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Elastomer Engineering Guide

Elastomer Engineering Guide


Introduction to elastomer engineering 4

Elastomer types 7

Elastomer compounding 11

Manufacturing techniques 16

Material & product testing 20

Material selection 25

Designing with elastomers 30

Elastomer failure modes 33

Glossary of terms 39

About James Walker 46

General information 47

Introduction to elastomer engineering

This guide has been produced by A wide variety of synthetic rubbers have
James Walker to provide engineers since been developed, and in the early
Introduction to elastomer engineering

with a reference source to a wide 1960s production of natural rubber

range of essential information on was surpassed by that of synthetic
elastomers and their applications. The elastomers. By 1990, two-thirds of world
aim is to bring together in one place rubber production consisted of synthetic
the core information on elastomer varieties.
engineering that might otherwise be
time-consuming to obtain.
Fundamental properties
It may also be a useful educational Figure 1: Uncured sheets being sulphur
resource for those looking for an coated and sun dried using the old of elastomers
solarisation method of vulcanisation.
introduction to elastomer engineering
Elastomers are based on polymers which
in practice. For more information on any
have the property of elasticity. They are
topic on this guide, please contact your
out of the Amazon basin, began to made up of long chains of atoms, mainly
local James Walker company via the
compete with traditional sources. carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which
contact details on the back page.
have a degree of cross-linking with their
The period between World Wars I and II neighbouring chains. It is these cross-
linking bonds that pull the elastomer back
History of elastomers witnessed the first development of a true
synthetic substitute for natural rubber, ie, into shape when the deforming force
sodium polymerised butadiene, which is removed.
Rubber was first brought to Europe in
1493 from the Americas by Columbus, but was produced in Germany as Buna
rubber and in the USSR as SK rubber. The chains can typically consist of
it remained little more than a novelty for
In the 1930s, Germany developed the 300,000 or more monomer units. They
over 200 years. Interest eventually began
emulsion copolymerisation of butadiene- can be composed of repeated units of
to grow, and in 1770 Joseph Priestley
styrene (Buna S), whereas sodium the same monomer, or made up of two or
noted its ability to rub out pencil marks,
polybutadiene continued as the principal more different monomers. Polymers made
hence the name 'rubber'.
general purpose synthetic rubber in the up of two types of monomer are known
Soviet Union. as copolymers or dipolymers, while those
This was followed by a rapid growth in
made from three are called terpolymers.
technical developments and applications
in the 19th century. Rubber began to The advent of World War II highlighted the
be used as containers, flexible tubing, importance of rubber as a raw material.
elastic bands and waterproofing, When the Axis powers gained control of
spurred by developments from Charles nearly all the worlds supplies of natural
Macintosh and Thomas Hancock. Charles rubber, this led to an urgent stepping up
Goodyears discovery of vulcanisation in the development of synthetic rubbers,
using sulphur increased the natural particularly in the USA. Production of
strength and durability of rubber by styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), then
cross-linking the molecules of the soft called GR-S, began in a US government
plant in 1942. Over the next three years, Figure 3: Single monomer units polymerised
gum rubber into a tougher material. to form a polymer.
government-financed construction of 15
Other technological advances included SBR plants brought annual production to
improved compounding techniques more than 700,000 tonnes.
which enabled the use of anti-oxidants
and accelerators, and the incorporation
of carbon black to improve strength. This
led to a vast increase in the number of
applications, which included seals, belts, Figure 4: Two different monomers form a
copolymer (or dipolymer).
flooring, electrical insulators, springs, and
pneumatic tyres.

As the number of applications increased,

demand for the raw material grew rapidly.
South America, particularly Brazil, was the
prime source of natural rubber until the Figure 5: Three different monomers
early 1900s. Then, British Asian colonies, Figure 2: Elastomer moulding after form a terpolymer.
using rubber trees from seeds smuggled World War II at James Walker.

Introduction to elastomer engineering

Elastomers are arguably the most returns to its original configuration when occurs when the compound is subjected
versatile of engineering materials. They the stress is removed. As a result of to pressure and heat. Thermoplastic

Introduction to elastomer engineering

behave very differently from plastics and this extreme flexibility, elastomers can elastomers, on the other hand, have
metals, particularly in the way they deform reversibly extend by approximately weaker cross-linking and can be
and recover under load. 200 1000%, depending on the specific moulded, extruded and reused like plastic
material. Without the cross-linkages or materials, while still having the typical
They are complex materials that exhibit with short, uneasily reconfigured chains, elastic properties of elastomers.
unique combinations of useful properties, the applied stress would result in a
the most important being elasticity permanent deformation.
and resilience. All elastomers have
the ability to deform substantially by
stretching, compression or torsion and Resilience
then return almost to their original shape
after removal of the force causing the Resilience as applied to elastomers is
deformation. essentially their ability to return quickly
to their original shape after temporary
Their resilience enables them to return deflection. In other words, it indicates the
quickly to their original shape, enabling speed of recovery, unlike compression
for example dynamic seals to follow set, which indicates the degree of Figure 7: Before curing, the long molecular
variations in the sealing surface. recovery. chains can slide past each other, exhibiting
little elasticity.
When an elastomer is deformed, an
energy input is involved, part of which is
not returned when it regains its original
shape. That part of the energy which
is not returned is dissipated as heat
in the elastomer. The ratio of energy
returned to energy applied to produce the
deformation is defined as the materials

Most elastomers possess a number of

other useful properties, such as:
Figure 8: After curing the chains are cross-
Low permeability to air, gases, water linked, which ensures they return to position
when the deforming force is removed.
and steam
Good electrical and thermal insulation
Good mechanical properties
Figure 6: Elastomer sample undergoing The ability to adhere to various fibres,
tensile testing. metals and rigid plastics.

Also, by proper selection of compounding

ingredients, products with improved or
Elasticity specific properties can be designed to
meet a wide variety of service conditions.
Elasticity is the ability of a material to
return to its original shape and size after
This remarkable combination of properties
being stretched, compressed, twisted
is the reason elastomers serve a vast
or bent. Elastic deformation (change
number of engineering needs in fields
of shape or size) lasts only as long
dealing with sealing, shock absorbing,
as a deforming force is applied, and
vibration damping, and electrical and
disappears once the force is removed.
thermal insulation.
The elasticity of elastomers arises from
Most types of elastomers are thermosets,
the ability of their long polymer chains to
which gain most of their strength after
reconfigure themselves under an applied
vulcanisation an irreversible cross-
stress. The cross-linkages between
linking of their polymer chains that
the chains ensure that the elastomer

Introduction to elastomer engineering

Elastomer products The inherent elastic properties of vibration or as a conduit to pass other
elastomers make them a natural choice hoses, pipes or wires.
and applications
Introduction to elastomer engineering

for sealing applications. They are designed

in geometry and formulation to resist the Elastomers are also used in personal
The beneficial properties of elastomers pressure, motion and environment to protection and diving products. These
have led them to be used in a vast range which they are exposed in service. include face masks, nasal units, fixing
of applications, from hydraulic and In some cases, where the elastomer straps, neck seals, ankle and wrist seals,
pneumatic seals in industrial machinery material is not inherently strong enough regulator valves and mouthpieces.
through to precision pharmaceutical to withstand the environment in which it
mouldings. Their applications can be is exposed, additional components can Liquid silicone elastomers often find
divided into two broad categories, be bonded or included in the seal design application in products that require high
Sealing and Non-sealing. to increase the elastomers performance precision, such as electrical connectors,
envelope, such as engineering plastics or multi-pin connectors, infant products
metallic components. where smooth surfaces are desired such
Seals are used in applications such as as bottle nipples, medical applications
instrument stems, rods, shafts, flanges, as well as kitchen goods such as baking
cylinders and pump pistons. They are pans and spatulas. Silicone rubber is
widely used in the food industry, including frequently overmoulded onto other parts
in bottle lifters, keg seals, manway joints, made of different plastics.
hopper seals, cones and pipe seals.
Another use is for expansion joints,
Seals are constructed using virtually all which are flexible connectors typically
types of elastomers with a wide range consisting of a fabric-reinforced
of reinforcements, fillers, additives and elastomer construction, often with
cross-linking technology. The versatility of metal reinforcements. Industrial gaiters
elastomer systems offers value in the 'fine and bellows are another significant
tuning' of elastomer properties to specific application for the protection of moving
service conditions. However, there may components from the elements and
Sealing applications be complex trade-offs in properties of other contamination.
elastomers, such as high compression set
Seals are precisely formed, moulded resistance but poor dynamic performance Elastomers also have many uses
or machined shapes that seal fluids or high heat resistance but low chemical in civil engineering, for example for
or gases by conforming to the sealing resistance to specific fluids. mounting structures to reduce effect
surfaces and supplying adequate sealing of external noise, vibration or seismic
force to prevent passage of the sealed forces; accommodating thermal
medium. Initial sealing interference with Non-sealing applications movement (bridge bearings,
the surfaces increases as the system expansion joints, pipe
pressure grows, since the pressure is Elastomers are also widely employed in couplings, etc);
transmitted omnidirectionally in the seal. non-sealing applications. Elastomeric acting as a barrier
belts, for example, are used in a great to water (water
This helps to ensure effective sealing number of applications including drive stops, plant linings,
performance. systems and power transmission. They tunnel gaskets) and a wide variety of
are usually composite products that rely others including roofing membranes,
upon reinforcing structures and specific rubberised asphalt, rail pads, inflatable
construction techniques to perform in formers and concrete texturing.
their intended applications. As in many
a reinforced rubber products, fabrics and The automotive sector is another large
other materials such as glass fibre are user of elastomers, with tyres being by
often used to bear much of the load. far the largest application by volume.
Another key use is in suspension
Flexible hoses are also typically systems, where the components
constructed of reinforced elastomers can be designed with very specific
b and may be multi-layered by design. dynamic properties. Other areas where
They are most commonly used to transfer elastomers make an appearance include
Figure 9: Cross-section of an O ring fluids from one point to another or to exhaust mounts, anti-impact devices,
showing (a) initial sealing force and
(b) the increase in sealing force due to transmit energy, such as in hydraulic weather strips, windscreen wipers, seat
system pressure. applications. They can also be used as foam and interior trims.
a connector to help absorb surges and

Elastomer types

Over the last century or so, a large Butadiene (BR) (polybutadiene) Chlorosulfonyl polyethylene (CSM)
number of basic and specialty

Elastomer types
elastomers have been developed to
meet a wide range of applications CH2 CH CH2 CH2 CH CH2
and operating environments. Their x y z
properties vary widely in terms of their Widely used in blends with natural
elasticity, temperature range, strength, rubber and styrene butadiene rubber Good resistance to oxygen, ozone and
hardness, compatibility, environmental for tyres, where it reduces heat build- light. Oil resistant and with low gas
resistance, etc, and there is also a large up and improves abrasion resistance. permeability. Its excellent UV stability
range in their costs. Low hysteresis, good flexibility at low makes it useful as roof sheeting and for
temperatures, high abrasion resistance pond liners, as well as wire and cable
The principal types of elastomers are in severe conditions. Also used in shoes, applications, coated fabrics and hoses.
outlined here. It should be noted that conveyor and transmission belts.
their basic properties can be substantially
modified by compound design Epichlorhydrin (CO/ECO)
(see section on Compounding on p11). Butyl (IIR)
(isobutylene-isoprene copolymer)
CH3 n
Thermoset elastomers CH2 CI
Thermoset elastomers are vulcanised x y
High resistance to ageing, oxidation,
(cured) to produce a degree of cross- CH3 ozone and hot oil. Good resistance to
linking between the polymer chains. The hydrocarbon solvents, moderate low
cross-linking is irreversible, unlike with Low permeability to gases and hence temperature flexibility, poor electrical
thermoplastic elastomers which will soften used for inner tubes. High damping properties and abrasion resistance.
and flow above a given temperature. at ambient temperatures. Good Attacked by strong mineral and oxidising
ozone, weathering, heat and chemical agents and chlorine. Main use is in the
resistance but not oil resistant. Other automotive sector for seals, hoses,
Acrylic (ACM) uses include wire and cable applications, gaskets and O rings.
(alkyl acrylate copolymer) pharmaceutical closures and vibration
CH2 CH CH CH2 Ethylene propylene (EPM/EPDM)
x y
O=C O Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE)
+ diene monomer
CH2 CH CH2 CH2 x y z
Ethyl acrylate CH2 CH2 Chloroethyl CH3
(95%) vinyl ether (5%) x y
Excellent ozone/weathering resistance;
Outstanding resistance at normal and Good chemical resistance to hydrocarbon excellent hot water and steam resistance;
high temperatures to oil and oxygen. fluids and elevated temperatures. good resistance to inorganic and polar
Good weathering and ozone resistance. Poor mechanical strength: mechanical organic chemicals. Low resistance to
Poor resistance to moisture, acids and properties may deteriorate above 100C. hydrocarbons. Typical temperature range:
bases. Commonly used in automotive Uses in the wire and cable industry, as -45C to +150C (-49F to +302F),
transmission seals and hoses. Also used well as for pond liners. up to +180C (+356F) in steam.
in adhesive formulations. Mineral oil/grease lubricants should not
be used to aid assembly.
Chlorobutyl (CIIR)
Bromobutyl (BIIR)
Butyl rubber modified by the introduction
Butyl rubber modified by the introduction of a small amount of chlorine, giving
of a small amount of bromine, giving improved ozone and environmental
improved ozone and environmental resistance, stability at high temperatures
resistance, stability at high temperatures and compatibility with other diene rubbers
and compatibility with other diene rubbers in blends. Also increased adhesion
in blends. Also increased adhesion to other rubbers and metals. Similar
to other rubbers and metals. Similar properties to bromobutyl.
properties to chlorobutyl.

Elastomer types

Fluorocarbon (FKM)
Common Natural
Elastomer types

SBR EPDM Neoprene CSM Nitrile Acrylic Vamac

CH3 Name Rubber


in Ter- in Tetra- Ethylene
CF3 Styrene Propylene Chlorosulfonyl Acrylonitrile Ethylene
Chemical Polyisoprene Butadiene Diene
Polyethylene Butadiene
Name Rubber Monomer
Rubber Rubber
Excellent ozone/weathering resistance;
good heat resistance. Limited resistance
to steam, hot water and other polar fluids Nomenclature NR SBR EPDM CR CSM NBR ACM AEM
(except Tetra-) although new peroxide
cured grades with no metal oxides Relative 1 1 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 3.5 4
are better. Attacked by amines, limited Cost
low temperature capabilities (except
specialised grades). Typical temperature Hardness 30-95 40-95 30-85 30-90 40-85 40-100 50-85 45-90
range: -20C to +230C (-4F to +446F). Range (IRHD)
Properties vary significantly with type.
Full Full Limited Full Full Limited Limited
Colours Range Range Range Range Range Range

Maximum 75C 85C 130C 95C 130C 100C 150C 150C
Intermittent 105C 115C 150C 125C 160C 130C 180C 180C

Minimum -60C -55C -50C -40C -25C -50C to -5C -20C -40C
Hydrogenated nitrile (HNBR)
Table 1: Basic data for main elastomer types.


x y Isoprene (IR) Natural (NR)
CN (synthetic cis-polyisoprene)

Derived from conventional nitrile by

hydrogenation of the unsaturated bonds CH2 CH = C CH2 CH2 CH = C CH2
in the butadiene unit of the polymer. Good n n
oil/fuel and chemical resistance and good CH3 CH3
weathering resistance. Excellent mechanical
properties including tensile strength, tear, Similar chemical structure to natural High resilience and tensile strength; good
modulus, elongation at break and abrasion. rubber, but less easy to process and can abrasion resistance; low cost. Poor oil
Wide temperature range and can be have lower tensile and tear strength. Its resistance and weathering resistance.
compounded for excellent resistance to relative purity provides better performance Typical temperature range: -50C to
rapid gas decompression. Disadvantages at lower temperatures. Can be used +100C (-58F
include cost and limited resistance to interchangeably with natural rubber in all to +212F).
aromatics. Typical temperature range: but the most demanding applications. Can be used
-40C to +160C (-40F to +320F). Special with some
grades can be sulphur cured for dynamic dilute
applications but then the maximum inorganic
temperature falls. As with nitrile, many chemicals
properties can be influenced by varying its and polar
acrylonitrile to butadiene ratio. organics.

Elastomer types

Chloroprene (CR)

Elastomer types
Epichlorohydrin Butyl Silicone HNBR Fluorocarbon Fluorosilicone Kalrez
Cl n
Epichlorohydrin Polyisobutylene
Polysiloxane Nitrile
Fluorocarbon Fluorosilicone Perfluorocarbon Chemical
Rubber Rubber
Rubber Rubber Rubber Name
Good weather and ozone resistance,
and fair resistance to inorganics.
Resistant to many chlorofluorocarbons.
ECO IIR Q HNBR FKM FQ FFKM Nomenclature Low cost. Moderate oil resistance and
limited temperature resistance. Typical
Relative temperature range: -40C to +120C
4 4 11 20 30 40 1000
Cost (-40F to +248F). Useful in pneumatic
40-85 40-85 40-80 50-95 50-95 40-80 65-90
Range (IRHD)

Limited Limited Full Limited Limited Limited Limited

Range Range Range Range Range Range Range
Polysulphide OT / EOT
(condensates of sodium polysulphides
with organic dihalides).
140C 120C 205C 150C 205C 180C Maximum
Continuous Very good resistance to oils, fuels,
Maximum solvents, oxygen and ozone.
160C 135C 300C 180C 250C 200C 325C Intermittent Impermeable to gases. Poor mechanical
-60C 0C
properties and poor heat resistance.
-30C -50C (special grades -30C -40C to 0C -60C (special grades
-80C) -25C) Temperature

Polyurethane (AU, EU)

Nitrile (NBR) Perfluorocarbon (FFKM)

x y
Butadiene Acrylonitrile Very versatile, with good abrasion
CF3 resistance, high tensile and tear strength,
good resistance to aliphatic solvents and
Good aliphatic hydrocarbon oil/fuel Ultimate in performance regarding heat mineral oils, oxygen and ozone. Can be
resistance and resilience. Limited and chemical resistance. Very expensive. formulated to have high modulus with a
weathering resistance and only Some grades are suitable for continuous high filler content. Poor heat resistance
modest temperature resistance. Typical use at 327C (620F), with chemical and can have poor creep resistance,
temperature range: -30C to +120C resistance being almost universal. particularly in moist conditions. Uses in
(-22F to +248F). Widely used in sealing However, their moderate mechanical seals, metal forming dies, liners, rollers,
applications. Low temperature grades properties deteriorate rapidly at elevated wheels, conveyor belts, etc.
available down to -50C (-58F). As with temperatures, and at temperatures
hydrogenated nitrile, many properties can below 0C.
be influenced by varying its acrylonitrile to
butadiene ratio.

Elastomer types

Tetrafluoroethylene propylene (FEPM) polyurethanes are not good enough

(eg, Aflas) for use as primary insulation, but their
Elastomer types

general toughness leads to their use in

cable jacketing. Other uses include fabric
CF2 CF2 CH2 CH coatings, bellows and automotive body

Excellent ozone/weathering resistance;

good heat resistance; excellent resistance Styrenic block copolymers
to steam and radiation; good overall (SBS, SIS, SEBS)
Silicone (Q) chemical resistance. Disadvantages
include high compression set and Styrenic block copolymers are the largest
high glass transition temperature. volume and lowest priced member of
Difficult to process and has poor the thermoplastic elastomer family. They
Si O extrusion resistance especially at high are readily mixed with other polymers,
n temperatures. Typical temperature range: oil and fillers, enabling versatile tuning
CH3 0C to 200C (32F to +392F) or +260C of product properties. They are used in
(+500F) in steam. enhancing the performance of bitumen
Only moderate physical properties but in road paving and roofing applications,
capable of retaining them over a very particularly under extreme weather
wide temperature range. Some types Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) conditions. They are also widely applied
are affected by moisture. Good electrical in adhesives, sealants, coatings and in
resistance properties. Readily available in Thermoplastic elastomers have many footwear.
liquid form (LSR). Widely used in sectors of the physical properties of vulcanised
such as pharmaceutical, medical, wire rubbers but can be processed as
and cable, automotive and aerospace. thermoplastics. Since their commercial
introduction in the 1960s, they have Copolyether ester elastomers
become a significant part of the elastomer
industry, and are used in applications as These materials are strong, tough and oil
Styrene butadiene (SBR) diverse as adhesives, footwear, medical resistant, but are only available in a limited
devices, automobile parts and asphalt hardness range. They are also resistant to
modification. oxygen and ozone.
x y
They require little or no compounding, They are used in moulded goods
with no need to add reinforcing agents, applications requiring exceptional
stabilisers or cure systems. Their toughness and flex resistance together
Needs reinforcing fillers for high strength, disadvantages are the relatively high cost with moderate heat and chemical
when it has similar chemical and physical of raw materials, poor chemical and heat resistance. Applications include cable
properties to natural rubber, with generally resistance, high compression set and low jackets, tubing, automotive bellows, gear
better abrasion resistance but poorer thermal stability. wheels and business machine parts.
fatigue resistance. Widely used in car and
light vehicle tyres. Also conveyor belts,
moulded rubber goods, shoe soles and
roll coverings. Thermoplastic urethane elastomers Polyester amide elastomers
Similar properties to copolyether ester
Thermoplastic polyurethanes are available elastomers, except service temperatures
in a more limited hardness range than are lower. Good strength and toughness
the styrenics, and are characterised as well as being oil resistant. Also
by excellent strength and toughness, resistant to oxygen and ozone. Limited
and oil resistance. Of the two major hardness range and hydrolytic stability.
types, polyester and polyether, the latter
has better hydrolytic stability and low
temperature performance.

The electrical properties of the

Elastomer compounding

Compounding Ingredients Diluent, or non-reinforcing, fillers have a

large particle size and do not 'bond' to the

Elastomer compounding
The basic properties of elastomers Polymers polymer in the same way as reinforcing
are highly dependent on the polymers fillers. They are mainly added to reduce
used in their manufacture. These The polymer, or blend of polymers, is the cost. Examples include soft clay, calcium
properties can be modified, however, fundamental component in determining carbonate, and talc.
through the appropriate addition of the properties of the compound. It is
compounding ingredients. Some are selected to optimise service performance Fine-ground natural silica is used to
added to accelerate cross-linking, and processing requirements while provide dimensional stability, improved
others improve processability, while also taking cost into account. Very thermal conductivity, and good electrical
others improve the properties of the high molecular weight polymers can insulation properties at low cost.
finished product. for example produce extremely tough
materials. They can however lead to
Some compounds are required to deliver problems with poor flow, poor joins and Accelerators
the highest levels of performance in the particularly backrinding.
end product, with cost being a secondary These speed up the cure. Modifications
issue. In this case compounding requires in their levels can control the cure speed
the use of materials selected to give and elastomer properties. It is common
the required characteristics without the to use more than one accelerator in a
inclusion of non-essential ingredients formulation. Peroxide cured materials
which could compromise performance. often use what is known as a co-agent
Fillers along with the peroxide which can act
In other applications, compounds may be like an accelerator or modify the physical
designed to minimise cost, with extenders Fillers are added primarily to provide properties.
and diluents being added to reduce the reinforcement and secondly to reduce
proportion of high priced components cost. They fall into two basic categories:
in the mix. This inevitably leads to reinforcing or semi-reinforcing, and
compromises in the mechanical and diluent (non-reinforcing, generally for
other properties, of course, but for certain cheapening).
applications this may be acceptable.
The most popular reinforcing and semi- Activators
Other important factors that affect the reinforcing fillers are carbon blacks, which
quality of the resulting elastomer include are categorised primarily by means of In most sulphur-cured rubbers, zinc
the quality of the raw ingredients, the particle size. Carbon blacks and non- oxide and stearic acid are added to help
style of mixer and the quality control black fillers become more reinforcing as initiate the cure. In other rubbers, different
in mixing. End product properties can particle size decreases. Highly reinforcing materials are added which assist the cure
also be influenced by the processing of fillers can make a compound tough, in an indirect way.
the compounded material into the final which can result in poor flow. Carbon
product shape. blacks are alkaline in nature and tend to Very fast cure systems can give problems
accelerate cure. with scorch/orange peel and backrinding.
Of the thermoplastic elastomers, styrenic Peroxide cures can give sticky flashlines
block copolymers are the only type that Non-black fillers tend to be acidic and can due to their inability to cure in the
is fully compoundable in a similar way retard cure as well as absorb moisture, presence of air. Very high levels of some
to conventional thermoset elastomers. which can result in blistering problems curatives can lead to fissuring/blistering
Although fillers such as carbon black can during the processing stage. Glycols help either in mould or during post cure.
be added to cheapen the material, they to overcome this retardation effect with
do not have a reinforcement effect in acidic fillers.
thermoplastic elastomers. Blowing agents
Nano-fillers such as super-fine clays
The description of ingredients that follows have a high surface area compared to Blowing agents are used in the
gives a basic guide to their uses and their volume and can produce better manufacture of sponge rubber. Sodium
properties. mechanical performance. Although they bicarbonate was the first commercially
are more expensive than conventional used blowing agent, which reacts with
fillers, the same weight of material goes stearic acid to produce carbon dioxide
further because the particles are so at vulcanisation temperatures. Todays
much finer. commonly used blowing agents rely on
the formation of nitrogen as the
expansion agent.

Elastomer compounding

Bonding promoters Desiccants Peptisers

Elastomer compounding

Most large volume elastomer products For a number of applications, it is Peptisers are substances that act as chain
are bonded composites, such as tyres, necessary to add a desiccant to remove terminating agents during mastication
hoses and belts. Bonding agents are traces of water introduced in fillers or of rubber. While natural rubber is usually
often added to the compound to increase produced from chemical reactions during masticated and can be peptised, this is
the bond strength between the different vulcanisation. Failure to remove this water unnecessary for most synthetic rubbers.
components. Agents include cobalt-based can result in uncontrolled porosity in the Peptisers may also act as pro-oxidants.
salts such as cobalt naphthenate or cobalt product and problems where the cure is They significantly reduce the time
stearate as well as proprietary materials sensitive to moisture. required to lower the viscosity of the
based on cobalt and boron complexes. rubber to a workable level, thereby cutting
The usual agent used for this purpose mixing time and energy.
is calcium oxide (quicklime). It is difficult
Co-agents to disperse in its dry powder form so it Although many materials, such as some
is usually offered in a variety of carrying accelerators, are known to possess
Co-agents are reactive substances media to ensure adequate dispersion and chemical peptising activity, in practice
which improve the effectiveness of help prevent moisture take up prior to the choice is limited due to additional
peroxide cross-linking. Most of them are incorporation in the compound. considerations such as health and safety,
methacrylates or derivatives containing effect on vulcanisation characteristics
allyls (H2C=CH-CH2-), but polymeric and price.
materials with a high content of vinyl Extenders
groups also react in a similar way. Sulphur
and sulphur donors can also be used. Extenders are compounding ingredients Pigments
Their effects may be explained by the that are added to the elastomer to reduce
co-agent suppressing undesirable side the cost of the compound. Although most rubber compounds are
reactions between the polymer radicals. black, due to the widespread use of
carbon black as a filler, coloured rubber
Flame retardants compounds are frequently required to add
Coupling agents appeal to consumer items. Colour coding
Most elastomers support combustion, of products is also often desirable.
Coupling agents provide a stable bond and the resulting by-products can be
between two otherwise poorly bonding extremely hazardous. To improve their Inorganic or organic pigments are
surfaces, for example, silanes added to flame resistance a number of products available. Inorganic pigments are often
mineral fillers to bond to polymers. may be added to the compound, either dull and in some cases too opaque
inorganic or organic. They include to provide the desired colour. They
antimony trioxide, zinc borate, aluminium are insoluble and thus cannot bloom.
Curatives hydroxide and chlorinated paraffins. Organic pigments generally give brighter
shades but are more sensitive to heat
Added to form cross-links, these vary and chemicals and are also relatively
according to the type of elastomer. In Odorants and deodorants expensive. They can also fade badly in
sulphur-cured rubbers, sulphur donors long-term exposure to sunlight.
as opposed to sulphur give better heat This class of compounding ingredient
stability as they tend to give single was more common in the days when
sulphur cross-links. Peroxide cures give natural rubber was the main rubber for
good thermal stability due to the short production. The early forms of natural Plasticisers/process aids
length of the cross-links between polymer rubber gave products with a distinct
chains. Fluorocarbons, along with some aroma and to overcome this a wide range Plasticisers need to be compatible with
other polymer types, can have their own of odorants was offered. Many of the the polymer. They reduce hardness with
specialised cure systems. synthetic rubbers have their own distinct a given level of filler, and can help with
aroma and often this has to be masked filler incorporation and dispersion.
to make the final product acceptable to Special types of plasticiser can improve
the user. the low temperature flexibility of some
rubber types (eg, nitrile and neoprene).
Process aids can also assist with filler
dispersion, although they are normally
added to improve processability

Elastomer compounding

High levels of plasticiser/process aid can Protectants/antidegradants Tackifiers

bloom to the surface of make-up and give

Elastomer compounding
knitting problems (flow marks and poor These materials are added to inhibit attack Tackifiers are compounding ingredients
joins) in the manufactured product. They by oxidation and ozone. Antidegradants introduced to enhance the surface tack of
can also create difficulties when bonding fall into two broad groups amines uncured elastomers. They are usually
to metal. Excessive softening of the (staining) and phenolics (non-staining), low-molecular weight compounds.
compound can lead to air trapping in the with the latter able to be used in non-
mould. black compounds. Some anti-ozonants
(such as waxes) can bloom to the Other ingredients
Plasticisers can also cause problems surface and give similar problems to
when a product is subjected to thermal plasticisers/process aids. There are a range of other ingredients
cycling and/or certain solvents, as they that are sometimes added to compounds
can leach out at high temperatures and to achieve specific properties. These
adversely affect the low temperature Retarders range from the inclusion of iron powder
properties. to enable seal fragments in food to
Retarders are used to prevent premature be detected with a metal detector,
curing, or scorching, of compounds to radiation shielding for use in x-ray
Pre-dispersed ingredients during processing and storing. During environments. The effects on moulding
mixing and further processing in a vary enormously depending on the
Some types of ingredient that are calender, extruder or moulding press, ingredient.
difficult to disperse, for example, certain the elastomer is continuously subjected
accelerators and anti-oxidants can be to heat which can result in premature The selected ingredients are combined to
obtained pre-mixed in an inert polymer. curing, or pre-curing. To prevent this, produce a formulation for the mix. Table
The concentrations are normally 75 to retarders are mixed with the compound. 2 shows an example of a simple formula
80%. When in this form, the ingredients Excessive use of retarders results in designed to produce a 90 IRHD nitrile for
are more readily dispersed during a porosity in compounds and they are rarely an application involving contact with a
mix. Some powders such as peroxides used today. hydrocarbon fuel.
are supplied absorbed onto an inert
filler or dampened with oil which helps
dispersion, and health and safety.
Occasionally, liquids are used absorbed
Table 2: Example formulation for a 90 IRHD nitrile compound for fuel resistance.
onto a powder which aids handling, and
can give a faster incorporation into the
Nitrile rubber 41% ACN 100 High ACN content for fuel resistance
mix. In some cases these ingredients can
be dispersed into the polymer.
Zinc oxide 5 Cure activator

Stearic acid 1 Cure activator

Process aids

A process aid is an ingredient that is SRF carbon black 120 Semi-reinforcing filler to obtain hardness
added in a small dosage to an elastomer
compound to influence the performance Adipate plasticiser 6 To aid processing
of the compound in factory processes
or to enhance physical properties by Sulphur 2 Curative
aiding filler dispersion. Examples include
physical peptisers, lubricants, silicone Accelerator 1 To control cure rate
modified processing additives and anti-
stick agents. Anti-oxidant 1 To reduce the effects of ageing

Quantities relate to 100 phr (parts per hundred rubber).

Elastomer compounding

Compound design decreasing its concentration improves Mixing process

low temperature flexibility. This is due
Elastomer compounding

Elastomer compounds can be designed to the influence of the ACN as a plastic The mixing cycle is crucial in dispersing
for specific purposes by modifying their modifying the rubber influence of the the ingredients sufficiently so that the
characteristics through varying the butadiene. elastomers physical and fluid resistance
quantities of their constituents. This can properties can be optimised.
range from compounding using diluent Mixing
fillers and basic ingredients to keep costs In a conventional cycle the polymer is
down, through to the use of specific Three types of processes are used for added first and mixed for a short time
additives to produce properties such as mixing the compound ingredients. to ensure homogeneity and to soften
high tensile strength or wear resistance. sufficiently to accommodate the fillers.
Open mill. Here the rubber is banded The fillers are added in one or more
Varying quantities and the selection of around the front roll and the ingredients stages depending on their levels, with the
ingredients can heavily influence the end incorporated in the nip. ram being lowered after each addition to
properties of the compound, as illustrated ensure the material is fully compressed
in the following examples. into the chamber.

These days most fillers are automatically

weighed and fed directly into the mixer
Tensile strength

for accuracy and to avoid contamination.


These records are automatically stored

g fi

in the mixing computer system. If


nt fill plasticisers are used they are usually

added with the fillers to aid dispersion.


Figure 12: Two-roll mill.

It is important to optimise the chamber
Level of filler Internal mixer. The internal mixer has the volume fill so that the shear on the
advantage of being totally enclosed. It compound is maximised.
Figure 10: Effects of varying concentration
of reinforcing and diluent fillers. mixes a batch of material in about 4 to 6
minutes as opposed to up to 30 minutes The curatives are added late in the cycle
on an open mill. In most cases the to minimise their residence time since
Figure 10 shows the effect on price and
compound exits the mixer onto a two-roll the mixer heats up due to friction. In
performance of varying the concentration
mill where it is cooled and compressed some cases the curatives will be added
of reinforcing and diluent fillers. The
into sheet form ready to be supplied to in a second stage, either in the mixer or
reduction in cost by increasing the levels
the manufacturing process. mill, to avoid starting the cure process or
of diluent filler content when compared to
reducing its efficiency.
the reinforcing filler content needs to be
balanced against the lower performance. Feed Some polymers such as EPDM do not
need the initial softening and can be
Ram mixed 'upside down', with some of the
Oi Casing - cored for fillers and oils added first, before the cycle
ls e
we tur heating/cooling continues as normal.
ll, ra Rotor
% pe
tem The material is dumped from the mixer
e rat at a pre-set temperature and/or energy
op Mixing
um Rotor
value to ensure consistency of the
Mini final compound. Again this full cycle is
recorded in the mixing computer.
Discharge door
The compound is then milled for initial
Figure 13: Internal mixer.
Figure 11: Effects of varying ACN content. cooling and to ensure homogeneity
with soft compounds. A secondary
The effect of varying the acrylonitrile Continuous mixer. This machine is cooling takes place in cooling racks or a
(ACN) content in a nitrile elastomer similar to a long screw extruder, with the specialised take-off unit which can apply
is shown in Figure 11. Increasing ingredients added via hoppers along the anti-tack as needed.
the concentration of ACN can be barrel. It is mainly used where only a few
seen to improve oil resistance, while ingredients are added.

Elastomer compounding

Quality checking Hardness. Testing the hardness of the

compound using an indentor provides a

Elastomer compounding
The initial stage of quality checking to check that the correct levels of filler have
ensure the material meets the required been incorporated. The hardness should
standards normally includes the following normally fall within +5 and -4 IRHD of the
tests. specified value. The strict process and
quality control regimes in place at James
Walker manufacturing sites however,
Cure characteristics. How an elastomer ensures any variation in compound
cures over time is measured on a hardness is minimal and far below the
rheometer. As the compound cures industry standard range outlined here.
between the hot platens it becomes
stiffer. This is measured via a strain Details on the test procedure are given on
gauge connected to an oscillating rotor in page 20.
contact with the elastomer. The resistance
of the material to the oscillating motion is
plotted on a graph against time, known as Density. This is a measure of the weight
a rheograph, which enables the moulding per unit volume. It gives an indication
characteristics to be predicted. of whether the correct quantities of
ingredients have been added.
See also the Materials & product testing
section on page 20. Weight. This test checks the weight of the
compound after leaving the mixer
and compares it to the input weight of the
mix to confirm all the constituents have
been added.
Torque (
2.00 4.00

0 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00

TIME (min)

Figure 14: Typical rheometer trace showing progress of cure against time.

Manufacturing techniques

Manufacturing The calender process allows a high Feed

degree of control on the thickness of
Manufacturing techniques

The manufacturing of products in the rubber sheet. This sheet is generally Hopper Barrel
elastomers involves a number of often then used either to stamp a shape for Exit
complex operations to turn the raw placing into a mould in the next process,
or to manufacture cross-linked elastomer Die
material sheets into a finished product
suitable for use. The operation can be sheeting from which gaskets or other Screw
spilt into three distinct areas of activity: finished products can be cut. Figure 16: Screw extruder.

Material preparation This includes all the

operations up to the point of moulding.

Moulding This includes turning the

material into a cross-linked product.

Post moulding operations This involves

finishing the product and ensuring
that it meets all the necessary quality

Material preparation
Figure 17: Screw extruder producing
Elastomers extrusion for the manufacture of 'O' rings.

The elastomer from the mixer is Figure 15: Typical calender.

normally available either as a sheet of Ram extruders. For a ram extruder the
predetermined thickness or split into elastomer needs to be rolled and warmed,
rolls of material of known thickness and Strip usually by placing it in a bath of hot water
width. The latter option is often used or taking it directly from the mill/calender.
where the material is fed directly into an If the elastomer is to be fed directly into This roll is then placed into the cylinder
injection moulding machine. A number of an injection moulding machine, the sheet housing the ram. The head of the extruder
options are available in the development from the mixing stage can be slit to create containing the die is then locked in place
of the pre-form (blank) to be used in strips of elastomer. These are then fed at the front of the extruder and the ram
the moulding process. These include directly into the screw feed of the injection traversed forward, forcing the material
calendered sheet, strip form material moulding machine. out of the die orifice. When the material
and extrusion. exits the die it can either be pulled off
in lengths or cut to length/weight by a
Extrusion rotating blade affixed to the front of the
Calendering machine. For most materials (silicone
There are two main types of extruders: being an exception) the extruder cylinder
A calender is similar to a mill and has screw and ram. and head are heated.
two or more rollers (known as bowls)
that can be adjusted to change the size Screw extruders. Screw extruders have Extruder head
of the nip which controls the thickness a screw housed within a barrel, with the
of the elastomer sheet. These bowls can screw turned by mechanical means. The Rolled rubber Die
be mounted horizontally or vertically and elastomer is first fed into the barrel via a
range in size from small laboratory devices hopper and then forced down the barrel Cylinder
to devices weighing several tonnes. by the screw whilst heat is added (created
by the shearing action and via the heated
The material from the mixer is fed between barrel and screw). At the end of the barrel,
the nips on the calender and pulled away in the extruder head, is a die through
from the bowl by a manual or mechanical which the material is forced out. The die is
profiled to produce elastomer shaped for Figure 18: Ram extruders.
device. The desired sheet thickness is
achieved by adjusting the nips. the next stage of processing.

Manufacturing techniques

In some cases, the extrusion profile

created is the finished product and needs

Manufacturing techniques
to be cross-linked to retain its shape. This,
for example, is the process used for the
manufacture of windscreen wiper blades.
For products manufactured using this
technique, the extrusion is cured either
as it exits the machine through a hot box,
or by other means following the extrusion
process, such as autoclaving.

Non-elastomeric components

If non-elastomeric components are

required to be added to the elastomer
when the product is formed in the
moulding process, for example metal
parts for reinforcement, these need to be
prepared to ensure that they bond to the Moulding The advantages of compression moulding
elastomer. Depending on the component are the lower cost of the moulds, the
material, different bonding techniques are Three principal moulding techniques are large sizes of mouldings possible and
required. In all cases involving bonding used to manufacture elastomer products: the relatively quick changeover between
agents, the surface of the component compression moulding, injection different moulds.
needs to be treated to remove any grease moulding and transfer moulding.
or oils. Where possible a key is created The main disadvantage is output, as
on the surface of the component to they are generally loaded and unloaded
which any bonding agents are applied. Compression moulding manually and the elastomer is often
Once the component is treated it should placed into the cavity cold so cure times
be appropriately stored so that the Compression moulding describes the are longer. Some difficulties that can
preparation is not affected by moisture or forming process in which an elastomer occur are positioning the blank in the
other elements in the atmosphere. profile is placed directly in a heated cavity and the flash that results from the
mould, then softened by the heat, and additional material placed in the cavity to
forced to conform to the shape of the ensure compression in the cavity when
mould as the press closes the mould. the mould shuts. Another disadvantage of
this type of moulding is the care and time
The presses are mostly hydraulically required to manufacture the blank (weight
driven and can be either upstroking, and profile) to place into the cavity.
where the lower platen moves up and
the upper platen is fixed, or downstroking,
where the upper platen is driven
downwards and the lower platen
remains fixed.

Top heated platen

Upper mould half

Rubber blank
Lower mould half

Bottom heated platen

Figure 19: Compression moulding press.

Figure 20: Open mould (left) with elastomer blank placed in cavity, and (right) mould closed
forming the finished product profile.

Manufacturing techniques

Tie Bar
Manufacturing techniques

Nozzle Clamping Unit

Hydraulic Heaters
Motor Mould
& Gears

Stationary Rear Platen

Moveable Platen

Figure 21: Horizontal injection moulding machine.

Figure 22: Injection moulding machine.

Injection moulding In the case of liquid silicone rubber (LSR), grooves and a mat of material left in the
the injection machine can also be used transfer pot.
Injection moulding machines are either to mix the two LSR constituents before
vertically or horizontally run. An example of injection into the mould. The advantage of this process over
a horizontal machine is shown in Figure 21. conventional compression moulding is the
ability to form delicate parts and to mould
Injection moulding is a process where Transfer moulding parts having inserts requiring specific
heated elastomer is injected into a closed positioning within the product. It also has
cavity via a runner system. Uncured Transfer moulding is a combination of simpler blank requirements and faster
elastomer is fed into the injection cylinder injection moulding and compression cure times, since the elastomer heats up
where it is preheated and accurately moulding and takes place on a quickly as it is transferred from the pot to
metered into the mould. This is done by compression press. Elastomer of set the cavity.
controlling the pressure, injection time weight is placed in the transfer pot, and,
and temperature. as with compression moulding, the pot is The main disadvantages are the additional
closed by the press forcing the elastomer cost of the tooling, the additional waste
The advantages of injection moulding down the sprues and into the cavity. material due to the pot and sprue, and
are its suitability for moulding delicate A small amount of excess material difficulties that can be experienced
parts, shorter cycle times compared with flows out of the cavity through vents, with when transferring high hardness or high
compression moulding, the high levels of other excess material lying in the sprue molecular weight materials.
automation that can be introduced in the
process and lower levels of flash since
the mould is shut when the material is Top heated platen
Upper mould half
The main disadvantages of injection
moulding are the costs of the tool, the
longer changeover times resulting from
the more complex tooling and the waste Rubber blank
of material in the runner system where Transfer pot
a hot runner system is employed (for Sprue
thermoset materials). Material waste also Lower mould half
occurs when jobs are run sequentially
with either differing materials or different
Bottom heated platen
colours, which requires extensive purging
of the machine.
Figure 23: Transfer moulding process showing mould open (left) with the elastomer blank in
the transfer pot, and mould shut (right) with the elastomer injected into the cavity.

Manufacturing techniques

Post-moulding operations With some materials a post-cure is Inspection

required in an autoclave. This is a device

Manufacturing techniques
Following the moulding process a which generally uses steam to post-cure One of the final steps in the
number of operations may need to the components under pressure. An manufacturing process is finished part
be performed to finish the product. additional benefit of this type of post- inspection. This can be carried out by
These include post-curing, removal curing is that it provides a comprehensive hand, with an inspector visually examining
of flash and injection sprues, other wash of the products and is often and measuring the products. Alternatively,
trimming requirements, testing, etching, used to finish products for food or for reasonably simple components,
inspecting and packaging the product. pharmaceutical applications. inspection can be performed by machine,
using a contact or non-contact system, in
Another use of autoclaves is to cure some cases working fully autonomously.
Trimming products (not to be confused with Autonomous measurement is particularly
post-curing, as in this instance it is the suited to high volume production runs for
Various trimming techniques are primary curing process) that are too products such as O rings.
available depending on the size and big or unsuitable to be moulded.
shape of the component and the type of Examples of such products are extrusions
elastomer used. They include cryogenic, and sheetings.
where the part is cooled below its glass
transition temperature and tumbled and
blasted with beads to remove the flash, Product testing
buffing using abrasive wheels and belts,
cutting the finished shape using cutting In some cases the products manufactured
dies, formers, knives and in some need to be non-destructively tested
cases scissors, using lathes to trim and to ensure they meet the required
chamfer components, and rota finishing specifications. This normally takes the
where components are rotated amongst form of a hardness test.
abrasive stones or other abrasive media.
Destructive testing of representative
samples is also often carried out
(compression set and immersion testing).

Figure 25: Non-contact inspection.


The finished products need to be

packaged appropriately before shipping,
xsprotection from dirt and dust, etc, some
components may need to be sealed
against moisture or contamination by
other fluids, or protected against UV light.

Figure 24: Component (left) before and (right) after trimming.

Post-curing Etching

For many heat resistant elastomers, For some applications, the elastomer
such as fluorocarbon and silicone product requires to be etched to provide
materials, it is necessary to supplement identification of its origin for branding
the press cure with an oven post-cure to purposes or other customer requirements.
eliminate residues from peroxides and
complete the curing process.

Material & product testing

Material & product testing Hardness BS ISO 48 Tensile strength BS ISO 37

Material & product testing

The test methods and terminology used The hardness quoted for an elastomer This is a measure of the stress required
to characterise the physical properties usually refers to the result obtained from to rupture a standard test piece. Tensile
of elastomers can differ from those a standard test piece, see BS ISO 48. strength is a useful quality control tool
of other materials. The following is an Results obtained from a non-standard to monitor inter-batch consistency. It
overview of terms and methods. test piece e.g. seal, are normally referred does not however give any indication of
to as apparent hardness. The results extrusion resistance for example.
obtained from measuring the hardness
of a material batch, using a standard test Temperature has a marked effect on
Cure characteristics
piece, may differ from the results obtained the strength properties of elastomers,
from testing product manufactured from whether tensile, tear or compressive.
How a rubber cures over time is
the same batch. Room temperature testing rarely gives
measured on a rheometer. As the
an accurate indication of their strength
compound cures between the hot platens
at elevated temperatures: for example,
it becomes stiffer. This is measured via a
at 100C (212F) some elastomers retain
strain gauge connected to an oscillating
only 10 per cent of their room temperature
rotor in contact with the rubber. The
strength. To create a more meaningful
stiffness (resistance to torque) of the
result, tensile testing can be performed at
material is plotted on a graph against
elevated temperatures.
time, known as a rheograph (Figure 26).
This information predicts the moulding
characteristics, since the rheograph
shows the time available to load the press
(red box), the time of cure (blue box) and
the final state of cure (green box). Figure 27: Hardness machine.

The final state of cure shown in the green

box is not always a flat line (plateau).
For some rubbers the cure continues, as
shown by the upper dashed line. This is
known as a marching modulus. In time
however this line would plateau. For other
materials, such as natural rubbers, a
reversion of the cure can occur, as shown
by the lower dashed line. This is due to
the heat breaking the actual polymer
chains rather than the cross links formed
during the curing stage. Figure 28: Tensile testing machine.
Marching modulus

Elongation at break BS ISO 37

This refers to the elongation (percentage

strain) measured at the point of rupture.
A high value is important if substantial
stretching is required during fitting, and

also in applications where seals are

energised across relatively large gaps.


Figure 26: A rheograph enables moulding characteristics to be predicted.

Material & product testing

Modulus BS ISO 37 set is highest at the extremes of an 100

elastomers operating capability: 90

Material & product testing

Reduction in sealing force, %
In elastomer terminology this is defined irreversible at high temperatures because 80

as the stress at a particular strain or of chemical degradation, and reversible 70

elongation (whereas in metals it is the at low temperatures because of physical 60

ratio of stress to strain as this is a linear stiffening and freezing.
relationship). Modulus tends to increase 30
with hardness, with higher modulus Compression set, %
materials, in the main, being more 10

resistant to deformation and extrusion 0

(see Figure 29). 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180


Figure 32: Compression set and

Slope =
Youngs Modulus corresponding reduction in sealing force
Stress, for a sample nitrile elastomer at 100C.

(psi, MPa)

Modulus = stress Fluid resistance BS ISO 1817
at any given strain
Figure 30: Example of compression
set apparatus. Immersion of samples in various fluids at
Strain, (ratio or %)
differing temperatures, followed by testing
Figure 29: Comparison of modulus for
Compression stress relaxation for volume change, tensile strength
elastomers and metals.
(CSR) testing change, hardness change, etc, will give
a reliable indication of how well the
Figure 1 Volume expansion vs. temperature A compression stress relaxometer measures material will perform under similar service
setvarious Elast-O-Lions
BS ISO 815-1 & -2 the residual sealing force of elastomer conditions. Complications arising from
(reference volume of 1 at 73F/23C)
1.04 samples as they are held between parallel solubility parameters mean that this is an
In any
1.02 seal, at a constant temperature, a plates under a constant strain. important test, see page 27.
mechanically loaded elastomer will exhibit
Volume, relative

dependent relaxation. If the seal is Compression jigs can be placed in
subsequently unloaded, the elastomer various environments, for example an
will recover towards its original shape oven. The jig is placed in the relaxometer,
to an extent defined by chemical and and a reading taken. After this the jig is
physical degradation. Such relaxation
20015010050 0 50100replaced in the conditioning environment,
and recovery phenomena are Cdetermined
allowing changes in sealing force to be
primarily by the viscoelastic 101 nature
201 of
plotted over time.
elastomers and by the chemical reactions
that occur between the material and the

Compression set is widely used for

assessing recovery. Standard methods
Figure 2 L.T. Torsion modulus
require a compressed sample to be
exposed for a fixed time, at a fixed
temperature, and then allowed toFR58/90
Torsion modulus, MPa

recover400 (generally for 30 minutes) at

room 300
temperature. Compression set
is expressed
as the percentage of the
original deformation not recovered after
this recovery period: 0 per cent indicating
full recovery, 100 per cent indicating no
252015 1050
recovery. Temperature, C

As many types of elastomer recover more

quickly at elevated temperatures, the test
is used primarily as a quality control tool;
high compression 3 isL.T.
conducive Figure 31: Compression stress relaxometer.
to long
100 term sealability. Compression
Material & product testing

over the same abrasive surface. This

procedure avoids loss of cutting power
Material & product testing

and clogging of the abrasive media with

 ico Machine (ASTM D2228) which
abrades by means of knives of
controlled geometry and sharpness.

It is sometimes wrongly believed that

tensile strength is related to abrasion
resistance, and while a high tensile
strength compound can have good
abrasion resistance the converse can also
be true. Abrasion resistance is related
more to polymer type and the nature/level
of compounding ingredient used. High
modulus and high tear strength can be
Figure 33: Example of Gehman test Figure 34: Temperature retraction test
equipment. equipment. better correlated to abrasion resistance
but the relationships are not definitive.
Low temperature testing Various types of test pieces can be used, Abrasion resistant elastomers must there-
and depending on the method employed fore be specifically developed.
Torsion modulus BS 903 Pt. A13/ the maximum or median force achieved is
ISO 1432. Also known as the Gehman used to calculate the tear strength.
test, this is used to measure the torsion Air ageing BS ISO 188
modulus by twisting a strip test piece, at
room temperature and several reduced Abrasion resistance Exposure to air or oxygen-rich
temperatures, to give a temperature- environments at elevated temperatures
modulus curve. The result is often Abrasion damage can occur when can cause gradual loss of mechanical
quoted as the temperatures at which the there is dynamic motion against an properties. Many of these changes occur
modulus is two, five, ten or 50 times the abrasive counterface, or when the sealed at a molecular level and are irreversible.
value at room temperature. However, a environment is intrinsically abrasive and They include chain and/or crosslink
more useful measure is the temperature either passes across or impinges upon scission, crosslink formation and crosslink
at which the modulus increases to a the seal. translocation. Samples (tensile, hardness,
predetermined value, normally 70MPa etc) are placed in ovens at a controlled
(10,153psi), which corresponds to the Standard abrasion tests depend on elevated temperature for a pre-determined
limit of technically useful flexibility. producing relative motion between a time, removed, allowed to cool and
rubber sample and an abrasive surface, then tested and compared against the
Temperature retraction BS ISO 2921. pressed together by a predetermined original properties for the material at room
This test is carried out by elongating a test force. Unfortunately, such tests do not temperature.
specimen and freezing it in the elongated correlate particularly well with application
position. The specimen is then allowed experience, or with each other! Machines
to retract freely whilst the temperature in national standards include:
is slowly raised at a uniform rate. The Ozone testing, weathering and UV
Akron Machine (BS ISO 4649), where
percentage retraction can be calculated a rubber disc is rotated so as to drive,
at any temperature from the data Deterioration in physical properties can
by its edge, an abrasive wheel, the two
obtained. In practice, the temperature occur when elastomers are exposed to
being pressed together by a constant
corresponding to 30% retraction (TR30) weather. This includes cracking, peeling,
force. The abrasive action is produced
roughly correlates to the limit of useful chalking, colour changes and other
by tilting the plane of the disc relative to
flexibility. Often however a figure of 10% surface defects that ultimately may lead
the wheel.
retraction (TR10) is quoted. to failure. The most important causes of
National Bureau of Standards Machine deterioration are ozone and sunlight.
(ASTM D1630), where a rubber test
Tear Strength BS ISO 34-1 & -2 block is pressed, by constant force, Ozone resistance is determined by the
against a rotating cylinder. appearance and magnitude of cracks
Tear strength is a measure of the Conti Machine (DIN ISO 4649) which is formed on the elastomer surface when
resistance of an elastomer to tearing. It similar to the above, but the test block is subject to surface tensile strain in an
is measured using a tensile test machine traversed slowly along the length of the atmosphere containing specific levels
operating at a constant rate of traverse cylinder so as not to pass repeatedly of ozone.
until the test piece breaks.
Material & product testing

Radiation testing measured by increasing the voltage until Infrared spectroscopy

electrical breakdown occurs. Patterned Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) involves

Material & product testing

Radiation interacts with elastomers in surfaces should be wetted beforehand passing infrared radiation onto or through
two ways: chain scission, which results in with a conductive solution. a sample. The pattern of peaks and
reduced tensile strength and elongation; troughs in the spectra produced then
and cross-linking, which increases tensile enables the components in the elastomer
strength but reduces elongation and Material analysis to be identified. This technique is valuable
finally leads to embrittlement. in identifying materials, failure analysis
Differential scanning calorimetry and compound development.
Radiation testing is usually carried out Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC)
with sequential exposure to radiation and is the most frequently used thermal
heat. Combined radiation and thermal analysis technique. It compares the Chemical compatibility
ageing can be performed to act as exothermic and endothermic reactions of
spot checks. Testing consists of visual samples with a reference while subject Many chemical species cause
inspection, followed by compression set to controlled heating. The technique degradation to elastomeric compounds,
measurements and hardness tests. enables the accurate determination of either by attacking the polymer or some of
cure characteristics, glass transition its compounding ingredients. Degradation
temperature, crystallisation and melting caused, for example, by water and amines
Permeation testing point. The technique is valuable for failure is irreversible. It is often seen as elastomer
analysis and compound development. hardening or softening, increased
Permeability tests are carried out in a test compression set, cracking, and in the
cell maintained at constant temperature most extreme cases, dissolution.
and divided by a disc test piece into high
pressure and low pressure sides. The After immersion in the test fluid under
high pressure is held constant defined conditions of time, concentration
and the volume of gas and temperature, samples can be tested
permeating into the for hardness and swell. This may be
low pressure side can followed by elongation at break testing.
be measured by a
capillary tube. A table showing the chemical
compatibility of the main elastomers is
given in the Material selection section on
page 25.

Thermogravimetric analysis
Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) is
another thermal analysis technique and
provides information complementary
Electrical testing to DSC. TGA continuously weighs the
sample to high accuracy as it is heated.
Elastomers are used extensively in During the heating, different components
electrical applications because they of the elastomer burn off at different
provide an excellent combination of temperatures and the loss in weight
flexibility and electrical properties. provides a precise indication of the
components present in the formulation.
The anti-static and conductive properties The technique is valuable for compound
of elastomers are determined by development, process control and failure
measuring their electrical resistance. analysis.
Measurements are obtained by placing
a disc of elastomer of known thickness
between two electrodes and measuring
the current flow. Electrical strength is

Material & product testing

Product testing RGD testing test vessel. After purging the vessel with
Although rapid gas decompression test gas to remove any air, the vessel is
Material & product testing

Environmental testing (RGD), also known as explosive heated and pressurised with test gas to
Environmental testing is used to predict decompression (ED), is generally found the chosen pressure and temperature
how products will behave in actual in the oil and gas industry, it can be and held for an exposure period.
conditions of use. Test pieces are placed experienced in any application where
in a controlled environment, such as there is a rapid drop in gas pressure. Decompression is then performed at a
low or high temperatures or pressures, RGD damage has been noted in sealing predetermined rate while maintaining the
and can be tested for properties such as applications ranging from paint guns and test temperature as constant as possible.
sealing performance. fire extinguishers to systems containing After a hold period at ambient pressure
refrigerants. the pressure cycling is repeated for
typically five to ten cycles.
RGD damage consists of structural failure
in the form of blistering, internal cracking The seals are then externally examined
and splits caused when the gas pressure, for visual appearance and cut into four
to which the seal is exposed, is rapidly radial sections. Magnification is used to
reduced. examine the cross-sections for internal
cracks, and the samples are rated for
The elastomeric components of a RGD damage according to the number
system are, to a greater or lesser extent, and lengths of any cracks found.
susceptible to the permeation and
diffusion of gases dissolving in their
surface. With time, these components will
become saturated with whatever gases
are in the system. Under these conditions
as long as the internal gas pressure of
the elastomer remains at equilibrium with
Figure 35: Low temperature environment
chamber for testing sealing on static the ambient pressure there is minimal
'O' rings. damage, if any, and no deterioration
in performance of the elastomeric
Specific application testing component occurs (unless caused by
It is important to replicate operating other factors such as chemical or thermal
conditions. One of the best ways to do degradation or by extrusion damage).
this in a controlled environment is to
replicate these conditions on specific test When the external gas pressure is
equipment. For example if the application removed or pressure fluctuations occur,
is rotary, testing can be conducted using large pressure gradients are created
different shaft speeds, pressures, shaft between the interior and the surface of
finishes, media, temperature, etc. the elastomeric component. This pressure
differential may be balanced by the gas
simply diffusing/permeating out of the
elastomer, especially if any external
constraints are not removed.
Figure 37: RGD test rigs.
However, if the physical properties of
the elastomeric compound cannot resist
crack and blister growth during the Load deflection testing
permeation process, then structural failure
is the inevitable result. The results of this test are highly
dependent upon sample dimensions,
RGD damage can manifest itself in due to the shape factor effect when
Figure 36: Example of bespoke test various ways from internal splits that are testing elastomers. The shape factor is
equipment for evaluating a rotary not visible on the surface of the seal to the ratio of the area of the test sample
cartridge assembly.
surface blisters, fractures and complete compared to the area of the sample that
fragmentation. is free-to-bulge.

Testing is usually carried out on

constrained 'O' rings which are placed in a

Material selection

Material selection Temperature Low temperature applications

Material selection
When selecting elastomers for specific The important considerations when When elastomers are cooled to
applications, a number of criteria need selecting appropriate materials for sufficiently low temperatures they exhibit
to be considered, including the expected applications involving temperature are the characteristics of glass, including
service conditions, chemical compatibility to know the maximum and minimum hardness, stiffness and brittleness, and
with service fluids, physical factors such continuous operating temperatures, do not behave in the readily deformable
as temperature, life prediction and design intermittent maximum and minimum manner usually associated with
considerations. exposure temperatures and times, system elastomers. As temperatures are raised,
pressure for low temperature applications, the segments of the polymer chain gain
The main considerations can be broken whether there will be thermal cycling sufficient energy to rotate and vibrate. At
down as: and also environmental factors involving high enough temperatures full segmental
knowledge of the media to which the rotation is possible and the material
Static or dynamic: If there is movement,
elastomer will be exposed. behaves in the characteristic rubbery way.
is it rotary, linear, due to thermal
The usefulness of an elastomer at low
expansion or pressure cycling?
temperatures is dependent on whether
Temperature: Continuous, minimum, the material is above its glass transition
High temperature applications
maximum, thermal cycling, glass temperature (Tg), where it will still behave
transition temperature shift. elastically, or below its Tg, where the
The limit to the upper temperature at
Application: Clearance gaps, surface which an elastomer can be used is material will be hard and relatively brittle.
finish. generally determined by its chemical
Media: Chemical compatibility, solubility stability, and will vary for different Elastomers between their useful low
parameter. elastomers. Elastomers can be attacked temperature flexibility and brittle point go
by oxygen or other chemical species, and through a stage which is referred to as
Pressure: Continuous, maximum,
because the attack results in a chemical 'leathery' (see Figure 38).
fluctuations, rate of decompression.
reaction, their potency will increase with Br ittleness
Aesthetics: Colour, surface finish,
Torsion modules, MPa or psi

avoidance of split lines, etc.

(usually on a log scale)

Cost: Primary consideration, trade off in Degradative chemical reactions are region

performance, cost of failure, total cost of generally of two types. The first are those
ownership (TCO). that cause breakage of the molecular Limit of full
Approvals and specifications: chains or cross-links, softening the rubber flexibility
International standards, such as ISO, because they weaken the network. The
industry standards or customer specific. second are those that result in additional
cross-linking, hardening the rubber, and Temperature

often characterised by a hard, cracked or Figure 38: Variation of torsion modulus

Static or dynamic degraded skin forming on the elastomer with temperature.
When considering a material for an The low temperature performance of a
application, it is important to understand It is also important to understand the full material can be categorised in a number
whether the material will be subjected to application details so the right material of ways and specific laboratory tests are
static or dynamic conditions. For example, selection can be made. Elastomers performed to give low temperature limits
if the material is subjected to dynamic significantly weaken at elevated based on sample flexibility and retraction
forces then it may require enhanced temperatures and in the case of seals, properties. These tests are described
abrasion resistance and excellent thermal can result in a significant reduction in in greater detail in the Material testing
conductivity properties. The application extrusion resistance. For applications section on page 20.
details required for a dynamic application involving elevated temperatures,
would include whether it is a rotary, especially at high pressures, anti-
reciprocating or vibrating environment. It extrusion elements may also need to
would also be important to understand be used, either incorporated into the
whether the application would be seal design or added as an additional
subjected to thermal cycling, as this small component when fitting the seal.
amount of dynamic movement may also
need to be considered in selecting the
correct elastomer.

Material selection

Tg shift. According to conventional However, if pressure is applied Media

theory the free volume of an elastomer is before the temperature is reduced,
Material selection

constant at any particular temperature. the elastomer can often operate Fluids can affect elastomers in two ways:
This is why elastomers are generally at temperatures far below its physical interaction, such as swelling, and
considered incompressible: ie, their recommended minimum operating chemical interaction. The first is generally
volume will not change regardless of any temperature. reversible, while the other is not.
deforming force, although the shape will Reducing the temperature of an
alter. It is here that conventional theory elastomer causes it to harden and lose
breaks down when considering high flexibility. This occurs gradually and Physical interaction
applied pressures, because the free the compound changes from flexible
volume can be reduced. to brittle, becoming progressively The degree and type of physical
more leathery. The leathery phase for interaction depend on a number of
This manifests itself as a Tg shift. Applying some compounds can span a broad factors, including the cross-link density
pressure to an elastomer in a hydraulic temperature range. and type, the filler level and type, the
or gas system results in an increase in Tg Reducing the temperature of an polymer type, the type and viscosity of the
at a rate of approximately 1C per 5.2MPa elastomer to its brittle point or below media and the solubility parameters of the
(1.8F per 750psi). Hence a system has no detrimental effects on its polymer and media.
pressure of 103MPa (15,000 psi) will chemical resistance and its physical
reduce the low temperature limit of the properties will return to original values The effects of the physical interaction of
compound by approximately 20C (36F), once the temperature is returned to fluids (elastomers are fluids) are normally
ie, if the elastomer had a low temperature ambient. observed as the swelling of an elastomer
limit of -40C (-40F) at atmospheric through fluid absorption from its
Subjecting an elastomer component to
pressure, at 103MPa (15,000 psi) it will environment. This is generally reversible.
changes in applied stress and strain,
have a low temperature limit of -20C (-4F). The magnitude of the effect depends on
shock loading or impact, when at or
The Tg shift can be seen in Figure 39. the environmental fluid, the elastomer
below the brittle point, can result in
and the temperature, and reflects the
Torsion modulus, MPa or psi

=Tg shift damage and fracture of the elastomer.

(usually on a log scale)

Approx. 1C higher readiness with which the elastomer and

per 5.2MPa pressure
its surroundings mix, ie, the relative
Thermal cycling. It is also important to magnitudes of the solubility parameters of
understand whether the elastomer will the two components.
be subjected to thermal cycling. Even for
elastomers that cycle within their upper Solubility parameter () is a
and lower temperature limits, some thermodynamic property related to the
Temperature problems can result where elastomers energy of attraction between molecules.
have been heavily plasticised or had Thus if a fluid has a solubility parameter
Figure 39: Effect of pressure on
torsion modulus. other additives included to gain low close to that of an elastomer then
temperature flexibility or to reduce cost. In attraction (and mixing potential) will be
In dynamic applications, Tg can also these cases the additives can leach out at high, and high volume swell will result.
rise with an increase in frequency. For elevated temperatures and reduce the low The level of volume swell will decrease
example, between 1 and 50Hz, Tg can temperature capability of the elastomer as the difference in solubility parameters
rise by about 10C. when it is next cycled. increases between an elastomer and its
environment. Fluid viscosity also has a
significant effect.
Other important considerations for
low temperature applications.There Application
are some applications where acceptable The effect of high volume swell is to
elastomer performance can be achieved When considering elastomeric materials, degrade physical properties (such
at temperatures far lower than the there are certain application conditions as tensile strength, modulus and tear
recommended minimum temperature. which need to be known ahead of strength) and to reduce the elastomers
In these instances the following must be selecting an appropriate material, hardness. These actions can give rise
taken into consideration: which are in addition to knowing the to seal damage due to extrusion between
If an elastomer is cooled below its temperature, pressures, media and metal parts, amongst other things. In
minimum recommended operating whether the conditions are static or general, volume swells greater than 10
temperature prior to applying system dynamic. These include the surface per cent have a negative effect whilst
pressure (gas or liquid), bypass leakage finish of the materials in contact with lower levels of swell can benefit by
can occur. the elastomer, any extrusion gaps increasing or maintaining sealing
which may exist in the application and contact stress.
housing design.

Material selection

Occasionally elastomer shrinkage is Chemical interaction

observed, which occurs as a result

Material selection
of constituents within the elastomer Many chemical species cause
such as process aids, plasticisers and degradation to elastomeric compounds,
protective systems being leached out. either by attacking the polymer or
This is rare but can cause loss of seal some of its compounding ingredients.
interference, increase of hardness, system Degradation caused (for example) by
contamination, reduced low temperature water and amines is irreversible. It often
flexibility and a reduction in the ageing results in seal hardening or softening,
characteristics of the material. increased compression set, cracking,
and in extreme cases, dissolution. Such
degradation is often highly dependent
on exposure temperature, in terms of
both the reaction initiating in the first
place, and then the rate at which the
reaction proceeds. Laboratory tests may
Case history not provide a true indication of reaction
potential or elastomer compatibility,
An example of the dangers of unexpected solubility effects concerns a solubility particularly if performed at reduced
parameter analysis of a 70:30 mixture of iso-octane:methanol with low ACN nitrile. temperatures or exposure times.
A weighted average of the solubility factors for the mixture indicates an expected
volume swell of 20%. However, as Figure 40 shows, the volume swell in practice Examples of agents that can cause
was almost 60%. It can be seen from Table 3 that the solubility parameter for a chemical degradation are acids, bases,
low nitrile is 9.3, which matches the solubility parameter of the 70:30 mix of iso- water, hydrogen sulphide, zinc bromide,
octane:methanol. oxygen, ozone, mercaptans, free radicals
and biocides as well as ultraviolet and
ionising radiation.






Iso-octane 100% 70:30 Methanol 100%

= 6.9 9.3 14.7

Figure 40: Variation of volume swell for low ACN nitrile in blends of iso-octane:methanol.

Fluids Polymers
Iso-octane 6.9 EPDM 8.2
Hexane 7.3 FEPM 9.0
 i-ethyl ether 7.7 NBR (low) 9.3
 ylene 8.8 NBR (high) 11.0
Toluene 9.0 HNBR - as NBR
MEK 9.6 FKM 10.7 to 11.5
Ethanol 13.0
 ethanol 14.7
Water 23.2

Table 3: Solubility parameter, , for selected fluids and polymers at 23C.

Material selection

Chemical compatibility chart

Material selection

Hydraulic fluids
fire resistent


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a ar s
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W er in er e
eh coh

Lo e a s

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Ch nes s
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Hy nes
W r ox

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Sil ica
Hy roc

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Acrylic ACM 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 4 4 4 4 4 4

Tetrafluoroethylene propylene FEPM 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 4 4 1 3 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2

Butyl IIR 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 4 4 1 4 4 4 4 2 4 4 4 1 3 4 4 4 4 1 2 2

Chlorosulphonyl polyethylene CSM 2 1 3 4 1 1 3 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 3 3 4 4 1 2 2 4 4 3 1 4 4

Epichlorohydrin CO/ECO 2 1 2 3 2 2 4 1 4 4 4 3 4 1 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 4 2 2 2 4 4

Ethylene-propylene EPM/EPDM 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 4 3 1 4 4 4 4 2 4 4 4 1 3 4 4 4 4 1 1 2

Fluorocarbon FKM 1 1 3 1 2 4* 4* 4* 1 3* 4* 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 1

Fluorosilicone FQ 1 1 2 3 2 1 4 4 2 3 4 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3

Hydrogenated nitrile HNBR 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 4 4 1 3 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 4 2 2 2 3 4

Perfluorocarbon FFKM 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Natural NR 3 1 2 3 2 2 3 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 1 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 4

Neoprene CR 1 1 2 3 1 1 3 2 4 4 4 2 4 3 2 2 3 2 3 1 3 3 4 4 4 3 4 4

Nitrile NBR 2 1 2 3 2 1 3 2 3 4 4 1 3 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 4 3 3 1 4 4

Polyurethane AU/EU/PU 1 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 4 2 4 2 2 2 3 2 4 1 2 1 4 4 4 4 4 4

Silicone Q 1 1 2 3 2 1 2 2 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 2 4 3 3 4 1 4 3 3 4 2 2 3

1 Very good; 2 Good; 3 Fair; 4 Not recommended.
* Fluoroelastomer grades are available that offer resistance to these chemicals.

Note: These figures are for guidance only. Service life will depend on type of application, whether static or dynamic
specific pressure medium, temperature cycle, time of exposure, etc.

Material selection

Pressure However, when the external gas pressure Aesthetics

is removed or pressure fluctuations occur,

Material selection
The effect pressure can have on the low large pressure gradients are created Aesthetics need to be taken into account
temperature behaviour of elastomers between the interior and the surface of in applications where appearance is
and problems it can create with the elastomeric component. This pressure important, for example in consumer
extrusion, have already been discussed differential may be balanced by the gas products.
in this section. Another important simply diffusing/permeating out of the
consideration when discussing elastomer, especially if any external Thermoplastic elastomers lend
pressure is to understand the direction constraints are not removed. But if the themselves to producing products with
or directions it is applied from, its physical properties of the elastomeric high gloss and are readily available in a
magnitude and whether it fluctuates. compound cannot resist crack and blister variety of different colours.
The latter consideration can lead to growth during the permeation process,
significant elastomer damage if the structural failure is the inevitable result.
pressure is reduced rapidly. This is An example of an elastomer failing due
referred to as rapid gas decompression to RGD can be seen on page 37 in the Cost
(RGD), formerly known as explosive failure modes section.
decompression. Cost is almost invariably a primary
consideration. It usually needs to
be balanced against performance
requirements, taking into account the
Rapid gas decompression
total cost of ownership. A small reduction
in price can lead to a disproportionate
Although rapid gas decompression
deterioration in quality.
(RGD) is generally found in the oil and
gas industry, it can be considered a
possibility in any application where there
is a rapid drop in gas pressure above
50 bar.
Approvals and specifications
A variety of national and international
RGD damage is structural failure in the
standards organisations are responsible
form of blistering, internal cracking and
for preparing and issuing standards
splits caused when the gas pressure
relating to elastomers. These include
to which the elastomer is exposed is
the International Organisation for
rapidly reduced.
Figure 41: Cross-section of 'O' ring showing Standardisation (ISO), the British
RGD damage. Standards Institution (BSI), the American
The elastomeric components of a
Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM),
system are, to a greater or lesser extent,
the Deutsches Institut fr Normung (DIN),
susceptible to the permeation and
Factors that influence RGD resistance are: the European Association of Aerospace
diffusion of gases dissolving in their
Industries (AECMA) and the Association
surface. With time, these components Polymer type
Franais de Normalisation (AFNOR).
will become saturated with whatever Compounding, mixing and processing
gases are in the system. Under these
Gas type/mix The work of the international bodies
conditions, as long as the internal gas
Temperature is supported by national standards
pressure of the elastomer remains at
organisations, who are in turn supported
equilibrium with the ambient pressure, Pressure
by trade associations, companies,
there is minimal damage (if any) and Rate of decompression government departments and local
no deterioration in performance of
Levels of squeeze and groove fill authorities.
the elastomeric component occurs
unless caused by other factors such as Number of pressure cycles
chemical or thermal degradation or by Seal cross-section.
extrusion damage.

Designing with elastomers

Designing with elastomers Finite element analysis (FEA) Material selection

Designing with elastomers

Designing elastomeric components Finite element analysis (FEA) is a Selection of an appropriate elastomer
used to be referred to as a black art, with computer-aided engineering technique material is obviously a crucial factor in
the unpredictable nature of elastomers that provides an indication of the satisfying the design requirements for a
often being blamed for difficulties in strength and/or deformation of a product product. A wide range of basic elastomer
assessing how the product would behave under loading that might typically be types are available and within these there
in service. With many modern tools now experienced in its operating environment. are an almost infinite number of variations
at the disposal of engineers and with The technique is commonly used at the of formulations that can be produced.
advances in machining capability and design stage for components but can
manufacturing techniques, the design of also be used to help determine why parts A number of criteria need to be
engineering solutions using elastomers is have failed. considered when selecting elastomers
now more of a predictable science. This for specific applications, including the
section explains the role of these tools FEA simulates the behaviour of a real expected service conditions, chemical
and the considerations required to ensure component with an idealised mathematical compatibility with service media,
the right design. model that includes the physical conditions physical factors such as temperature, life
in which it operates. The finite element prediction and design considerations.
model is then analysed by a finite element
analysis solver, which calculates data Descriptions of the main elastomer types
Advanced product quality reflecting the design behaviour to the are given on page 7.
planning (APQP) applied boundary conditions, and can help
to identify weaknesses or potential failures
in the design. Prototyping
Advanced product quality planning
(APQP) is a structured method of
After the initial design stage of product
defining and establishing the steps Finite element analysis of elastomer development it is useful to produce a
necessary to develop products that meet components is more complex than when prototype for assessment purposes. This
customer requirements. It originated in compared to thermoplastic or metallic assessment may consist of visual inspection
the automotive industry, but can equally parts, for example, since the composition as well as a variety of tests.
be applied to product design across all of elastomers makes their behaviour more
sectors. difficult to model.

APQP focuses on up-front quality

planning, and subsequently determining
if customers are satisfied by evaluating
the output and supporting continual
improvement. It consists of five phases:
Plan and define program
Product design and development
Process design and development
Product and process validation
Launch, feedback, assessment and
corrective action.

There are five major activities: planning,

product design and development,
process design and development,
product and process validation, and
production. The aim is to ensure
effective communication both within the
manufacturer and between manufacturer
and customer.
Figure 42: Example of finite element analysis.

Designing with elastomers

Prototyping is particularly appropriate close temperature control and timing of When making decisions on product
with elastomeric materials, since moulded cycles may also be necessary. design, the total cost of ownership

Designing with elastomers

their complicated nature means their (TCO) should be taken into account.
performance is generally harder to As well as the cost of raw materials and
predict than for plastics or metal manufacture, TCO estimation should
components, for example. Surface finish include life expectancy, maintenance
costs and the possibly massive costs of
The surface finish of elastomeric component failure.
components can be important in certain
Specification applications. For example, it can affect
the coefficient of friction in dynamic
Specifying elastomer components should applications such as seals. It can also be Tool life expectancy
cover a wide range of parameters such as important where aesthetic considerations
the required performance of the product, need to be taken into account, such as in Tool life expectancy depends on many
its quality, the conditions under which it consumer products. factors, including the mould material, the
needs to operate, the standards it needs complexity of the mould, the required
to adhere to, etc. The relevant standards tolerance, and the quantity of parts to be
may be international, such as the ISO, or produced.
they can be industry specific or defined by Cost issues
the customer.
The choice of material is obviously a
prime factor in the cost of the finished
part. The raw materials for specialised
Tolerances perfluoroelastomers, for example, can
cost over a thousand times more than a
Being flexible, elastomers do not basic natural elastomer.
lend themselves to the same level of
tolerancing as rigid materials. Tolerancing A guide to selecting the appropriate
needs to take into account shrinkage, elastomer is given in the Material selection
which varies with the type of elastomer, section on page 25.
and particularly hardness. Soft elastomers
generally shrink more than harder The manufacturing process to be
varieties. Shrinkage is also affected by employed is another factor affecting
cure time, temperature, pressure, inserts, costs. Factors include the moulding
post-cure, etc. technique, usually compression, injection
or transfer moulding, with compression
As shrinkage in elastomers is a volume generally having the lowest mould costs
effect, complex shapes in the moulded and injection moulding the highest.
product or the presence of inserts may
have the effect of restricting the Manufacturing processes are discussed in
shrinkage in one dimension and the Manufacturing techniques section on
increasing it in another. page 16.

Most insert materials such as metals,

plastics or fabric have their own standard
tolerances. However, when designing
inserts for moulding to elastomers, other
factors need to be considered, such as fit
in the mould cavities, the location of the
inserts with respect to other dimensions,
proper hole spacing to match with mould
pins, and the fact that inserts at room
temperature must fit into a heated mould.

Precision moulding requires additional

preparations for tooling, which may
require extra features, cavity finishes or
cavity flow provisions. In processing, very

Designing with elastomers

Designing with elastomers

The use of CAD/CAM systems for the

design and manufacture of tooling
for elastomer production increases
productivity and can help to improve
the quality of the design. It is particularly
useful in the design of tooling for complex
3D parts.

Before moving to full production of

tooling on a machining centre, CAD/
CAM can be used to produce a rapid
In addition to enabling drafting from prototype of the component. The
sketches on existing components, CAD/ prototype, which can be made in a
CAM systems accept design data in a variety of materials, mimics the function
variety of proprietary file formats. The data of the elastomer part. It can also be
can be supplied in the form of 2D designs economic to produce production quality
or as 3D models. 2D drawings are built up parts in relatively small numbers.
into 3D models by extruding, revolving or
sweeping the 2D representation in space The production of complex 3D shapes
to create the base solid feature of the on machining centres is made easier by
design. the use of five-axis milling machines. By
enabling the workpiece to be rotated,
the required complexity and accuracy of
the part can be produced in one setting,
avoiding the need to use spark erosion
in many cases.

Figure 43: CAD/CAM images of mould When built up, the model can be
design, tool path simulation and finished part. visualised in three dimensions under
simulated operating conditions and with
the addition of any mating components.

Unlike traditional CAD/CAM modelling

systems, parametric 3D modelling
uses parameters to define the model's
features, such as its length or radius,
and geometric relationships between
constituent parts such as relative position
and tangency. This makes it easy to
modify the model to allow for elastomer
shrinkage for example, while ensuring the
desired relationships remain as specified.

Elastomer failure modes

Elastomer failure modes In an ideal world, elastomer failure

analysis would be performed with full

Elastomer failure modes

Recent advances in life prediction knowledge of the system variables, such
techniques for elastomer components as material design, product and housing
such as seals have made it possible for design, precise environmental conditions, a) b) c) d)
scheduled maintenance to be carried cycling conditions and length of service.
Figure 45: Effect of low and high
out at a predefined level of elastomer In practice, however, failure analysis is compression set on an elastomer.
deterioration so that costly failures can largely based on experience combined
with certain analytical techniques. An a) Original unconstrained sample
usually be avoided.
additional complication is that elastomer b) Original sample compressed
failure is often the result of a combination c) Sample when compressive force
However, because elastomer life
of factors. has been removed showing low
predictions are usually based on compression set
Arrhenius principles, which consider only d) Sample when compressive force
time/temperature dependent chemical has been removed showing high
(and occasionally physical) effects, Time/temperature dependent compression set.
unpredicted failures still occur, since there
physical & chemical degradation
are many modes of failure that are not
time/temperature/chemical dependent. Volume swell
Most component failures occur in
this category, as it encompasses the
This section outlines the various modes Volume swell is a combination of
interaction of the elastomer with its
and causes of degradation and failure that chemical and physical interaction.
environment. Modern techniques for
can occur in elastomeric components, All fluids (including polymers) interact,
life prediction have enabled end users
and the ways in which they are analysed. to an extent that is dictated by a
and manufacturers to understand better
multitude of factors.
and plan for this type of degradation.
There are many factors that can affect
The following describes the main failure
the incidence of failures, including choice Volume swell of less than 10 per cent
modes that they measure.
of material, processing techniques, is not usually a problem, particularly
component and housing design, storage in static applications where it can be
conditions, inspection techniques, beneficial in increasing or maintaining
Compression set (and stress relaxation)
methods of fitting, system changes or seal interference and countering such
system definition and human errors. effects as compression set. However,
Compression set can be described as
higher levels of volume swell (see Figure
the ability of an elastomer to recover from
Failure in seals is generally identified 46) may cause failure because of loss
an imposed strain. Stress relaxation is a
through excessive fluid leakage. This of physical properties, groove overfill,
measure of the ability of the elastomer to
is caused either by a loss of seal product extrusion or even metalwork
maintain contact stress.
interference (seal contact stress), or loss fracture.
of seal integrity (generally some form of
The magnitude of these effects is strongly
physical damage). The causes of these
affected by temperature and the fluid
may be classified under the following
environment. Low values are essential
to maintain effective sealing, whereas
high values may mean a loss of seal
Time/temperature dependent physical
interference resulting in bypass leakage.
and chemical degradation
Housing effects
Application effects
Rapid gas decompression
Figure 46.
Storage and handling effects
Manufacturing defects Figure 44. Physical property changes that are
frequently associated with volume swell,
Wear and fatigue The effects of compression set are clear particularly at high levels, are softening
Thermal cycling effects. in an O ring, as can be seen in Figure 44. and reduction of mechanical properties
However, in elastomeric products of more such as tensile and tear strengths.
complicated profile, knowledge of the
original dimensions is often required.

Elastomer failure modes

Elastomer shrinkage Chemical degradation Housing effects

Elastomer failure modes

Many elastomer compounds contain The effects of chemical degradation These effects are often the most obvious
ingredients that are designed to leach (unlike physical swell) are irreversible when analysing seal failure, and are
out over time, or that under certain and range from hardening or softening, usually the easiest to remedy. It is
conditions may be extracted or volatilised. surface crazing and large property important however not to confuse these
If this is not compensated for by volume change, to fracture, complete with rapid gas decompression damage,
swell, the resultant shrinkage may, for fragmentation or even dissolution. In as frequently happens.
example, cause a reduction or total loss of some instances, very low levels of a
seal interference. Failures caused this way chemical (fractions of a percent) can
are rare. cause gross chemical degradation. It is Extrusion damage
therefore important that full environmental
data are provided prior to material This occurs when housing clearances
Thermal expansion/contraction selection, regardless of the presumed are too large or when a seal that has no
insignificance of some components. or inadequate anti-extrusion elements
Like all materials, elastomers expand and is forced into or through a clearance. It
contract when exposed to temperature Radiation, free radicals and many manifests itself in various forms and is
changes to an extent governed by their chemical species can cause material normally evident on the low-pressure
coefficient of thermal expansion. This degradation. Common chemical species side unless swell, thermal expansion or
effect must be compensated for at the that cause elastomer degradation are: pressure trapping has occurred.
design stage. It should be noted that Water
volumetric thermal expansion coefficients Classical extrusion into a small clearance
for elastomers are at least an order of Oxygen
occurs over medium to long periods of
magnitude higher than those for steels. Ozone time and results in lace-like debris see
Figure 50. Extrusion may also happen
Sour gases (H2S, CO2) catastrophically over a localised portion of
Compression fracture Acids the seal due to sudden failure of portions of
any anti-extrusion device see Figure 51.
If elastomers are over-compressed, due Bases
to either poor product/housing design Corrosion inhibitors (eg, amines)
or excessive volume swell/thermal
expansion, compressive fracture may Mercaptans
occur in the plane parallel to the applied Aromatic hydrocarbons
force. On occasions this failure mode may
be confused with certain types of rapid Brines (especially heavy brines).
gas decompression failure. However,
compression fracture, as shown in Figures 48 & 49 illustrate the visible
Figure 47, is usually very rare. characteristics of some forms of
chemical degradation/attack.
Other forms may not be so obvious
and require identification by analytical Figure 50.
techniques such as infrared spectroscopy
(eg, hydrolysis of NBR or HNBR).

Figure 48.
Figure 47.

Figure 51.

Figure 49.

Elastomer failure modes

It can also be due to housing dilation at This can have serious effects on double Port damage
high pressures causing the clearance to acting seals, especially if dynamic. On a

Elastomer failure modes

increase see Figure 52. In this instance pressure reversal, the nibbled fragments This occurs during installation or
the rigid gland ring was unable to deform may be forced across the seal/housing application, when the product passes
in order to close the clearance and interface causing a leakage path. over a hole or port, especially if these
exacerbated the situation by forming a have sharp edges see Figures 57 & 58.
Shaving effect

This is normally associated with a

continuous application of pressure, and
occurs most often with O rings and other
designs that may rotate in a housing. Here
the seal is forced into a clearance and,
with time, unwinds into that clearance:
hence the shaving effect. The result of this
Figure 52. is shown in Figure 55 and schematically in
Figure 56.
Figure 57.

This type of damage, shown in Figure

53 and diagrammatically in Figure 54,
is normally observed when pressure
cycling occurs. When system pressure
is applied the housing lifts or dilates,
causing the clearance to increase. A nub
of rubber extrudes into this clearance and
is subsequently nibbled off when the
pressure is dropped and the clearance Figure 58.

Other housing effects causing

seal damage
Figure 55.
The relationship between seal and
housing size must be considered with
account taken of thermal expansion and
equilibrium volume swell. Surface finish,
eccentricity of housing components
and lead-in chamfers should also be
considered as factors that may lead,
directly or indirectly, to seal failure.
Figure 53.

Figure 56.

The thickness of the shaving correlates

directly to the dimensions of the housing
clearance under pressure conditions. Any
sharp housing edges at the clearance will
cause extrusion damage to be initiated
more easily, and thereafter cause the
Figure 54. rate of extrusion to be higher than when
acceptable radii are present.

Elastomer failure modes

Application effects wears, abraded particles are dragged

towards the forward sealing edge where
Elastomer failure modes

The modes of failure described under they may act as a grinding paste or
this heading are often a combination create an uneven contact area ultimately
of component design and mode of resulting in leakage.
application. The resultant effects may be
extrusion damage, abrasive wear or others. Figure 62 shows the effects of lubrication
While these may be the eventual causes of starvation in an O ring. Figure 63 shows the
failure, it is the reasons behind them that Figure 60. short-stroke failure of a rubber/fabric seal.
need to be identified and remedied.

Air entrainment/dieseling
Figure 62.
A small amount of air may become
trapped in any closed system, although
this is most often encountered in
reciprocating applications. Severe
damage can occur when the air is Figure 61.
entrained near an elastomer.
On a lesser scale, air entrainment may
Additionally, air entrained in a cause delamination of the fabric plies in
hydrocarbon fluid in a rapidly cycling a double acting piston seal, as shown in
dynamic application may become highly Figure 61.
dangerous if no automatic venting is
Figure 63.
provided or if compression is rapid.
Short-stroke failure
Seal failure can occur in two ways: by For short-stroke applications, it is
rapid gas (air) decompression or by It is essential that contact faces of important to use shallow seals, even
dieseling. Dieseling is when a pocket dynamic seals are suitably lubricated. single element (unit) seals, as multi-lip
of air/oil mist self ignites when the rise In multi-lip reciprocating applications, packings can reduce seal life and cause
in pressure is fast enough to cause a this lubrication is effected by the relative premature failure.
significant increase in temperature and movement of the rod or cylinder across
hence create ignition. This can cause the seal. A short-stroke in this context
severe localised damage to a seal, and refers to the distance travelled as a ratio of Pressure trapping
can melt any plastic components. overall stack depth.
This can develop in the annular clearance
Figure 59 shows a schematic of a typical Practice has shown that a minimum between two double acting seals, where
case in an inclined cylinder where air may stroke length of 2 times the stack depth inter-seal pressures many times system
become trapped adjacent to the piston is required to provide lubrication to all pressure may build up. It can cause seal
seal (and gland seal). Figure 60 shows contact lips, although the fluid mechanics failure, system lock-up or metalwork
the catastrophic effect that dieseling underlying this are unclear. fracture. Most modern squeeze seals and
may have on seals. It is important to O rings can perform as double acting
eliminate this problem by ensuring that It is ironic that for more arduous, high seals. Extrusion of such seals into the
the minimum of air is present and that, if pressure applications the tendency has applied pressure can be seen in typical
possible, adequate venting is provided. been to increase the number of sealing cases as shown schematically in Figure 64.
rings and therefore the depth of the stack.
This is often seen in PBR seal stacks that
may be metres in length, and can result
in the stroke length being insufficient to
transport lubricant to the entire contact
area of the seal.

In this situation, the sealing elements

towards the low pressure side can run
dry and abrasive wear occurs. This is
worsened at elevated pressures because
Figure 59. contact stresses are higher. As the seal Figure 64.

Elastomer failure modes

During multiple reversals, this type of Bunching Although there is no fixed rule, RGD
sealing arrangement can act as a pump, conditions, and therefore potential

Elastomer failure modes

causing inter-seal cavity pressure to Bunching causes both circumferential damage, should be considered a
build up due to viscous drag past the compression and tension in different possibility at pressures above 5MPa
unenergised seal. The effect is that both areas of a seal simultaneously. It is (725psi) in gas or dissolved gas systems
seals become permanently energised, encountered on slow rotary applications, with decompression rates greater than
resulting in higher friction and wear, an especially if subject to reversals such as in 1MPa (145psi) per hour.
increased tendency for extrusion damage, swivels, or where seal assembly requires
piston seizure, catastrophic seal failure the use of threaded gland nuts. There are various features of RGD
and potential fracture of metalwork. damage that may be related to operating
With such relative motion there is a high conditions, type of gas or, more often,
Figures 65 & 66 show seal damage level of linear drag which, if accompanied to the type of seal material. It is also
caused by pressure trapping. The most by uneven squeeze, causes part of worth noting that, while there may be no
important characteristic is damage on the the seal to be pushed or bunched up, evidence of RGD damage on the surface
high-pressure side. To avoid this type of causing other parts to be stretched. This of the seal, there may be internal damage
failure, two double-acting seals should again causes reduction in seal section which could impair the performance and
never be used on the same component. If with the potential for seal leakage. At its life of re-used seals.
opposed seals are necessary then at least worst it may result in tensile fracture of the
Fracture surfaces in constrained seals
one of them should be a true single acting seal or seal components.
are generally in the plane perpendicular
seal, so that any inter-seal pressure build-
to the applied pressure. There is often
up is automatically vented. Rapid gas decompression
an identifiable nucleation site for each
flaw and, on occasions, contamination or
Rapid gas decompression (RGD) damage
undispersed particulate matter may be
is the name given to structural failures in
observed at this site.
the form of blistering, internal cracking
and splits caused when the gas or Irreversible blistering is often seen
condensate pressure to which the seal is in materials with poor filler/polymer
exposed falls from high to low. interactions such as high fluorine-
containing elastomers. Most failure
Figure 65. The elastomeric components of a however is through cracking and fracture
system are, to a greater or lesser extent, as seen in Figures 67 and 68.
susceptible to the permeation and
diffusion of gases dissolved in their
surface. With time, these components will
become saturated with whatever gases
are in the system. As long as the internal
gas pressure of the elastomer remains at
equilibrium with the environment, there is
minimal damage, and no deterioration in
Figure 66. performance occurs.

However, when the external gas pressure Figure 67.

Spiral twist is removed, or pressure fluctuations
occur, large pressure gradients are
This type of failure is rarely seen in seals created between the interior and the
other than O rings. It generally occurs surface of the seal and the dissolved fluid
when O rings are used in reciprocating may actually go through a phase (and
applications as rod or piston seals, or therefore volume) change. This pressure
when an installation requires stab-in, differential may be balanced by the gas
particularly when seal compression levels simply diffusing/permeating out (the
are high. reverse of the uptake process) especially
if any external mechanical constraints
The mechanism is that the O ring (eg, housings) are not removed. Figure 68.
becomes fixed at one or more points However if the physical and chemical
around its circumference, preventing even characteristics of the elastomer compound
roll around its circumferential axis. This cannot resist crack and blister growth
may be caused by housing eccentricity, during the outgassing process then
O ring pinching or uneven lubrication. structural failure is the inevitable outcome.

Elastomer failure modes

Storage and handling effects Wear and fatigue Thermal cycling

Elastomer failure modes

Vulcanised elastomers will degrade if Wear or abrasion damage can be caused While thermal cycling can induce
stored under unsuitable conditions of by dynamic motion, or when the sealed mechanical damage, it may also cause
temperature, humidity, light and oxygen/ environment is intrinsically abrasive by-pass leakage with no damage to the
ozone. Such effects as hardening, and either passes across or impinges seal whatsoever. This generally happens
softening, cracking and crazing may upon the seal. Wear patterns created when seals are cycled from high to low
render the product unsuitable for use or by dynamic motion are generally in the temperatures, especially if pressure is
significantly reduce its service life. direction of the motion (ie, axial wear in cycled simultaneously.
reciprocating seals and circumferential
Careful choice of storage conditions wear in rotary seals). Figure 70 shows More often, by-pass leakage occurs in
should minimise these effects. Additionally, abrasive wear. seals made from thermoplastics and
components should be stored in a relaxed those with a tendency to high temperature
condition free from tension, compression flow. Such materials (eg, Aflas) should
or other deformation. not be subjected to large thermal
transients or rapid thermal cycling.
Care should be taken to ensure that good Similar effects are noted if elastomers
handling and fitting practice is observed, are used below or approaching their limit
using correct tools and following Figure 70. of elastomeric flexibility (glass transition
manufacturers instructions whenever temperature, Tg) as they cannot respond,
possible. Figure 69 shows the level of seal The exception to this is lip cracking or at least only very slowly, to any system
damage that may result simply from poor in rotary applications. Damage here, change, such as the application of
fitting procedures. as shown in Figures 71 & 72, is pressure.
perpendicular to the direction of motion.
The damage frequency is a function of
material design, particularly modulus and Bonding failure
frictional characteristics. It happens due to
a wave being forced ahead of the motion, In rubber to metal bonding, the bond
which produces contact peaks and non- strength is generally greater than the
contact troughs (slip-stick). It causes strength of the elastomer, so the failure
heat build-up at the contact bands which mode is usually within the elastomer.
ultimately leads to cracking. This effect is
known as a Schallamach wave. Bond failures are relatively rare, and
may be due, for example, to insufficient
degreasing of the metal or premature
curing of the bonding agent.
Figure 69.

Figure 71. Aesthetics

Where aesthetic appearance is important,
such as in consumer products, a
deterioration in visual appearance can be
considered a failure mode. An example
is colour fading due to exposure to
Figure 72.
ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.
Lower friction, higher modulus materials
(Figure 71) will exhibit an increased
number of shallower cracks compared
with higher friction, lower modulus
materials (Figure 72). This is because heat
build-up is less and stick is reduced.
Optimised materials for this type of
application do not exhibit lip cracking as
they enable a stable hydrodynamic film to
be established.

Glossary of terms

A Ageing: The irreversible change of Anti-ozonant: A material added to a

material properties during exposure to rubber compound to reduce damage

Glossary of terms
Abrasion: The surface loss of a material
a deteriorating environment. This can resulting from the effects of ozone.
due to frictional forces applied to it.
include environments such as UV, oxygen
Anti-tack: Substance applied to the
Abrasion resistance: The ability to resist and those containing ozone gases.
surface of an elastomer to stop it adhering
mechanical wear. A material with a high Ageing can also refer to the controlled
either to itself or other elastomers.
abrasion resistance helps to maintain exposure of rubber samples to a variety
the materials original appearance and of deteriorating influences to allow for Arrhenius principle: An empirical
structure. the evaluation of anti-oxidants and anti- relationship stating that the rate of a
ozonants. chemical reaction increases exponentially
Abrasion resistance index: A measure
with temperature.
of the abrasion resistance of a rubber Agglomerate: A cluster of particles of
relative to that of a standard rubber under one or more compounding materials ASTM: Abbreviation for American Society
the same specified conditions, expressed loosely held together. One of the primary for Testing and Materials.
as a percentage. roles of the mixing process is to break
down agglomerates and promote good Atmospheric cracking: Cracks on
Accelerated life test: The testing of a dispersion. the surface of a material as a result of
material by subjecting it to conditions in exposure to atmospheric conditions.
excess of its normal service parameters in Air traps: A rubber moulding defect This is usually as a result of sunlight
an effort to approximate, in a short time, that can occur either at the surface of and/or ozone.
the deteriorating effect of normal long- the moulding due to air being trapped
between the mould and the material, or AU: Abbreviation for polyester type
term service conditions.
within the moulding. The use of vacuum polyurethane rubbers.
Accelerator: A chemical which speeds up technology both at the extrusion and Autoclave: A vessel that vulcanises
the vulcanisation reaction. This allows the press stage can greatly reduce the risk of rubber products in a pressurised steam
rubber to cure in a shorter timeframe, at a air traps. environment.
lower temperature or both.
Amorphous: Having no definite shape; Axial squeeze: Compression applied to
Acid acceptors: Mostly used in non-crystalline. the top and bottom of a seals surface.
fluoroelastomers to absorb the acid
produced by the chemical reactions that Aniline point: The lowest temperature
take place during curing and to some at which equal parts of aniline and a test
degree during service. Acid acceptors are liquid (usually oil) will mix or blend. In B
usually metal oxides. general, the lower the aniline point of an Back-up ring: See Anti-extrusion ring.
oil, the more a given rubber compound
Acid resistance: The ability of a will swell, therefore the test indicates if an Backrinding: Tearing or distortion of a
material to resist attack as a result of oil is likely to damage an elastomer with moulded rubber product at the line of
exposure to acids. The degree of attack which it has come into contact. separation of the mould pieces. Factors
is both temperature and concentration which can have an influence on back-
dependant. ANSI: American National Standards rinding are blank weight, blank shape,
Institute. temperature, moulding pressure and
ACM: Abbreviation for acrylic rubbers.
Antidegradants: These are materials breathe cycles.
ACN: Abbreviation for acrylonitrile. added to a rubber compound to reduce Banbury mixer: The type of internal mixer
Activator: A substance, which by the effect of deterioration caused designed by FH Banbury.
chemical interaction promotes a chemical by oxidation, ozone, light and/or
action of a second substance. Most combinations of these. Bank: This term can relate to the amount
commonly used in elastomers to activate of rubber adjacent to the nip of the rolls
Anti-extrusion ring: A ring installed on on both mills and calenders.
accelerators. the low pressure side of a seal to stop the
Aftercure: The amount of cure received sealing material being extruded into the Barrel: That part of an extruder in which
after the termination of the cure clearance gap. The requirement for the the screw rotates or the ram moves.
proper. The term is also applied to the fitting of such devices is dependent on the Bias: The angle at which the textile
continuation of the curing effect that pressures, sealing materials and extrusion material is cut with respect to the running
results from exposure of the article to heat gap. edge of the fabric.
in use, or from accelerated ageing. See Antiflex cracking agent: A material
Post cure. Blank: A measured weight or dimension
added to a rubber compound to reduce of a rubber compound suitable to fill the
Age resistance: The ability of a given cracking caused by cyclic deformations. cavity of a compression or transfer mould.
material to resist deterioration of its Anti-oxidant: A material added to a Usually the blank weight/volume is slightly
properties caused by ageing. rubber compound to reduce deterioration higher than the finished component to
caused by oxidation. allow for full compression in the cavity.

Glossary of terms

Bleeding: The flow of a compounding Buna N: A general term for the copolymer Checking: Shallow, short cracks on the
material, often oils or lubricants, from the butadiene and acrylonitrile, also referred surface of a rubber, which is usually as a
Glossary of terms

surface of vulcanised or unvulcanised to as NBR or nitrile. result of environmental attack.

rubber. Can also be referred to as leaching.
Buna S: Butadiene and acrylonitrile CO: Epichlorohydrin homopolymer.
Blemish: An unwanted imperfection on copolymer. This material is also referred
Coagent: An ingredient added to a rubber
the surface of a moulded product. to as SBR.
compound, usually in small amounts to
Blister: A surface or internal imperfection, Butyl: A copolymer of isobutylene and increase the cross-linking efficiency of
produced by entrapped air, gases or isoprene. non-sulphur vulcanising systems, such as
other volatiles normally as a result of the organic peroxides.
manufacture process.
Coated fabric: A product constructed by
Bloom: A solid or liquid material that
C coating a fabric with a rubber, resulting in
has migrated to the surface of a rubber CAD: Abbreviation for computer-aided a flexible material which can be moulded
material normally leaving a waxy or milky design. into products or used in conjunction with
deposit. rubbers to provide higher rigidity and
Calender: A machine with two, three or improved extrusion resistance.
Blow: The volume expansion that occurs four parallel, counter-rotating rolls. Often
in the production of cellular or sponge used to form rubber sheeting where Coefficient of thermal expansion: The
rubber resulting from the action of a the thickness needs to be accurately average expansion per degree over a
blowing agent incorporated into the controlled. stated temperature range, expressed as a
compound. fraction of the initial dimension.
CAM: Abbreviation for computer-aided
Blowing agent: A compounding manufacture. Cold flexibility: Flexibility of the elastomer
ingredient introduced into an elastomer following exposure to a specified low
which produces a gas by chemical or Carbon black: A black pigment and temperature for a specified period of time.
physical action during the processing reinforcement filler used in rubbers.
Carbon black is a form of amorphous Cold flow (also called Creep): A slow
stage. Used in the manufacture of sponge
carbon that has a high surface-area-to- deformation, under gravitational force for
volume ratio. The degree of reinforcement example, at or below room temperature.
Bonding agent: A material used to increases with decreasing particle size.
Cold resistant: The ability of an
promote the bonding of rubber to other
Catalyst: A chemical, usually added to elastomer to function at low temperatures.
materials during the processing stage.
a mix in small quantities relative to the
Compound: A term applied to a mixture
BR: Abbreviation for rubber based on reactants, that modifies and increases the
of polymers, reinforcements, curatives
butadiene. rate of a reaction without being consumed
and other ingredients to produce a rubber
in the process.
Breakdown: The plasticising of raw material. The compound is prepared
rubber prior to the incorporation of Cavitation: A condition in which vapour according to a prescribed formula and
compounding ingredients. This is or gas bubbles occur, normally in an area mixing process.
normally the first stage of the mixing where there is a temperature change or
Compression moulding: A moulding
process. reduction in pressure, which results in
process in which an uncured rubber blank
a collapse of the bubble and high local
Breakout friction: The force required to is placed directly in the mould cavity and
impact pressures. This can lead to both
initiate sliding between a rubber seal and compressed to its final shape by closing
equipment wear and reduced seal life.
the surface in which it is in contact. the mould. This process normally results
Cellular rubber: A generic term for in excess material in the form of flash.
Brittle point: The highest temperature at
rubbers containing either open, closed or
which a rubber specimen will break under Compression set: The amount a rubber
both types of cells dispersed throughout
a measured sudden impact. This is one specimen fails to return to its original
the material. These cells are formed by
indication of low temperature flexibility. shape after being released from a
blowing agents during the processing of
constant compressive load. This testing
Brittleness: The tendency of an the rubber.
normally takes place at an elevated
elastomer to crack when deformed or
Cement: An adhesive that is either a temperature and helps to develop an
liquid dispersion or a solution of raw or understanding of the reduction in sealing
BS: Abbreviation for British Standard. compounded rubber, or both, usually force which may be encountered in
dissolved in solvent, and used to bond service.
BSI: Abbreviation for British Standards
rubbers to other rubber or non-rubber
Institution. Conductive rubber: A rubber which has
been produced such that it is capable of
Bumping: The operation of opening and conducting electricity.
Chalking: The formation of a residue
closing the press rapidly in the first stages
on the surface of a rubber which is
of the cure. This action is designed to
commonly as a result of UV damaging the
drive out any trapped air in the mould
surface of the material.
cavity. Also referred to as breathing.

Glossary of terms

Copolymer: A polymer composed from Cure time: The required amount of time Differential pressure: The difference in
two different monomers, for example an needed to complete the curing process pressure between the high-pressure and

Glossary of terms
NBR composed of polybutadiene and to a pre-determined level. The time taken low-pressure side of a sealing system.
acrylonitrile. to cure is dependent on the temperature,
Dimensional stability: The ability
material type and section of the rubber
CR: Abbreviation for chloroprene rubbers. of the elastomer to retain its original
shape and size having been exposed
Corrosion: Progressive wearing away of
Curing temperature: The temperature at to a combination of stresses and
a surface because of a chemical reaction.
which vulcanisation takes place. temperatures.
Cracking: Axial cracks on elastomeric
DIN: Abbreviation for Deutsches Institut
seals on the lip contact surface.
fr Normung German Institute for
D standardisation.
Crazing: The formation of shallow cracks
on the surface of a rubber. This can be as Damping: The property of a material
Dipping: A method of manufacturing
a result of exposure to UV light or certain or system that causes it to convert
rubber articles by dipping a former of the
chemicals. Although they look similar, mechanical energy to heat when
shape required into a rubber solution.
crazing differs from ozone cracking, as it subjected to deflection. In rubber, the
does not depend on the presence of an property is caused by hysteresis. Dispersion: The distribution of particles
externally applied strain. throughout a medium. For rubbers
Deflashing: The process of removing
this often refers to the distribution of
Creep: The time-dependent part of a excess material from the flash-line
compounding ingredients in rubber mix.
strain resulting from stress. resulting from the moulding process.
Also see Cold flow. Various methods exist, including buffing Dough: Rubber compounded and swollen
and cryogenic trimming. in solvent and worked on a wet mill until
Cross-section: A section formed by a
it reaches the consistency of dough. It is
plane cutting through an object, usually at Degassing: The passing of a gas out of a
then applied behind the doctor blade of
right angles to an axis. rubber, normally generated by the volatile
a spreading machine through which the
ingredients in the rubber mix which are
Cross-linking (see also vulcanising): fabric to be coated is passing. Self-curing
activated at elevated temperatures.
The formation of chemical bonds doughs are used in the repair of rubber
between polymer chains to give a three- Delamination: The separation of layers of products (tyre tread cut-filling) and the
dimensional network structure. rubber (normally in a plied format) or the splicing of belting.
rubber separating from a surface to which
Cross-link density: A measure for the Durometer: An instrument for measuring
it is bonded.
relative number of cross-links in a given the relative hardness of rubber.
volume of elastomer. Demoulding: The operation of removing
Dynamic properties: The response in an
a vulcanised rubber product from the
Crumb rubber: Vulcanised waste or elastomer to forces applied to them.
mould in which it has been cured. This
scrap rubber which has been ground
can be done carefully by hand, but in Dynamic seal: A seal used in an
down to a known mesh size and can then
some cases pins or brushes can be environment that is subjected to any type
be added to new compound as a filler.
incorporated into the mould or press to of movement relative to its position and
Crystallinity: The orientation of the perform this function automatically. that of the contact / sealing surface.
disordered long-chain molecules of a
Density: The weight per unit volume of a
polymer into repeating ordered patterns.
Many rubber materials have a degree E
of crystallinity, and some will tend to Desiccant: A rubber compounding
Ebonite: Hard rubbers which are formed
crystallise under certain conditions. The ingredient used to absorb moisture
when they are cured with high levels of
degree of crystallinity effects stiffness, irreversibly, particularly for the purpose
vulcanising agents.
hardness, low temperature flexibility and of minimising the risk of porosity and/or
heat resistance. blisters during vulcanisation. ECO: Epichlorohydrin copolymer with
ethylene oxide.
Curatives: The collective term for the Diametral clearance gap: The difference
chemicals involved in curing the rubber in diameters between two mating Efficient vulcanisation: A term applied to
material. These include, for example, surfaces. vulcanisation systems in which sulphur or
accelerators, vulcanising chemicals such a sulphur donor is used very efficiently for
Die: The shaped plate fitted in the head
as sulphur, and activators. cross-linking the rubber.
of an extruder designed to create a profile
Cure: Another term for 'vulcanisation'. suitable for the moulding process. Elasticity: The rapid recovery of
This process results in the cross-linking of a material to its initial shape after
Die swell: The change in dimensions of
polymer chains. deformation and release of an applied
an extruded rubber section as it exits the
die. This swell is mainly due to the elastic
recovery of the material.

Glossary of terms

Elastomer (also known as rubber): FDA: Food and Drug Administration (USA). G
A general term used to describe
Glossary of terms

FEA: Abbreviation for finite element Gate: The point through which a rubber
both natural and synthetic polymers
analysis. is injected into the moulding cavity in
possessing the ability to return to their
original shape after the deforming force is both transfer and injection moulding
FEPM: Abbreviation for
removed. techniques.
tetrafluoroethylene/propylene dipolymers.
Elongation, per cent: The extension of a Gate mark: A witness mark left on the
FFKM: Abbreviation for
specimen as a result of an applied tensile moulding as a result of injecting rubber
stress, expressed as a percentage of the through the gate. This can be either a
original length. Filler: A compounding ingredient which is raised or sunken mark on the surface of
added to a rubber usually in finely divided the moulding.
Elongation at break: The elongation form. There are into two main categories
measured at the point of rupture. A high Glass transition temperature (Tg):
of filler: reinforcing which adds strength
value is important if substantial stretching The point at which the material loses its
to the elastomer (see Reinforcing fillers)
is required during fitting of the product. flexibility at low temperature. This point is
and extending, which has the function of
affected by system pressure and varies for
cheapening the elastomer (see Extender).
EPM: Abbreviation for ethylene-propylene different polymers.
rubber. Finite element analysis: A mathematical
Green strength: The strength of a rubber
technique developed to predict the stress-
EPR: Abbreviation for ethylene-propylene in the uncured state.
strain behaviour of objects which do not
lend themselves to simple analysis. Groove: The machined glandular recess
EU: Abbreviation for polyether urethane. into which an O ring is fitted.
Fire retardant: An additive used in rubber
Explosive decompression: compounding to reduce the fire hazard. Gough-Joule effect: When rubber is
See Rapid gas decompression. stretched adiabatically (without heat
FKM: Abbreviation for fluorocarbon
entering or leaving the system) heat is
Extender: A material added to a rubber rubber.
generated by the material. The effect was
compound which is designed to reduce
Flame resistance: The resistance to originally discovered by Gough in 1805
the cost of the compound without
burning of a rubber material. and re-discovered by Joule in 1859.
imparting any enhanced physical
properties. Flash: The excess material resulting
from the moulding operation found at the
Extensometer: A device used to H
mould split lines.
determine the elongation of a specimen
Hardness: Measurement of the resistance
as it is strained under testing conditions. Flex cracking: Repeated flexing of a
to indentation. The most common units
Often these machines can also record the rubber resulting in the material cracking.
are Shore A and IRHD. See IRHD and
tensile strength and modulus values of a
Flex life: The number of cycles required Shore A.
given material.
to produce a specified state of failure
Heat ageing: A test for the reduction in
Extrudate (also referred to as extrusion): in a rubber specimen. The test uses a
physical properties of an elastomer as a
The profiled material which results from prescribed method of flexing, such as
result of exposure to temperature.
the extrusion process. shear or bending.
Heat history: The total heat which has
Extruder: A machine designed to create Flexural strength: Ability of an elastomer
been received by the rubber compound
a profiled rubber shape by forcing the to flex without permanent distortion or
(mixing, milling, extruding, calendering),
rubber through a die which has a shape damage.
particularly the temperatures reached by
similar to that of the required profile.
Flow marks: Marks present on the the rubber and the time it has been held
The two most common types are screw
surface of a moulding caused by at these temperatures.
and ram.
insufficient or improper flow of the
Heat resistance: A rubbers ability to
Extrusion (seal): The distortion, under material in the moulding cavity.
undergo exposure to some specified level
pressure, of some of the sealing element
FMQ: Abbreviation for fluoro methyl of elevated temperature and retain a high
into the clearance between mating parts.
silicone. level of its original properties.
Formula: A list of the ingredients and Heteropolymer: A polymer composed of
F their amounts used in the preparation of a differing monomers.
Fatigue: The weakening of an elastomer HNBR: Abbreviation for hydrogenated
during repeated deformation, strain or FPM: Abbreviation for fluorocarbon nitrile rubber.
compression. rubber.
Homopolymer: A polymer formed from a
Fatigue life: The number of deformations FSA: Food Standards Agency (UK). single monomer.
required to produce a specified state of
fatigue in a test specimen. FVMQ: Abbreviation for fluoro vinyl methyl

Glossary of terms

Hookes law: Within the limits of elasticity K Mineral oils: Petroleum and other
of a material, tension is proportional to hydrocarbons oils obtained from mineral

Glossary of terms
elongation, or strain is proportional to the Knit line (also known as weld line): A sources. In rubber compounds they act
stress producing it. line present in a moulding as a result of as softeners and extenders.
opposing flow fronts during the forming of
Hysteresis: The difference between the the rubber material in a mould not knitting Mixer: A machine with a closed chamber
energy input and output under elastic together. A knit line is an area weakness in which specially shaped rotors masticate
deformation in a rubber is known as in the moulding. the rubber and incorporate compounding
hysteresis. The loss of energy results in materials through the action of
heat build-up. mechanical work (shear) with the aim of
L creating a homogenised finished material.
Hysteresis loss: The loss of mechanical
energy due to hysteresis. Latex: A stable dispersion of a polymeric Modulus: In elastomer technology this is
substance in an aqueous medium. defined as the stress at a particular strain
or elongation. Modulus tends to increase
I Leaching: See Bleeding. with hardness, with higher modulus
Leakage rate: The rate at which a fluid materials, in the main, being more
ID: Inside diameter. resistant to deformation and extrusion.
passes through or around a seal.
Immediate set: The deformation found by Modulus of elasticity: The ratio of stress
measuring immediately after removal of Life test: A test of the amount and
duration of a products resistance to to strain in an elastic material.
the force causing deformation.
destructive forces. Molecular weight: The weight of a
Impact resistance: The resistance to molecule of a substance.
fracture under a quickly applied load. Liquid silicone rubber: High purity
platinum cured silicone with low Mould cavity: Profiled shape cut into a
Impact strength: A measure of the compression set, great stability and ability mould within which the rubber is cured to
toughness of the material to rapidly to resist extreme temperatures of heat and produce the product.
applied loads. It is often represented as cold.
the energy required to break a specimen Mould marks: An imperfection transferred
with a single swinging blow. Low temperature flexibility: The ability of to a moulded product from corresponding
an elastomeric product to be flexed at low marks present on the mould surface.
Inhibitor: A compounding ingredient temperatures without cracking.
which is added to a mix to suppress a Mould release: A substance applied to
chemical reaction such as the curing of a Litharge: Lead monoxide, PbO, formerly the surface of a mould cavity to aid the
rubber material. used as an inorganic accelerator but now release of the rubber product after curing.
mainly used as a vulcanising agent in
Injection moulding: Moulding process some polychloroprene rubbers. Mould shrinkage: Dimensional loss in
where preheated rubber is injected under a moulded rubber product that occurs
pressure through a series of runners and during cooling after it has been removed
into a closed mould cavity. M from the mould.
Insert: Normally a metal or plastic Make-up: Uncured elastomer that is cut
component to which rubber is chemically to a profile, weight and/or length prior to N
and/or physically bonded during the placing in a mould.
moulding process. NBR: Abbreviation for nitrile-butadiene
Master batch: A homogeneous mixture rubber.
Internally lubricated rubber: A rubber of polymer and one or more materials in
containing lubricating additives designed known proportions. Nerve: The toughness and elasticity of
to reduce the materials coefficient of unvulcanised, unmasticated rubber.
friction. Mastication: The breakdown or softening
of raw rubber by the combined action Nibbling: Normally observed when
IRHD: Abbreviation for International of mechanical work (shear). This can be pressure cycling occurs. When system
Rubber Hardness Degrees. This is a accelerated by the use of a peptiser. pressure is applied the housing lifts or dilates,
method of measuring rubber hardness. causing the clearance to increase. A nub of
IRHD is similar to Shore A durometer Memory: Ability of a rubber to return to its rubber extrudes into this clearance and is
units, but uses different test method and original shape after deformation. subsequently nibbled off when the pressure
apparatus. Microwave curing: Vulcanisation of is dropped and the clearance is reduced.
ISO: International Organisation for rubbers by heat produced by high Nip: The radial distance between the rolls
Standardisation. frequency radiation. on a mill or calender, measured at the line
Mill: A machine with two counter-rotating of centres.
rolls used for rubber mastication, mixing Non-fill: A defect in a rubber product
or sheeting. caused by the rubber failing to completely
fill the mould.

Glossary of terms

Non-sulphur vulcanisation: The process Permanent set: Amount of deformation in the rubber to rapidly expand. If the force
of vulcanisation without the use of sulphur. a rubber after the distorting load has been of the expanding gas is greater than
Glossary of terms

removed. the strength of the material then cracks,

NR: Abbreviation for natural rubber.
blisters and catastrophic material failures
Permeability: Measure of the ease with can occur.
which a liquid or gas can pass through a
O rubber material. Recovery: The degree to which a rubber
product returns to its original dimensions.
OD: Outside diameter Peroxide: One of the ingredients which
can be used for vulcanising rubbers. Reinforcement: The act of increasing the
Oil resistant: The ability of vulcanised mechanical strength of a rubber.
rubber to resist swelling and other effects Pig: Roll of rubber cut from a mill.
which reduce the performance of the Reinforcing filler: A compounding
Pigment: A material used to impart colour ingredient added to the rubber to
material whilst exposed to oils.
to a rubber compound. increase the resistance of the material to
Oil swell: The change in volume of a mechanical forces.
Plasticiser: A substance, usually a
rubber due to the absorption of oil.
heavy liquid or oil, which is added to an Resilience: The ratio of energy output to
Optimum cure: The state of vulcanisation elastomer to decrease stiffness, improve energy input in a rapid full recovery of a
at which a desired property value or low temperature properties, reduce cost deformed rubber specimen.
combination of property values is and/or improve processing.
obtained. In some materials this may Retarder: A compounding ingredient
Poissons ratio: The measure of the which is added to the mix and is designed
require post-curing or autoclaving to
simultaneous change in elongation and to reduce the tendency of a rubber
produce this desired level of cure.
in cross-sectional area within the elastic compound to vulcanise prematurely.
Orange peel: Pitted or uneven surface on range during a tensile or compressive
a moulded part, resembling the surface of test. For thermosetting elastomers, typical Reversion: The deterioration of
an orange. values of 0.48 to 0.50 are achieved which vulcanisate properties that may occur
is why elastomers can be successfully when vulcanisation time is extended
O ring: Solid elastomer seal of circular used for sealing applications. beyond the optimum. Usually shown by
cross-section. reduced tensile strength and modulus,
Polymer: Literally means many units increased elongation at break and
Outgassing: The release of vapours or and is a large molecule constructed from
gases from a rubber compound. tackiness. This is a particular problem in
many smaller monomers. natural rubbers.
Overcure: A degree of cure greater than Post cure: The application of heat to
the optimum. In some cases this can lead Rheology: The science of the deformation
a thermosetting rubber after curing to and flow of matter.
to a loss of elongation and an increase enhance one or more properties.
in hardness. In the case of natural rubber Rheometer: An instrument for the
this can lead to reversion. Pre-form: See Blank. study of the rheological properties of
Oxidation: The reaction between Processability: The relative ease with elastomers.
oxygen and a rubber which can lead to a which raw or compounded rubber can be RTV: Abbreviation for room temperature
detrimental change in physical properties. processed. This can relate to all aspects vulcanisation.
of manufacturing.
Ozone resistance: The ability to
withstand the deteriorating effect of Processing aid: A compounding
ozone. ingredient that is added to the mix with S
the aim of improving the materials ability
Saturation: Saturated chemical
to be processed.
compounds are those whose constituent
P PU: Abbreviation for polyurethane. molecules contain no double or triple
Parting line: The line on the surface of a valency bonds; such compounds do not
moulded part where the separate mould form addition compounds.
parts meet and create a small clearance R SBR: Abbreviation for styrene-butadiene
gap. rubber.
Radial seal: Seal having compression
PB: Abbreviation for polybutadiene. applied to its outside and inside
Scission: Breaking of chemical bonds.
PCP: Abbreviation for polychloroprene. Scorching: The premature vulcanisation
Radial squeeze: Compression on a seals
Peptiser: A compounding material used of a rubber compound.
outside and inside diameters.
to accelerate, by chemical action, the Secondary accelerator: An accelerator
softening of rubber under the influence of Rapid gas decompression (RGD):
used in smaller concentrations, when
mechanical action or heat (or both). Also known as explosive decompression
compared to the primary accelerator, to
(ED). The rapid release of applied system
achieve a faster rate of vulcanisation.
pressure, causing dissolved gases in

Glossary of terms

Shelf-life: Length of time a moulded Tensile strength: A measure of the stress V

compound can be stored without suffering required to rupture a standard test piece.

Glossary of terms
significant loss of physical properties. Visco-elasticity: A combination of
Terpolymer: A polymer formed from three viscous and elastic properties in a
Shore hardness: The relative hardness monomer species. material.
of an elastomer measured on a Shore
Thermal degradation: An irreversible Viscosity: Resistance to flow.
durometer instrument.
change in the properties of a material due
Shrinkage: The reduction in size upon to exposure to heat. VMQ: Abbreviation for vinyl methyl
cooling of a moulded rubber part. silicone.
Thermal expansion: Linear or volumetric
Solubility: The degree to which one expansion caused by temperature Vulcanisation: Heat induced process
substance will dissolve in another. increase. whereby the long chains of the rubber
molecules become cross-linked by
Sponge rubber: One type of cellular Thermoplastic: Applied to high polymers a vulcanising agent to form three
rubber. Conventional sponge rubber has which soften by the application of heat dimensional elastic structures.
a porous structure, the cells being open and which may be resoftened by heating,
and intercommunicating; it shows very provided chemical decomposition does Vulcanising agent: A compounding
high absorption of water. not take place. material that produces cross-linking in
Spreading: Coating, normally a fabric, Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE): A
with rubber. diverse family of rubber-like materials that,
unlike conventional vulcanised rubbers, W
Sprue: Channel through which the
can be processed and recycled like
elastomer enters the mould cavity; also Water absorption: The amount of water
thermoplastic materials.
the cured elastomer remaining in this absorbed by a material under specified
channel. Transfer moulding: The process of test conditions.
moulding a material by forcing rubber
Squeeze: The amount of radial or axial Weathering: The tendency of rubbers
from a reservoir chamber through a
compression of a seal between two to surface crack on exposure to
gate into the moulding cavity of a closed
surfaces when installed. atmospheres containing ozone and other
Stabiliser: A substance added to a pollutants.
Thermoset: Materials that undergo
rubber to maintain properties at or near Weld line: See Knit line.
chemical cross-linking of their molecules
their initial values during its production,
when processed, and cannot be softened
processing and storage.
and reshaped following further application
Staining: Change of colour of a rubber of heat. X
when exposed to light or change of colour XNBR: Abbreviation for carboxylated
TR-10: A measure of the low-temperature
in a material in contact with, or adjacent nitrile rubber.
capability of an elastomer. It is the
to, a rubber.
temperature at which a stretched and
State of cure: The degree of frozen specimen has retracted 10% of
vulcanisation of a rubber compound. the stretched amount. TR stands for
'temperature retraction'.
Static seal: A seal between parts that
have no relative motion.
Sulphur: An agent responsible for the U
vulcanisation of some rubbers.
Ultimate elongation: The percentage a
specimen was stretched at the point of
Under-cure: A condition where rubber
Tack: The property that causes contacting has not been cured to its optimum state
surfaces of unvulcanised rubbers to stick and will exhibit a reduction in its physical
to each other. properties.
Tackifier: A compounding material that Unsaturation: In organic compounds
enhances the ability of vulcanised rubber the linking of some of the atoms of the
to adhere to itself or another material. molecule by more than one valency bond,
Tear resistance: Resistance to the growth ie, double or triple bonds.
of a nick or cut in a rubber specimen UV absorber: A compounding material
when tension is applied. that retards the deterioration caused by
Tear strength: The maximum force sunlight and other UV light sources.
required to tear a specified test specimen.

About James Walker

About James Walker Industry leading research

About James Walker

James Walker works at the forefront Rotary and reciprocal application

of materials science and fluid sealing test rigs
technology to create engineered solutions
World-leading rapid gas decompression
for virtually every industrial sector. We are
testing facility
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and seeking to develop new compounds Chemical compatibility testing
and variants that will address the Pilot plant allows batch compounding
operational problems faced by our clients for product and manufacturing tests
and the industry sectors we serve. Across Environmental chambers offers
industries as diverse as aerospace, power testing of components across a wide
generation and bioprocessing, James temperature range. The company has a long history of
Walker technical ability and expertise has
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as class-leading, best practice products
improvement, problem solving, adapting
and solutions.
or modifying existing equipment through
to manufacture. Our expertise includes
the capability to re-engineer existing
High performance elastomers applications. Early involvement in the
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Over 300 grades formulated and engineering aspects of both the elastomer
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Elastomers developed to meet optimum the cost and efficiency of the product
requirements development and production process.
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With our own, in-house laboratories, components
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This allows us to provide the flexibility under vacuum
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moulded in place
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Bonding to metals and plastics, plus
production of special composites
Complex, thin-walled 3D mouldings
Liquid silicone rubber and thermoplastic
elastomer moulding expertise.

of terms

Free copies of these technical brochures and white papers can be requested from your local James walker company or downloaded
from the website at;

Elastomeric seals & components for

Walkersele Radial Lip Seals Hydraulic Sealing Guide
the Oil & Gas industry Issue 9 Issue 28.2

Rod/gland seals
High-efficiency lip seals for Piston seals
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O Ring Guide & Bioprocessing industries Precision elastomer engineering
Issue 6 Issue 2.1

The comprehensive guide to O ring

sealing systems including
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Innovation from product design and process

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High Performance Sealing Technology High Performance Sealing Technology

'O' ring guide Sealing products for the Precision elastomer

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EPDM materials for the pharmaceutical Low temperature sealing capability

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and bioprocessing industry of o-rings and low temperature sealing performance

A white paper presented by A white paper presented by

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High Performance Sealing Technology High Performance Sealing Technology

High Performance Sealing Technology

EPDM materials for the Low temperature sealing RGD resistance and
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Health warning: If PTFE or fluoroelastomer (eg, FKM, FFKM, FEPM) products are heated to elevated temperatures, fumes will be produced which may give unpleasant
effects, if inhaled. Whilst some fumes are emitted below 250C from fluoroelastomers or below 300C from PTFE, the effect at these temperatures is negligible. Care
should be taken to avoid contaminating tobacco with particles of PTFE or fluoroelastomer, or with PTFE dispersion, which may remain on hands or clothing. Material
Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available on request.
Information in this publication and otherwise supplied to users is based on our general experience and is given in good faith, but because of factors which are outside
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