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SUBJECT : A few rules of thumb for mechanical seals 2-5

Good seal life is defined as running the mechanical seal until the carbon face is worn away. Be sure to check if you have the recommended grade. The steam cleaning of lines is very common in the process industry. A typical shelf life for most Buna compounds would be one year. so it is a very common problem. I have spent the past thirty-five years lecturing about seals and pumps and during that time have picked up a number of rules that are worth remembering. and Iodine. Caustic is another common cleaner tht contains a high percentage of water. Here are some of the most important: Selecting materials . It also includes any barrier fluids that are used to circulate between dual mechanical seals.Before selecting your mechanical seal design there are three things you want to remember: • • • • • • • • • • • All of the seal materials must be chemically compatible with any fluids that will be pumped through the system and that includes solvents.The elastomer ( the rubber part) There are two temperature limits for a mechanical seal: You must not exceed the temperature of the seal components. The solids will eventually destroy the lapped surfaces. the seal will leak and allow solids to penetrate between the faces. to 150° C. A Viton® O-ring. The problem is Ozone attack. solid or crystal at elevated temperature. in this application would not have been subjected to its temperature limit. If they open. You must not exceed the temperature limit of the fluid you're pumping. . Fluorine. Ozone is produced by the sparking of electric motors. Halogens are easily identified because they end in the letters " INE". Buna "N" (Nitrile) i has a short shelf life. If possible you should contact the manufacturer for specific recommendations and limits. Ethylene Propylene rubber cannot seal hot fluids in excess of 300° degrees Fahrenheit ( 150° C) without taking a compression set and eventually leaking. Any other condition is called a seal failure and is always correctable The following is offered as a guide when dealing with mechanical seals in general. In almost every case this will cause a seal failure. As an example: petroleum lubricating oil cokes between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit (120° C. Chlorine. Astatine.) and restric ts the movement of the seal components. Remember that steam is another name for water. cleaners or steam that might be introduced into the system to flush or clean the lines. These Halogens will penetrate the Teflon® coating and attack the base rubber material causing it to swell and split the Teflon sleeve or coating. The list would include Bromine. Most Viton® compounds are attacked by water. As an example. The seal faces must stay together. Many fluids will change from a liquid to a gas. This is the elastomer that is most often used in Rubber Bellows Seals. but you could have the seal failure because of the coking problem Halogens will attack Teflon® coated elastomers .

• • • • • • • Carbon and most hard face materials have an expansion rate of about one third that of stainless steel. You cannot use any form of carbon in these applications. strainers. is the preferred material for solid Tungsten Carbide faces also. 85% ceramic should never be recommended as a hard seal face because it can break with as little as a 100 degree Fahrenheit (55 C) temperature difference. These oxidizing agents will combine with the carbon to form Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide. Two hard faces are also recommended in the sealing of hydrocarbons that have to pass a "fugitive emissions" test. The elastomer must be compatible with these fluids also. because of its superior corrosion resistance. ceramic is a good choice for oxidizing chemicals. open the lapped seal faces. Reaction bonded Silicone Carbide has excellent wear characteristics. Use a universal o-ring compound such as Green Tweed's Chemraz. expansion joints etc. or any other elastomer. Dupont's Kalrez® or a similar product. or that could come into contact with the seal. in this fluid. use only the nickel base Tungsten Carbide. valves. Cobalt base is too hard and can crack with normal seal face differential temperatures. A hard spot will be created that will interfere with the movement of the dynamic elastomer.. Chemical attack is usually recognized by a swollen and soft elastomer while high heat will produce a shrunken. Test theo-ring by immersing it into the sealing fluid for one week. Nickel base. When choosing an o-ring . flanges.The Faces. it is not compatible with the fluid. Selecting Materials . Never use plated or coated hard faces in these applications. Determine the correct O-Ring by one of the following methods: • • • • • • Look up the chemical in published o-ring charts provided by all reputable seal companies. Use two hard faces if the product has a tendency to solidify between the seal faces. If you're going to use plated Tungsten Carbide as a face material. Although many carbon graphite compounds are available. Alpha sintered Silicone Carbide is also available and is Silica free. Chemical attack of the elastomer will usually cause a seal failure within five to ten days. be sure to consider any cleaners or solvents that might be flushed through the lines. hard one. Keep in mind that black elastomers will also be attacked by oxidizing agents because of their carbon content. O-ring can also be found in filters.• • If a round O-Ring becomes square in operation (compression set) it's almost always caused by excessive heat. shape. The swollen elastomer will "lock up" the mechanical seal and in some instances. If the o-ring changes weight. 99. strong bleaches and nitric Acid. Coke particles forming between the faces will pull pieces of carbon out of the carbon/graphite face presenting a leak path for fugitive emissions. Hard faces are recommended if you find that it is impossible to keep the seal faces together and solids are present in the sealing liquid. Ceramic vs. Never use " glued together" elastomers in a split seal or any "dynamic" application.5% would be a much better choice. The most common oxidizers are oleum. sulfur trioxide. Look under "O-ring compatability" in the chart section of this web site Check to see if your plant has any experience with o-rings . but contains up to 17% free silica which can be attacked by many chemicals including caustic. unfilled carbons are the best because they are corrosion resistant to almost all chemicals except oxidizing agents and some de ionized water applications. . or appearance..

you can probably use a seal manufactured from 316 stainless steel components. If the base material is not corrosion resistant to the pumping fluid and any cleaners or solvents used in the lines the corrosive will go through the coating and attack the base. Th ere is a compound of Dupont's Kalrez® that is satisfactory to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (370° C). The easiest product to seal is a cool. or bronze.• Plating or coating a seal face will not give it corrosion resistance. Needless to say glue or epoxy is not a sensible solution to differential expansion problems. Use o-ring balanced seals in vacuum applications down to 10-2 inches.). Coatings are used for wear resistance and low friction. The o-ring is the only elastomer that can seal both vacuum and pressure. balanced. Selecting Materials . radioactive. o-ring seal can seal stuffing box pressures to 400 psi (28 bar) and temperatures to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205° C).The Metal Parts. All problem chemicals can be placed into several categories. The springs or bellows. Any good quality. Sealing Limits • • • Use only stationary mechanical seals (the springs do not rotate with the shaft) if the face surface speed exceeds 5000 feet per minute ( 25 M/sec. clean. however. Application • • • • • • • • • • • • • A Balanced o-ring seal should not vaporize the product at the seal face if the stuffing box pressure is at least one atmosphere above the products vapor point. must be manufactured from Hastelloy "C" to avoid problems with Chloride Stress Corrosion. Split seals will work in these applications. If you know how to seal these categories you should have no trouble making seals work in your applications : Products that crystallize (caustic or sugar solutions) Viscous products (asphalt or molasses) Products that solidify (polymers or chocolate) Products that vaporize (hot water or benzene) Film building liquids (hot petroleum or plating solutions) High temperature fluids (heat transfer oil or liquid sulfur) Dangerous products (fire hazard.). explosive. expansion steels will prevent the carbon or hard seal faces from leaking between the face and the metal holder. or one millimeter of mercury (1 Torr. but it 's not acceptable at ambient temperatures (it gets too hard). To get corrosion resistance the outer coating must be at least 1/8" (3 mm) thick. causing the plating to come off in sheets. but never in a cartridge design unless some method has been provided to insure that the cartridge sleeve is square to the shaft. stainless steel. but they must be turned around for best operation. lubricating liquid. • • Be sure to use low expansion metal such as Carpenter 42 or Invar 36 for your metal bellows seal face holder if the product temperature can exceed 400° Fahrenheit (205° These low C). bacteria) Non lubricating liquids (solvents or hot water) Gases and dry running applications (hydrogen) Dry solids (cake mix or pharmaceuticals) Corrosive fluids (acids or strong bases) . If your pump is manufactured from Iron. steel.

Very few seals will ever see discharge pressure. Plated faces can have the hard coating crack off and filled carbons can have the binder melted out in high heat. If this should occur between the seal faces.005" (0. Thermal expansion can cause seal face loads to alter and seal face flatness to change. Cyclone type separators. Do not be tempted to put the mechanical seal outside of the stuffing box to keep the springs out of the fluid. When choosing the pressure range of a mechanical seal be sure to consider the stuffing box pressure not the pump discharge pressure. Air trapped in the stuffing box can cause the seal faces to run hot and in some instances destroy the elastomer. solids can open and penetrate between the inner seal faces. agitators. but will provide the necessary cooling to the shaft so that it will not transmit stuffing box heat back to the bearings. but not as good as the jacketed stuffing box. Heat affects a seal several ways: The faces can be attacked. "Back to Back" double seals in dirt or slurry service. When using a jacketed stuffing box it is best to install a carbon bushing in the bottom to act as a thermal barrier between the pumping fluid and the seal. most raw products) In addition to these chemical categories there are other sealing problems that include: High pressure Hard vacuum High speed Excessive motion Dual seals should be balanced in both directions to prevent failure when barrier fluid pressure changes. This jacket will not only cool down the seal area. The practice of using "one direction" seal balance is commonly employed by most seal companies and should be avoided for both safety and reliability. The best way to cool a seal is to use the jacketed stuffing box that came as a part of the pump. it could cause a bellows rupture. The solids will prevent the inner seal from moving forward as the faces wear and if the barrier fluid pressure is lost. the differential temperature can cause the faces to go out of flat. the seal must move into the slurry where it will eventually "hang up" and leak. Do not use rotating. Be sure to vent vertical pumps back to the suction side of the pump. The corrosion rate of all liquids increases with temperature. As the face wears.15 mm. • • • • • • • • • Technical . The use of steam in a Quench gland is another solution. The elastomer (rubber part) has a temperature limit determined by the compound used. they can be blown open. but do not attempt to recirculate back to the suction side and cool the stuffing box at the same time. Many products will change from a liquid to a solid or gas at high temperature. Avoid using flushing fluid as a coolant in stationary mechanical seals. It 's all right to dead end fluid in a stuffing box if a jacketed stuffing box is being used. In the case of stationary bellows seals. or "in line filters" are not a good method of cleaning up the fluid in the stuffing box.• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Cryogenics (liquid nitrogen) Slurries (river water. sleeve bearing equipment and any rotating device that has motion greater than 0. sewage. In these applications centrifugal force is throwing solids into the lapped faces and if there is excessive pressure in the system the seal faces will be blown open. Pump seals do not work well in these applications because the hard faces are too narrow and the internal seal clearances are too tight. Use motion seals on mixers.) in a radial or axial direction. The coolant will be directed to only one side of the seal and since a stationary seal does not rotate the sliding components.

If you use unbalanced seals the extra heat generated by this type of seal is usually excessive for convection cooling.5 of water) makes them a poor choice compared to fresh water. If you decide to repair your mechanical seals in house. Most petroleum base and other oils have a low specific heat (0. Do not relap the carbon face unless it's an emergency. Seal face opening is a common seal failure. o Let the carbon slide in a holder that is sealed to the shaft. You must never guess as to how much to compress a mechanical seal.2 . If you must relap in an emergency never use lapping powder. Either take the information from the seal print or calculate the correct length from the above information.2 N/mm2) when the carbon is new and 10 psi. Avoid oil as a barrier or buffer fluid between two mechanical seals. Single spring seals are wound in either a right or left handed direction. If convection is not satisfactory.0.• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Seals lapped to less than three helium light bands ( 0. Elastomer seals do not experience this vibration problem because the elastomer touching the shaft is a natural vibration damper. If oil is mandatory. a pumping ring or forced lubrication is another option. Do not use seals that locate against a shoulder or set screw to the shaft. Carbon throat bushings should have a shaft clearance of 0.000034") inches or 1. Packing a pump would be like running your automobile with the emergency brake engaged. Seal face hardness is a confusing subject because of the various measuring scales employed. o Use a stationary seal design. diameter. Check to see if your seal will a problem in keeping the faces together because of the spring winding.002 inches/inch (0.002 mm/ millimeter) of shaft diameter. Open impeller pumps require impeller adjustment. Both rotating and stationary metal bellows seals require vibration damping. (0. A convection tank can often be used between two balanced o-ring seals. If you divide the Brinnell scale by ten (10) it is almost equal to the Rockwell "C" scale. Balanced mechanical seals consume about one sixth the horsepower of packing. If they are going to be used as a support bearing you should cut the clearance down to 0.0 microns) should not show visible leakage. The two most common are Rockwell "C" and Brinnell. a clean heat transfer oil would be your best choice.4) and combined with poor conductivity (0.001 mm/millimeter) of shaft diameter. Shafts and sleeves cost too much to ignore this severe problem. but the fuel consumption would be high. Use only cartridge or split seals in these applications.001 inches/ inch (0. be sure to purchase the parts from the original manufacturer.07 N/mm2) when the carbon is fully worn away. A typical mechanical seal face load would be 30 psi. To get seal balance you must do one of the following: o Use a stepped sleeve with rotating seals. (0. The balance is not perfect. face combination and pressure limits for convection cooling. Contact the seal manufacturer for his recommendations concerning speed. You cannot balance an inside seal by removing material from the carbon face. It is not necessary to lubricate seal faces at installation. When the faces open solid particles imbed them selves into the carbon face and will be driven in even further during the lapping process. as the abrasive particles will imbed into the soft carbon. as the face load will change when the impeller is adjusted. Visible leakage occurs at about 5 light bands. but good enough. they require no stepped sleeves. If the product you are sealing can vaporize between the faces and cause freezing then you must remove any lubricant that might have been placed there by the manufacturer. Vibration can be either harmonic or caused by poor lubricating fluids (slip stick) Use only non-fretting seal designs. If you decide to have them repaired send them back to the original manufacturer. It 's important that the seal be rebuilt with the original materials and it must meet . o Use a metal bellows. The car would run.

. O-ring seal designs can tolerate three to four times the "run out" capability of sliding or pusher seals incorporating wedges. This information is not available from the manufacturer because of product liability problems. U. . It's more difficult to troubleshoot a repaired seal because old marks on the comonents can confuse the troubleshooter. Oil on the seal faces can cause the faces to stick together during long periods of non running. If you do not intend to run the equipment soon remove any oil that might be on the seal faces during the assembly procedure.cups etc. chevrons.• • the original tolerances.