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In the modern process technology mechanical seals are the state of art design to
seal off any type of rotating equipment.
The growing awareness for the environment and the need of its protection has
led to an increasing demand of these highly sophisticated sealing elements. In
the industry, sealing elements that increase the efficiency of processes and
manufacturing technologies as well as protect the environment are therefore
recommended and used by Engineering Companies, OEMs and End Users.
Mechanical seals have, even though their initial costs are higher as compared to
stuffing box packing, a number of advantages such as lower power
consumption, reduced maintenance, shorter down time and run unattended for
their entire life. In the long run they are the better and cost saving design. The
mechanical seals are dealing with all kind of products, at times, at extremely
high pressures and temperatures.
Since the field of application is very wide, so for proper selection of a
mechanical seal and its satisfactory operation, all influencing parameters have
to be considered. To gain an understanding of the seal operation and its
influencing parameters the basic function of a mechanical seal should be

Basic Function of a Mechanical Seal

A seal is separating two areas of different pressure levels, and should prevent
product from entering from one area into another area, or vice versa.
For a static sealing with no relative movements involved there is no problem
but where rotating elements have to be sealed, a sophisticated technology is


In a mechanical seal for rotating shafts, the sealing is done by two rings,
which are called seal faces. They form the sealing gap.
One of the seal faces are rotating with the shaft, while the other one is
stationary fixed to the housing of the equipment. The face on the shaft is
therefore called rotating seal face (Or rotating sliding face) and the other one
stationary face (counter ring or mating ring).

Basic Parts
1: Rotating Seal face / 2: Secondary Seal / 3: Stationary Seal Face
4: Secondary Seal / 5: Spring / 6: Drive collar.
The seal faces do have a sliding contact, which has to be maintained for proper
operation. Different spring designs help the faces to maintain the contact.
Both faces are fitted with secondary sealing elements, such as O ring etc. to
assure no sideway leakages along the shaft or housing.


In order to enable the seal to work, a few basic principles have to be

The seal faces have to be in contact, subsequently closing forces are
The sliding seal faces required some kind of lubrication and cooling in
the sealing gap, in order to prevent or reduce wear on the faces.
With the lubrication and cooling of the faces a small amount leakage
(generally invisible) has to be accepted.

Closing forces
There are two closing forces that keep a mechanical seal closed:
1. The spring force, supply a static closing force due to permanent tension of
the compressed springs. This force keeps the seals closed.
2. The second closing force is given by the product pressure acting on the seal.
Since this force is mostly transmitted by fluids they are called hydraulic
closing forces.

An independent lubrication of the seal faces is difficult to arrange therefore as
basic principle for a mech. seal the product which is to be sealed provides
the lubrication film. This also avoids the process contamination.

The amount and direction of leakage is depending on the pressure and
operating conditions under which the mechanical seal is working. In principle a
small acceptable amount of leakage is necessary for a proper performance of
the seal, due to requirement of the lubrication film. Compared to other sealing
devices, for example the stuffing box packing the leakage rate of a mechanical
seal is very low.

Seal Selection
The operating conditions in all kinds of industries are ever increasing, as well
as more Medias are found, manufactured, and handled.
Mechanical Seals have to handle all types of media from acid to alkalies, from
water to hydrocarbons, at a wide range of temperatures and pressures.
All these factors influence the mechanical seal operation and have to be
considered when selecting seals.
The parameters for seal selection are as follows:

Media, to be sealed or in contact

Operation temperature


Speed of the shaft

Stuffing box dimensions

When a mechanical seal is selected all of these parameters have to be checked

in view of their influence of the mechanical seal operation, the materials to be
used, general configuration, and arrangement.

One of the most important parameters is the media or product which is pumped
or handled.
The media is in contact with the seal as well as it supplies its lubrication film,
therefore all properties and the behavior of the product under process
conditions should be known.
The exact product name supported by the chemical formula together with
concentration and PH value gives us information on required material.


The selected materials of faces, O -rings and design should prevent a

corrosive attack to the seal during operation.
Seal face materials like silicon carbide (Buka 22), ceramic (Buke 5) and resin
impregnated carbon (Buko 1) can be used.
O-rings of fluorocarbon rubber (V), ethylene propylene rubber (E) and the
special Burgmann double PTFE enveloped (TTV/TTE) O-rings have given
very good results.
Stainless steels or special alloys, like Hastelloy C are the most commonly used
metal parts.
The establishments of a stable lubrication film is influenced by the boiling
point, melting point (pour point), viscosity, specific gravity and some
chemical reactions like polymerization or product disintegration. Insufficient
lubrication can cause severe problems for the seal operation.
The faces should have therefore good emergency running properties as it is
given by silicon carbide (Buka 22), special cast chrome steel (Bume 5), and
antimony impregnated carbon (Buko 03). Additionally cooling and lubrication
can be implemented by special seal arrangements or flushing plans acc. to API
610 / API 682.
Solid particles or products with tendency of crystallization can destroy soft
faces, hence seals with both hard seal faces (silicon carbide, Buka 22) have to
be entertained, if the abrasive solids can not be removed or crystallidation
prevented. For higher percentages of solids, special seal designs have to be
Hazardous products, which are for example explosive or poisonous, must
receive special attention from the seal arrangement to avoid any contact of
hazardous leakage with the environment. Multiple seals of back to back or
Tandem arrangement or seals with an atmosphere side quench have to be


Operation temperature
The operation temperature is a very important factor for the selection of a
mechanical seal.
The temperature influences a number of points in the seal operation.

Seal design

Material selection of secondary sealing elements

Viscosity of the product

Reaction of chemicals (e.g. aggressiveness)

Lubrication effect between the sealfaces

Heat development
The most important influence is given due to the heat development between
sliding sealfaces.
This heat development, caused by the friction between the faces can lead to a
local overheating of the lubrication film, once the operation temperature is
additionally on the high side.
With the respective pressure and the temperature, the product reaches its
boiling point and subsequently vaporizes.
The product vapours do not have a proper lubrication effect so that the
sealfaces can run dry and get irreparable damaged or worn out very fast.


Reaction of chemicals
The product reaction (e.g. aggressiveness) with any of the seal parts is also
increased with the rising temperature level, due the increased speed in the
molecular movements in any media.
Special materials might be required or other seal arrangements have to be

A clear relation between the temperature and the viscosity is also given. The
seal is in contact with the media and a viscous product can influence the
operation, for example by limiting any axial movement and/or does not supply
a sufficient lubrication film to the sealfaces.
For higher viscosities a special seal arrangement and other measures have to be

Special attention must be taken with the selection of the secondary sealing
elements. The commonly used elastomers have a limited temperature range in
which they can work satisfactorily. These limits must be considered.
Elastomer Temperature limits:

Nitrile Butadiene rubber

-30 to + 100

Etylene Propylene Diene rubber

-40 to + 130

Fluorocarbon rubber
-20 to + 200
(as per manufacturers data all temperatures are given in oC)
Temperature levels which are beyond the above range, suitable for the use of
elastomers require different seal designs, such as metal bellows, who do not
require flexible elastomer secondary sealing elements or sometimes use of
special elastomer material.


Mechanical seals can be used in a wide pressure range going from vacuum to
appr. 250 bar for a single seal. (higher pressures are possible with special
designs). To meet the wide range and due to the fact that mechanical seal faces
are loaded (closed) by the product pressure with its influences to the face
friction, there are two basic types of seals available:

for the low pressure range -------------- Unbalanced mechanical seals

for the high pressure range -------------- Balanced mechanical seals

Unbalanced seals are used for a pressure range up to 16 bars maxm.

Balanced mechanical seals are selected in the higher pressure range when the
stuffing box pressures are exceeding 16 bar and depending on the media also in
the lower pressure range.
When the product (e.g. hydrocarbons) requires a reduced, low heat
development between the seal faces to prevent vaporizations between the faces
as well a balanced seal can be recommended.
A balanced seal has by design feature a reduced face load which results in a
reduced heat generation in the sealing gap.
The new API 682 for example recommends therefore only the use of balanced
mechanical seals for hydrocarbon applications.
For better performance a balanced seal can also be used in the low pressure
range. As the pressure is influencing the face load of the seal this is done when
the product requires special attention due to vaporization in the sealing gap, as
possible for example with solvents and hydrocarbons.


The rotational speed of the shaft has an impact in many ways to the mechanical
seal; it influences the sliding velocity and the power consumption of the seal as
well as its configuration.

Sliding velocity
The sliding velocity of the sealfaces is the speed under which the seal faces are
sliding on each other; hence the material selection of the faces is to be
considered. The higher the speed the better must be the running behaviour of
the materials to avoid any dry running of the sealfaces or excessive wear.
Cooling and face lubrication should be optimized for higher speeds by
additional flushing arrangements or special design (e.g. EagleBurgmann HS
grooves, flow guides, multipoint injection, pumping screw design etc.)

Power consumption
The power consumption of the mechanical seal is the sum of the face friction
power and the turbulence losses of the rotating seal parts. (The turbulence
losses are insignificant for a standard mechanical seal up to speeds of appr.
The created heat (power), due to the friction in the sealing gap, has to be
dissipated through the face materials to the surrounding fluid and by the
lubrication in the sealing gap.
For the seal selection the power consumption to determine the cooling
requirement for the seal and to select the right face material.
The power consumption can be calculated by measurements due to many
influencing factors.
The seal configurations as well as the design are influenced by the speed.
Above 25 m/s special designs are required which have the spring loaded seal
parts arranged stationary to avoid negative influences from the radial forces to
the seal (outward deflection of springs etc.).
The rotating parts are designed then simple with straight surfaces to minimize
the turbulent losses which, otherwise, would add to the power consumption.

Stuffing box dimensions

The service life of a mechanical seal is considerable influenced by design and
configuration of the mechanical seal chamber (stuffing box).
In a mechanical seal design the active sealing area is concentrated on the two
sliding faces where the heat generation takes place and subsequently sufficient
product circulation in the stuffing box is required for its dissipation and

This fact required a stuffingbox design for a mechanical seal as open as

possible, different to the designs for glandpakings, where the space should be
as narrow as possible to minimize the packing crossection. The dimensions are
layed down in international standards, such as DIN/ISO 5199, API 610 etc.
Shaft size (sleeve size) and stuffingbox size define the size of the seal and
influences from the stuffingbox design and its arrangement (horizontal,
vertical, etc.) to the seal.
Each type of equipment had different requirements to the mechanical seal
Various pump designs (centrifugal, screw, gear, etc.) compressors, agitators,
reactors; bead mills, etc. have special features which should be considered
when selecting the suitable mechanical seal.

The actual seal selection considers all available information, defines the face
and other suitable materials, selects a design and specifies auxiliary measures,
finally an optimum solution based on application engineering know how,
existing specifications and field experience from the actual enduser is chosen
and recommended.
Burgmann recommendations are based on more than 130 years experience in a
wide field of applications.

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