Gaskets, Seals, and Packings

4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8

Face Seals Felt Seals Radial Lip Seals Seal Operating Procedures Axial Face Seals Selection Factors for Seals Split-ring Seals Circumferential Seals

4.12 Compression Packings 4.9 Metallic Gaskets 4.14 Nonmetallic Gaskets 4.10 Gasket Treatments and Coatings 4.16 Diaphragms 4.11 Sealants 4.12 Sealant Selection Factors 4.13 Inflatable Seals

Seal selection is often an imprecise and time-consuming process, involving numerous compromises. Some qualities a seal must have are obvious such as containing the fluids for which it is designed. Also, the seal must be compatible with the fluids it contacts to maintain its physical integrity. Dynamic seals must have good wear resistance to ensure long life. Other, not so obvious factors include having sufficient strength to resist extrusion under maximum temperature and pressure. Stability is required to resist twisting and deformation in the seal cavity. Finally, overall economics must be considered. Unfortunately, some compromise is almost always necessary because the desired features conflict with one another. Loading of a dynamic seal is a good example. High loading between seal and moving surface results in good sealability but also produces high friction and wear. Reducing this load increases seal life but permits more fluid to escape at low pressure. Seal selection is by no means an exact science. In any application, the designer must decide which factor has precedence. The seal often is so critical to the system that it should be considered early in the design. In struggling with these design factors, many OEM designers use the seal manufacturers' expertise.

Face seals Mechanical face seals are a good choice when minimum leakage of the sealed fluid is the most important criterion. The primary sealing interface is between rotating and stationary members that form a plane perpendicular to the shaft. The sealing area is a narrow ring where the two faces contact. One of the sealing faces is usually metal or ceramic and the other is usually graphite or plastic. To keep precision seal faces closed in the absence of hydraulic pressure, some form of loading device, usually a spring, is needed. Loading should be high enough to overcome friction and keep the faces closed under all operating conditions. Unnecessarily high loading will tend to shorten the useful life of the seal. The most common device for supplying a loading force to the seal face is a helical spring. Multiple helical springs, wave springs, bellows, and rubber elements are also used. Standard face seals have been used for pressures up to 3,000 psi, rotating speeds up to 50,000 rpm, and temperatures from -425 to 1,200°F. Special face seals have been developed for pressures up to 10,000 psi. For extremely high pressures, two or more face seals can be lined up in tandem, splitting the pressure differential equally. Mechanical face seals usually cost more than radial oil seals or compression packings. However, the elimination of shaft wear may in some applications justify the increased cost.

Both expanding and contracting seals come as one. special face seals that take less space than conventional face seals are available.Face seals usually take about the same space as packings. and pneumatic cylinders. they are sometimes applied to hydraulic swivel joints and transmissions. Thus. at bore diameters down to 1 3/8 in. wear. In addition. and power waste or else high leakage when the faces separate. The result is either unnecessarily high friction. thermal fatigue. keeping contact load closer to the minimum for effective sealing and enabling the seal to stand larger pressure reversals. there are also disadvantages to balanced seals. unbalanced seals are used whenever their frictional and pressure-reversal characteristics are acceptable. but substantially more room than radial seals. and provide long life under harsh operating conditions. face seals have longer life and can reduce warranty and liability cost. They are subject to catastrophic failure if operating conditions do not closely match design conditions. or piston rings. downtime. tolerate only limited axial motion between shaft and housing. Therefore. reciprocating-shaft applications. relatively inexpensive. and surface finishes of 2 µin. Single-ring straight-cut seals are the simplest and most economical. Unbalanced face seals act like pistons. One-piece or two-piece seals with special joint designs are needed for bidirectional sealing. Pressure balancing reduces the piston action. are not uncommon. Contracting split-ring seals. They typically cost 10 to 50% more than unbalanced seals for the same application because of closer tolerances and more complex seal shapes.6 µin. radiation. and leakage. Split-ring seals Although split-ring seals are most often used for reciprocating motion. Fluid pressure from one direction loads the primary seal ring and mating ring against each other. they cannot be used for long stroke. are used in compressors. internal-combustion engines. but they also leak the easiest. Standard step-cut seals are used for unidirectional sealing where leakage is not critical. They are compact.the rings. . two. Another disadvantage of face seals is their precision. heat generation. and reliability requirements make packings undesirable. And they usually require more space than unbalanced seals. and the seals must be manufactured to cleanliness standards similar to those in the precision-bearing industry. Everything said of piston rings has a counterpart in rod seals. All face seals.and may even separate -. However. Unfortunately. are used in linear actuators where high pressure and temperature. face seals are easy to sterilize and eliminate system contamination by packing fragments. Face flatnesses of 11. Special high-precision step seals are available for applications where leakage is critical. hydraulic cylinders. pumps. Compared with other types of dynamic seals. Three-piece seals are used for very small or very large cylinder diameters. because of their design configurations. or rod seals. rough or careless handling must be avoided. As with most precision devices. Expanding split-ring seals. Pressure from the opposite direction unloads -. and three-piece seals.

000 fpm. Mechanically interlocked synthetic-fiber felt seals withstand attack by strong acids and bases and are stable in water. or out-of-roundness of metal assemblies. embrittlement. . Temperature limit: The usual temperature limits of felt seals are -60 to 250°F. However. Filtration: Wool felt seals. hydraulic fluids. Shaft speeds: Top speed for felt seals is usually 2. At temperatures from -60 to 250°F and operating speeds up to 2. about 78% of the volume of a felt seal serves as oil storage. it resists oil. minor misalignment. which then penetrate into the felt.7µm size and larger. and most solvents. Oil wicking: Capillary properties of a felt seal ensure lubrication after long idle periods. If run dry. even smaller particles are trapped and retained. are highly effective as filters in removing particles of 0. felt seals require relative little shaft pressure to function effectively. end play. in a dry state. or disintegration.22 for dry felt against steel and is substantially reduced when felt is presaturated with oil. When saturated in lubricants. There are applications operating at speeds as high as 4. It is damaged by alkalis. waxes. lubricants. These seals should not be used with oils of extremely low viscosity or to retain pressurized lubricants. common fuels. For these applications. Contact forces in both axial and radial directions must be large enough to overcome friction.000 fpm. they protect surfaces by polishing them rather than scoring them. Other things being equal. Felt seals Unlike lip seals and squeeze packings. they protect and polish rather than score a shaft. Thus. Oil absorption: Storage capacity is largely a function of density. Polishing action: Felt seals trap abrasive particles. synthetic-fiber felts offer a wide range of strength and chemical resistance at temperatures up to 400°F. laminated or impregnated felt should be considered. Plain felt seals afford positive bearing protection and provide a reservoir for lubricant storage -making it available as needed. Advantages of felts seals include: Chemical resistance: Wool felt resists dilute mineral-acid solutions. radial and axial forces should be about the same. They seldom fail through aging. However. They are usually presaturated with lubricants of slightly greater viscosity than that used in the bearing. Felt seals are manufactured in two general types: plain and laminated.000 fpm. Untreated. Plain felt seals are precision-cut washers fabricated from standard grades of felt. where shafts are hard and smooth and where ample lubrication is present in the seal. Resilience: Felt seals maintain constant sealing pressure in spite of wear. and solvents. greases. unless continuously saturated and intermittently dried. plain felt seals are highly economical and require replacement only when the machines in which they are used are overhauled.Garter springs and axial springs can be added to any of the seals to ensure contact at sealing surfaces. Low friction: The coefficient of friction averages 0. They are commonly used near ball and roller bearings as lubricant retainers.

Recommended tolerances range from ±0. install easily. Therefore. Seal operating procedures In most lip seals. Aside from mechanical pressure. film thickness.) must be controlled precisely by the mechanical pressure of the seal element and the shaft finish. An oversize shaft causes the seal lip to exert too much pressure. or colloidal graphite increases the resistance of basic felt to water and mud. Shafts should generally be hardened to at least Rc 30 and have a surface finish of 10 to 20 µin. Because the film does the sealing. show no improvement in seal life and some laboratory evidence indicates that finishes of 2 µin. reducing film thickness. the main factors affecting film thickness are sealed pressure and temperature. its thickness (usually about 0. take little space. one grade for oil retention and a second for dust exclusion. which permits leakage. are primarily used for retaining lubricants in equipment having rotating or oscillating shafts. Stick-slip oscillations cause a surface wave in the seal. a garter or finger spring is usually included in the seal assembly to maintain the desired shaft-contact pressure. fluid leaks. Finishes finer than 10 µin. friction increases. Finishes without spiral lead are preferred.diameter shafts to ±0. Correct shaft diameter is also important.003 in. also know as oil or shaft seals. Overpressure leads to early failure and underpressure promotes leakage. the lip rides on a thin film of lubricant. increasing fluid pressure increases lip-contact pressure. Shaft condition also has a profound effect on sealing. and variations in shaft speed. and film thickness continues to decrease. . petroleum. Maximum permissible pressure for radial lip seals range from 7 psi for shaft speeds below 1. temperature increases.01 in. it can lead to seal failure. Paraffin. In a properly designed and installed seal. They can be used with most oils and hydraulic fluids at moderate pressures over wide temperature ranges and are tolerant of misalignment. hence. the lip wears. The seals are relatively inexpensive.000 fpm to 3 psi for shaft speeds above 2.Laminated felt seals are made by combining grades of felt with layers of impervious elastomer.-diameter shafts and larger. the felt should be saturated with oil or grease of slightly higher viscosity than that used as a lubricant. If this cycle continues. friction increases. reduces viscosity and. for 10-in. The impervious layers of oil-resistant elastomer also stop leakage of low-viscosity liquids through the felt. but if lead is present it should tend to guide the sealed fluid inward. >Although elastomeric lips can provide a constant shaft pressure under a given set of operating conditions. and stick-slip oscillations can result. If too thin. they are sensitive to pressure and temperature changes in the sealed fluid and tend to become harder with age. as sealed pressure increases. To meet special requirements. dynamic shaft runout. improves its resistance to pressurized lubricants. This sandwich construction permits use of two or more felt grades or densities in one seal. undersize shafts result in too little pressure. or finer can shorten seal life because they cannot support an oil film. If the film gets too thick. As the film gets thinner. Radial lip seals Radial lip seals. lip contact pressure increases. In most seals. for 4-in.000 fpm.0001 in. and can handle many types of sealing situations. Increasing temperature. Before installation. and lowers its coefficient of friction. either style can be impregnated with one of several materials. which may stem from increasing shaft speed.

With liquids that form abrasives on contact with air. The sealing lip contacts the axial face to keep contaminants from protected machine parts. dirt. dust. and moisture from bearings and critical machine parts. the seal should be mounted stationary so only the axial face rotates. From 2. but its most important effects are on the secondary seals. For systems with external circulation. Seal contact speeds are then possible to 20. Slight undersizing of the seal ID allows it to constrict. although most manufacturers rate PTFE seals on the basis of 500°F maximum temperature. but care must be taken to prevent coking. Usually. In this method. Lubrication can reduce heat generation at the seal interface. In addition. radial support is required to maintain constriction to the shaft. a buffer zone or quench . it can be used as an auxiliary dirt seal to protect other radial-lip seals. Face materials subject to dry running because of malfunctioning equipment can fail prematurely. Wear resistance depends largely on temperature and chemical factors. abrasion. Up to about 1. Temperature affects all seal materials. PTFE can be used over a temperature range of -400 to 550°F. Asbestos elements have been used up to 650°F. and other contaminants. The rotary-shaft axial face seal can be used as a primary seal for grease and oil. like felt radial seals. but not an oscillating one. centrifugal force may lift the finger away from the axial face.400 to 3. Selection Factors for Seals The primary factors affecting seal selection are temperature. From 1. a backup ring on the shaft is needed when the seal operates in the presence of lubricants. pressure drops can be detected with a pressure-sensitive switch. In this case. sealed pressure. or piston rings can be used.000 fpm. Abrasion is the bane of face seals. U-cups.600 to 2. all seal materials should be virtually impervious to corrosion by the sealed fluid. face materials. Double seals with isolated liquid circulation avoid this hazard. Furthermore. and against water splash.000 rpm. and expected life. holding it in place on the shaft. eccentricity. no backup is required. Above 650°F. Faces should be cleaned before initial start-up to prevent premature failures. an integral pumping ring on the rotating seal element circulates coolant through an inner chamber in the stuffing box. Direct cooling with a cooling chamber and heat exchanger can help control thermal problems. the sealed fluid should be a good lubricant for the materials of the seal head and seat. axial movement. but these seals are considered specials. metal bellows. Above 3. is to protect bearings from contaminants. Rubber rotary-shaft axial face seals provide a contact seal to keep dirt.600 fpm.400 fpm. A flexible lip is tolerant of angular misalignment. The general limitation on temperature for standard synthetics is about 225°F although some are available for uses up to 600°F. bellow seals are needed for hightemperature applications. wear resistance. vibration. yet produces lower friction than other contact-seal designs. To minimize wear.Axial face seals The function of an axial face seal. One proprietary axial face seal is a one-piece ring of molded polymer. It functions on a rotating or stationary shaft. and on abrasives.000 fpm.

some compromise is almost always necessary because the desired features conflict with one another. The ceramics are some of the hardest face materials available and have excellent wear and corrosion properties. tool steel. and often . Reducing this load increases seal life but permits more fluid to escape at low pressure. graphites are generally used as one of the primary sealing elements. many OEM designers use the seal manufacturers' expertise. With liquids that are inherently abrasive. However. they cannot stand tensile stress and are subject to cracking by thermal shock. overall economics must be considered. the designer must decide which factor has precedence. This precaution is particularly necessary with metal bellows. stainless steel. Life expectancy depends on both shelf life and operational life. Seal selection is by no means an exact science. Face materials must be compatible with each other and the sealed fluid. Stability is required to resist twisting and deformation in the seal cavity. metals withstand higher temperatures. High sealed pressure can drastically shorten the life of the sealing faces and should be compensated by seal balancing. The opposing element can be made of ceramics. In struggling with these design factors. The shelf life of metal bellows is practically unlimited. Dynamic seals must have good wear resistance to ensure long life. a double-seal design can be used. iron. low-leakage seals that require less space than face seals. The contacting types undergo high-velocity rubbing at their primary sealing surfaces. The basic precaution is to ensure the seal's natural frequency is higher than the highest imposed frequency. Unfortunately. whereas organic secondary seals may have shorter shelf life. and various other metals plated with dense chrome. With liquids that form abrasives at certain temperatures. Seal selection is often an imprecise and time-consuming process. involving numerous compromises. bronze.gland should be provided between the atmosphere and the seal faces. but are adapted to rotary motion. Vibration can shorten the life of a seal. Also. particularly at elevated temperatures. Within their temperature limits. Circumferential seals are high-speed. High loading between seal and moving surface results in good sealability but also produces high friction and wear. Finally. or a centrifugal separator should be inserted ahead of the seal. not so obvious factors include having sufficient strength to resist extrusion under maximum temperature and pressure. If the sealed liquid cannot be contaminated. In any application. particularly if imposed vibration during operation has a frequency near the natural frequency of the seal. Loading of a dynamic seal is a good example. heating or cooling is necessary to dissolve abrasives near the seal faces. Because of their good mechanical and thermal properties. However. Some qualities a seal must have are obvious such as containing the fluids for which it is designed. the seal must be compatible with the fluids it contacts to maintain its physical integrity. Circumferential seals These seals are quite similar to rod and piston seals. Preventing leaks and contaminant ingression keeps a system operating as intended. The seal often is so critical to the system that it should be considered early in the design. elastomeric bellows have better operational life than metal bellows. a neutral clean liquid can sometimes be injected into the seal chamber. Other.

5 times stem diameter. when compressed longitudinally.200 psi. Hydrostatic seals can only be used with gases. copper. Materials are selected on the basis of service temperature of the application and the process fluid to be used. in which the seal-ring mating surfaces are designed to permit a void between each ring which acts as a lubrication reservoir. Many materials are used in packings. and lead foil. many of these shapes are proprietary developments of specific companies in the packing field. A secondary leakage path exists at the housing surface where the seal is seated. In many applications. Packing material may be supplied in many shapes. Metallic gaskets are also used for temperatures below -65°F. ranging from solid metal to flax or cotton. although they are used in some liquid applications. plastics. but like most rules of thumb.000. Contacting circumferential seals are highly effective for sealing gases. flax. . leather. If the product of operating pressure in psi times operating temperature in °F exceeds 250. or continuous strands of a compressed square-section material. Other conditions calling for metallic gaskets include vacuum below 10-4 torr and radiation above 108 rad. while magnetic seals can be used with both liquids and gases. it has only limited validity. various types of interlocking packing shapes are provided. Some circumferential seals inhibit leakage in both directions. packings are not designed to produce a leak-free seal. some manufacturers advise the packings be lubricated if this leakage falls below specified minimums or if it is of a nonlubricating liquid. Hydrostatic seals may also suffer from instability in the gas film. One very common style is the familiar V-packing. cotton. PTFE elastomers (tapes and solid sections). flexible graphite. above 850°F. Metallic gaskets Metallic gaskets are used for pressure and temperature extremes that cannot be handled by nonmetallic gaskets. Hydrostatic and magnetic seals avoid this difficulty. Instead. but less effective with liquids. including impregnated yarn. the leakage is intended to lubricate the packing material. Compression packings Packings are seals that normally are packed around a shaft or rod and compressed to provide a sealing effect. Packing manufacturers provide detailed information on compatibility and on temperature capabilities of the different packing materials. they expand radially to seal. continuous strands. Normally. Also.require cooling. aluminum and copper braided wire. The modest leakage reduces friction and wear. and formerly asbestos. and for pressures above 1. metallic gaskets should be used. A packing normally consists of many sections (or one long continuous strand wrapped several times to achieve a section effect). The more common varieties include aluminum. An old rule of thumb states that optimum packing length is 1. Primary sealing takes place at the cylindrical surface where high-speed relative motion takes place. they are tightened enough to produce a minimum but positive leakage.

rubber.Nonmetallic gaskets A gasket provides a barrier against fluid transfer across mating static surfaces. They are often used where mating parts must be rotated to close the joint. or combination. Talc and mica dust are applied dry or in an adhesive vehicle to cut surface friction of gaskets. plastics. gaskets are treated with various other metals to achieve better surface properties. Flexible plastic foams and elastomeric sponge are coming into use. Gasket treatments and coatings For many applications. Common fungicides are betanaphthol. resin. cork composition and vegetable fiber are often laminated together. plant and vegetable fibers. encourage or discourage adhesion. as is flexible graphite. and paper. Reflectors such as aluminum paint or lacquer offer some protection to gaskets located near heat sources. and installation breakage. loss of moisture. Fungicides resist mold growth and may be an integral part of the gasket material or applied as surface treatment. For example. Graphite is applied as a dry flake. either may serve as the center filler. mixed with oil. asbestos was widely used. Polysulfide coatings help level the surfaces and promote sealing contact of relatively hard-fiber sheet materials. or resist chemical or microbial attack. Oil and hot paraffin dip coats prevent loss of moisture during storage. These materials are often laminated with each other to combine the properties of a strong but relatively incompressible material with those of a highly compressible but weak material. the most common are cork compositions. Rolling diaphragms are used for longer motions. or in a water emulsion to level surfaces and to inhibit adhesion. cork and rubber. Rubber coatings such as neoprene are applied as a dip coat to reduce oil penetrations. Sealants . Proper selection depends on how well the gasket material meets four basic requirements. Diaphragms Diaphragms are seals that span the gap between reciprocating and stationary members. pentachlorophenhol. They are usually a synthetic rubber. Adhesives are used where an immediate permanent bond is needed. Although many material combinations are suitable for gaskets. depending on end use. salicylanilide and various compounds of copper and mercury. Formerly. Flat and convoluted diaphragms are used where there is relatively little motion involved.

Nonhardening types are characterized by plasticizers that come to the surface continually. are easily replaced. Flameproof sealants are available for hazardous locations. Hardening sealants may be rigid or flexible depending on their composition. Chemical resistance to any specific agent can be obtained by proper formulation. not the least of which are final application and cost. modulus of elasticity. dielectric constant. and dissipation factor. Sealant selection factors Many factors enter into the selection of a sealant. because improperly applied sealants often fail in service. they are not considered to be sealing tapes but simply another form of a heavy-consistency nonhardening sealant. Some nonhardening sealants are so viscous they can be packaged in "tape" form. Weatherability is important for sealants exposed to outdoor service conditions. especially the nonhardening formulations. Adhesion depends largely on the interaction between the sealant and the surface to which it is applied. Some epoxy sealers come in powdered form and must be melted to be applied. especially urethanes and neoprenes. Thermosetting film adhesives used for sealing also come in tape form and require heat and pressure for curing. tear resistance. Nonhardening sealants are characterized by the "mastics" that are applied to seams with a trowel or brush. Mechanical properties of importance include strength. Electrical characteristics vary widely among sealants. Some sealants. compressibility. Production procedures are important. . They cannot be depended on for joining. Certain asphalt-based sealers and waxes are solid and applied by a hot-melt system. and cyclic frequency of the variations. Minor changes in composition can cause major changes in properties. Whether a sealant is hardening or nonhardening depends upon its chemical composition and curing characteristics rather than its initial form. Thermal factors include temperature extremes and variations. Sealants generally come in nonsolid forms in a wide range of viscosities. Proper formulation can to a large extent control dielectric strength. Tapes are available in a variety of backings and with pressure-sensitive or solvent-activated adhesives. elongation.Sealants are categorized as hardening and nonhardening. and fatigue resistance. Repairability is important in applications where the sealant may be broken during service. although some formulations are used as adhesives in very low-stress joints. Nontoxic formulations are available for equipment in contact with foodstuffs. For purposes of this chapter. Abrasion resistance is usually highest among the flexible sealants. so the sealant stays "wet" after application. volume and surface resistivities.

yet allows clearance when needed. When the inflation medium is removed.What is an Inflatable Seal? An inflatable seal is a fabric-reinforced elastomeric tube custom molded in a concave. In some applications. Position A shows the molded configuration and Position B depicts the inflated configuration. it quickly expands to the striking surface. the seal retracts naturally to the deflated "memorized" configuration. radially out. It is designed to round out with the introduction of an inflation medium to form a tight barrier between a mounting and striking surface. It simplifies the design of the structure and hardware. the seal can be molded to the exact configuration. Inflatable Seal Geometry Inflatable seals can be installed in different planes. It minimizes the need for close machining and/or fabricating tolerances. radially in. It is not subject to compression set which negates effectiveness of other seals. A variety of fittings may be attached to the end of the hose. convoluted or flat configuration. . They will conform to many different contours. see the cross section illustration below. Introduction of the inflation medium is through a stem which is usually a flexible hose secured to an integrally molded fitting with a ferrule. liquid or gel may be used as the inflation medium. Why Use an Inflatable Seal? An inflatable seal has several advantages over other sealing methods: It provides a leak-proof closure. The specific parameters of the application determine the optimum operating pressure. For example. axially and any combination thereof. How Does an Inflatable Seal Work? Upon introduction of the inflation medium. The bend radii will vary from seal to seal and if a very sharp or mitered corner is necessary. This position provides clearance for free movement of one or both surfaces. They are made in strips with closed ends or in continuous loops. effecting a positive seal. How is and Inflatable Seal Inflated? The most common inflation medium is regulated air.

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