece of machinery, and appliance that O-ring seals work properly for the desired length of time. Without these seemingly small pieces of the puzzle, you are bound to find yourself with major issues such as leaking water or gas, failure of operation of a pump, valve or controller, or much larger issues within critical systems that could result in injury to persons or your business.
While molded rubber parts are typically one of the lowest cost components of your product or assembly if they fail before expected, they will have a very costly impact on your business. A poorly designed or incorrectly selected standard O-ring or custom molded rubber part can result in lost profits, sales declines, and unhappy customers. We understand that your reputation depends on our performance. By working with us, you can rest assured you will get the right part at the right time. Need a Part?