Category Archives: Elastomers

Water Regulations and NSF 61 Compliant Elastomers

Replacing Aging Water Infrastructure With NSF Compliant Materials

There are over 155,000 public water systems in the United States and more than 286 million Americans who rely on community water systems daily.  Since most of the infrastructure was built between the early 1900’s and 1960 using outdated technology/products and capabilities, nearly everything is approaching the natural end of it’s lifespan.

Some estimates put the repairs and replacement of thePicture of NSF Compliant Gaskets infrastructure between $250B and $500B over the next 20-30 years. Several applications will need to be updated or fully replaced for the safety of consumers and quality of delivery, including:

  • Joining and sealing materials
  • Mechanical devices
  • Pipes or related products
  • Process media
  • Plumbing devices
  • Non-metallic potable water materials
  • Hydrants
  • and Public drinking water distribution (tanks and reservoirs, maters, individual components)

Joining and Sealing Materials

When these systems were being constructed and assembled decades ago, there were limited regulations and requirements that needed to be met. Gaskets, at least the traditional ones, were often made in two different ways: (1) Red Rubber (ASTM D1330 Grade 1 &2) with compressed non-asbestos or (2) cloth-inserted rubber with compressed asbestos.

However, today’s acceptable gasket requirements for the potable water industry differ greatly from those in the past. Gaskets have strict guidelines to abide by and must be:

  • Chemically resistant
  • NSF compliant
  • Food grade compliant
  • Electrically isolating

Because of the need for health and safety, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) was created in order to establish minimum requirements for the control of potential adverse human health effects from products that contact drinking water. In addition to gaskets, the NSF covers a variety of products and parts relevant to the water industry, including: pipes, hoses, fittings, cements, coatings, gaskets, adhesives, lubricants, media, water meters, valves, filters, faucets, fountains, and more.

So you might ask – why does the NSF require different materials and regulations for gaskets compared to years ago?

First things first – leaks are a major issue with the aging infrastructure. Improperly placed gaskets & seals or faulty products can cause leaks. This in turn could pose health risks to people drinking potable water or using products processed with potable water.

Additionally, the treatment process and chemicals utilized are Picture of NSF 61 Compliant Sealsdifferent from previous “standard” products. For example, research and testing over many years has concluded that traditional gaskets, which were used many years ago, could pose a safety threat to those drinking water processed with specific materials. This led to updated regulations for NSF 61’s drinking water system components.

Lastly, engineered sealing solutions are more important than ever. There’s a wide variety of custom engineered water systems throughout the U.S. – climate, geographic terrain, and the needs of the community are all reasons for why water infrastructure is so unique. Because of this, custom gaskets, seals, and other products are needed to supplement those systems.

Luckily there are many companies dedicated to providing the highest quality NSF 61 products. These trusted brands have proven materials to count-on when replacing or repairing water infrastructure:

Garlock’s NSF 61 Family of products

Parker’s NSF compliant products

Freudenberg’s new generation of NSF products

For more information on how Gallagher Fluid Seals’s engineers can help you with a custom solution, call us at 800.822.4063

The Basics of Microwave Absorber Materials

Article re-posted with permission from Parker Hannifin Sealing & Shielding Team.
Original content can be found on Parker’s Blog.


You’ve probably heard a bit about microwave absorbers and how they are used to reduce or absorb the energy that is present in a microwave. But what are they exactly? And how do they work? Go ahead, read on.

What are microwave absorbers?Picture of Microwave Absorber

Simply put, microwave absorbers are special materials, often elastomer or rubber based, which are designed to offer a user-friendly approach to the reduction of unwanted electromagnetic radiation from electronic equipment. They also work well to minimize cavity to cavity cross-coupling, and microwave cavity resonances. When comprised of a silicone elastomer matrix with ferrous filler material, microwave absorbers provide RF absorption performance over a broadband frequency range from 500 MHz to 18 GHz.

Continue reading The Basics of Microwave Absorber Materials

A Guide to Elastomer Technology in Mechanical Seals

Elastomer Technology in Mechanical Seals

Evaluate properties of rubber during installation and seal life.

Elastomers (or rubbers) are a ubiquitous family of materials whose use stretches across nearly the entire range of mechanical seal designs.  From plant-sourced natural rubber, so named by John Priestly in 1770 for its utility in rubbing away pencil graphite, to petroleum-sourced synthetic rubber first developed around the turn of the 20th century, the “elastomer” and their properties are familiar but should not be overlooked—especially when dealing with mechanical seals.

How Elastomers Work in Mechanical Seals

Rubber seals come in a variety of profiles—O-rings, cup gaskets, bellows diaphragms, sealing/wiper lips and many others. They are classified as either static or dynamic and create positive pressure
against surfaces to eliminate or control the leakage of liquids and/or gases while preventing the entrance of external contaminants such as dust and dirt. Static sealing occurs between adjacent surfaces with no relative motion, such as between the pump casing and cover. Due to frictional wear and heat generation, dynamic sealing is less straightforward, occurring between adjacent surfaces that are continuously or intermittently moving relative to another, such as between the pump casing and shaft.

In mechanical face seals, elastomers tend to take second chair because the primary seal—the dynamic seal between the housing and rotating shaft—is achieved by sliding contact between the pair of stiffer, lapped-flat sealing faces, one stationary in the housing and one rotating with the shaft. In many designs, rubber provides the secondary seal between each seal face and adjacent surface. One seal face is fixed and sealed statically using an O-ring or cup gasket. The other is spring-loaded and requires a semi-dynamic seal to accommodate some axial play, such as a dynamic O-ring in pusher-type mechanical face seals or elastomeric bellows in nonpusher ones. These semi-dynamic applications (involving flexing and sliding of the elastomer) can be critical for maintaining proper contact between the faces through face wear, shaft movement, etc.

Although the seal face pair tends to be the most critical design feature, mechanical face seals are  often used in the most demanding applications.

Rubber technology features prominently in radial lip seals, where typical applications have lower pressurevelocity (PV) values relative to those involving mechanical face seals. Still, the flexible elastomer lip must handle considerable relative motion in the form of shaft/bore rotation, reciprocation or a combination of both. In addition to standard designs and sizes, numerous customizations and proprietary approaches exist. The simplest designs rely on a single rubber lip’s inherent resiliency, although common enhancements include multiple sealing lips, a circumferential garter spring installed in a groove over the sealing lip to maintain contact with the shaft, and an auxiliary wiper lip or “excluder” to prevent abrasive dust or debris from compromising the primary sealing surface. For improving service life and performance in rotary applications, unidirectional or bidirectional hydrodynamic pumping aids can be added in the form of custom-shaped extrusions on the backside of the sealing lip to return leaked fluid to the sealing interface, increase lip lubrication and lower operating temperatures.

Diagram of secondary, dynamic elastomeric seals in mechanical face seals.

Benefits of Rubber

The definition of an elastomer provides initial insight into where rubber gets its resilient sealing quality: “a macromolecular material which, in the vulcanized state and at room temperature, can be stretched repeatedly to at least twice its original length and which, upon release of the stress, will immediately return to approximately its original length.”

When the rubber is squeezed by the adjacent surfaces of the clearance gap to be sealed, it has the characteristic
properties of malleably deforming and taking the shape of each  surface in response to the stress and applying a force back against the surfaces in its attempt to return to its original dimensions. Elastomers consist of large molecules called polymers (from the Greek “poly” meaning “many” and “meros” meaning “parts”), which are long chains of the same or different repeating units, called monomers, usually linked together by carbon-carbon bonds (the
most notable exception being silicone elastomers, which are linked by silicon-oxygen bonds). Soft and hard plastics are also composed of polymers. However, the regularity of the monomers in their polymer chains allows neighboring segments to align and form crystals, making the macromolecular plastic material rigid and inelastic.

One can prevent this crystallization by breaking up the regularity of the polymer chain, resulting usually in a viscous “gum” that is readily shaped into molds. At the molecular level, the polymer chains are similar to spaghetti-like strands flowing past each other.

During the process of vulcanization, Representatin of three polymer chains after formation of crosslinking via vulcanizationor curing, the viscous liquid is heated with sulfur or peroxides and other vulcanizing agents, and crosslinks form between polymer chains, tying them together with chemical bonds, converting the gum into an elastic, thermoset solid rubber that retains its shape after moderate deformation.

In addition to the selection and preparation of base polymer(s) and cure system ingredients, formulating the final rubber product, also known as compounding, involves five other broad categories of ingredients, which have percentage compositions expressed in parts per hundred rubber (phr). Fillers include various powders that thicken the polymer mixture, improve strength and resistance to abrasives, and reduce final cost. Plasticizers are oils and other liquid hydrocarbons that lower viscosity to ease processing, soften the final compound and in some cases improve low temperature performance. Process aids are specialized chemicals added in low concentrations to improve mixing, flow properties and final appearance.

Antidegradants protect the rubber from environmental attack. Finally, various miscellaneous ingredients may be added for special purposes, including foaming agents, dyes, fungicides, flame
retardants, abrasives, lubricants and electrically conductive particles. A simplified description of processing these ingredients includes mixing via tangential or intermeshing mixers, forming into desired shapes and vulcanizing into the final product.

Continue reading A Guide to Elastomer Technology in Mechanical Seals

The Rise of Metal Detectable O-Rings

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Every year, nearly 1 in 6 people in the U.S. get sick (~48 million people), 100,000+ are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses or diseases, according to data from the CDC. Though this is largely a preventable problem, it still poses a significant public health burden.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted by Congress in 2011, is “transforming the nation’s food safety system by shifting the focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it.”

Although one might think the relevancy of the FSMA isPastries on a Conveyor Belt more geared towards the food or beverage product itself, this act is actually vital to the processing operations in food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industry.

Over time, exposure to continuous vibration, volatile temperatures, and corrosive chemicals can cause O-rings in processing operations to become worn and eventually fail. When this occurs, particles of rubber from seals and gaskets can shear-off and migrate through sanitary systems, piping mechanisms, or by other means, eventually entering the product stream.

In some cases when a problem is discovered, equipment must be shut down and visual inspections conducted to find the source of contamination. This leads to downtime, lost production, and lost revenue. If the contaminant ends up in the supply chain, even more risk is assumed due to recalls or litigation.

Enter the metal detectable O-ring.

Continue reading The Rise of Metal Detectable O-Rings

Elastomer Seals for Instrumentation: Seal/Groove Design

Seal Design: Instrumentation IndustryGallagher recently released our High Performance Elastomer Seals for the Instrumentation Industry White Paper.  This was written by Russ Schnell, an Elastomer Consultant contracted by Gallagher Fluid Seals, and a former Senior Application Engineer with the Kalrez® perfluoroelastomer parts business at DuPont.  This white paper is now available for download on our Resources page.

Below is the third and final section of the white paper, which will discuss the importance of proper seal and groove design.


Proper Seal & Groove Design

Elastomer Seal: Perfluoroelastomer PartsProper seal design is a necessity for elastomer seals to perform reliably over the long term. Many of the instrument applications mentioned above use o-ring seals. The suggested compression for an elastomer o-ring seal to perform properly is typically a minimum of 16%, and a maximum of 30%. However, this range must also take into account the thermal expansion of an elastomer at elevated temperatures as well as any swell due to chemical exposure. Many of the elastomer seals used in instruments are small o-rings, which can create design issues. This is especially true for perfluoroelastomer parts which have a relatively high coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). Fluoroelastomers have a lower CTE, making seal design easier at elevated temperatures.

Continue reading Elastomer Seals for Instrumentation: Seal/Groove Design

[VIDEO] How to Choose a Fluoroelastomer

Fluoroelastomer Basics - Consideration When Choosing a FluoroelastomerGallagher Fluid Seals recently posted our new Fluoroelastomer Basics webinar on gallagherseals.com.  This is the third and final section of our webinar, focusing on Considerations When Choosing a Fluoroelastomer. The full video is now available on our Resources page.

This video discusses considerations when choosing a fluoroelastomer, including temperature performance range, performance in harsh chemical exposure, and the need to take caution when using fluoroelastomer blends.

[VIDEO] Fluoroelastomer Materials

Gallagher Fluid Seals recently posted our new Fluoroelastomer Basics webinar on gallagherseals.com.  This is the second section of our webinar, focusing on Fluoroelastomer Materials. The full video is now available on our Resources page.

This section of the video discusses different fluoroelastomer materials, along with their mechanical and physical properties, and in which applications they’re normally found.

[VIDEO] Basic Understanding of Fluoroelastomers

Fluoroelastomer Basics - DOWNLOAD VIDEOGallagher Fluid Seals recently posted our new Fluoroelastomer Basics webinar on gallagherseals.com.  This is the first section of our webinar, focusing on the Basic Understanding of Fluoroelastomers. The full video is now available on our Resources page.

In this snippet, learn the differences between elastomers and fluoroelastomers, and how the amount of fluorine in an elastomer affects it’s chemical resistance and properties.

 

NEW! Elastomer Failure Modes – Part 4

Failure ModesGallagher recently published its Failure Modes of Elastomers in the Semiconductor Industry White Paper, now available for download on our site.  This white paper discusses common issues that occur with elastomer seals in the semiconductor industry. The excerpt below is the fourth and final section of our new white paper, discussing Volatiles (offgassing) and Particle Generation.  To download the white paper in its entirety, visit our Resources Page, or click on the image to the right.


Failure Modes of Elastomers in the Semiconductor Industry

Failure ModesHigh performance elastomers are found in many applications in the semiconductor industry (see paper titled Perfluoroelastomers in the Semiconductor Industry). Though perfluoroelastomer (FFKM) seals are formulated to meet the highest performance requirements of integrated circuit (chip) manufacturers, even these elastomers can’t solve every sealing application nor will they last forever in service. Additionally, end users need to understand subtle performance differences between perfluoroelastomers in the same product line. For example, one product may be better at minimizing particle generation while another may be better for high temperature services.

Continue reading NEW! Elastomer Failure Modes – Part 4

NEW! Fluoroelastomer Basics Webinar

Fluoroelastomer Basics - DOWNLOAD VIDEOGallagher Fluid Seals recently made our Fluoroelastomer Basics webinar available on the website.

This webinar will discuss:

  • Differences between an elastomer and a fluoroelastomer
  • The important role fluorine plays
  • Types of fluoroelastomers and their features and benefits
  • Material performance comparisons
  • Chemical resistance of fluoroelastomers
  • Temperature ratings of fluoroelastomers
  • Considerations when choosing the right fluoroelastomer for your application

What is an Elastomer?

Fluoroelastomer - Elastomer CrosslinksAn elastomer is made up of long chain polymers which are connected by crosslinks.  Crosslinks are analogous to springs and provide an “elastic” (recovery) nature to the material.  The crosslinks are relatively stable, but can break down under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Continue reading NEW! Fluoroelastomer Basics Webinar