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Spring Types and Materials in Sealing Systems

Springs are an integral part of all sealing systems. A simple air cylinder has O-rings to seal in the air, and the O-ring exhibits spring-like qualities to ensure a good seal over a broad temperature range.

But what are the different types of springs and materials in sealing systems? And how do you choose the best for your application?

image of metal spring types

Metal Springs

Metal springs, such as the Cantilever and Canted Coil spring, are used to energize polymers such as Teflon and ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW) to allow sealing in a wide range of temperatures. Selecting the correct spring material is critical to the life of the seal.

Metal energized seals are often subjected to a wide variety of fluids and temperature ranges, which then requires the correct material choice for the life of the seal in the application.

One of the earliest metal springs was the flat band or marcel expander, often made from common materials like 300 series Stainless Steel or heat treated 17-7 Stainless Steel.

These materials are often chosen for their tensile strength. But due to the cost to manufacture and the high volumes of spring required, these two expanders were often relegated to industrial or aerospace hydraulic systems.

If system fluids were not compatible with Stainless Steel, customers generally went to a different sealing system to avoid the high cost of short runs in these styles of energizers.

O-Rings cover a wide range of temperatures, and fluids, but generally not both. If there are multiple fluids involved, O-Rings often fail to provide compatibility over a range of fluids.

The use of Cantilever, Canted Coil or Helical coiled spring allowed for long runs and lower costs. The most common spring material is Stainless Steel, but these styles of spring lend themselves to materials that have a wide range of chemical and temperature range while maintaining tensile strength.

Alternative Spring Materials

Some of the more common alternative materials are Hastelloy and Elgiloy. While 17-7 is available, it’s seldom used because Elgiloy (while more expensive per pound) is often run at a higher volume, bringing the overall cost down making 17-7 less attractive due to cost.

Another style metal spring for polymers is the Garter spring. Garter springs are normally run on a per job basis, but because it’s made from wire, it can easily be wound from any material like Elgiloy or Stainless.

Garter springs are often used in rubber style lip seals, but we often find them coupled with polymer-style seals.

Mechanical Seals

Mechanical face seals typically marry a material with the fluids the seal will be running in. Mechanical seals have the overall body and internal springs made from specific materials capable of handling variations in temperature and fluids.

PEEK in Seals

Polymers are thought of as seal materials, but PEEK has been used as a spring in polymer-style seals. PEEK can be wound into helical style springs, and also formed into cantilever springs. As a Helical style, it can be wound into a diameter to energize Teflon or rubber lip seals.

If you consider radiation service, a PEEK spring makes an excellent choice keeping metals out of the seal.

How to Choose the Right Spring Material

While there are a variety of metals, often economics determine the practicality of specialty metals.

A consideration is reviewing the hardware used in the application as to what spring material is acceptable in an application. We often review what the customer is using in the rest of the service for determining a spring material.

Temperature is often a key factor in determining materials for spring. Elgiloy tends to do an excellent job in maintaining tensile strength at elevated temperatures.


The original article can be found on Eclipse Engineering’s website and was written by Cliff Goldstein.

Gallagher Fluid Seals is an authorized distributor of Eclipse engineering. For more information about choosing the right spring material for your application, contact our engineering department today.

The Many Uses of Polytetrafluoroethylene Seals (Teflon)

Better known as Teflon in the industry, Polytetrafluoroethylene is widely used in practically every industry on and off the planet (and even beneath its surface!)

Medical Uses

white ptfe o-ring-teflonThis material’s primary claim to fame is its resistance to most chemicals. It inherently has an extremely low coefficient of friction, it’s easily machined from rods, tubes, or compression-molded shapes.

It’s one of the few polymers that are approved for medical implants due to its inertness to bodily fluids — the immune system principally ignores its presence in the body.

Moving away from the body, you’ll find PTFE or Teflon products in medical devices such as heart lung machines, rotary tools for cutting, and sealing devices for maintaining fluid streams for irrigation and pumping. Tiny fragments that may come loose during usage are not harmful to the body, and simply pass through the system.

Pharmaceutical Uses

In the pharmaceutical industry, Teflon is used in the processing of drugs for equipment used to manufacture such as mixers, presses, and bushings. Teflon is found in a variety of applications, as any debris from the seal will pass through the body without consequence.

When considering press machinery (which are often water driven to ensure any leakage will not spoil the product), Teflon seals are often used to help reduce friction — especially in repetitive presses where a build-up of heat would be detrimental to the seal and the product.

Food & Beverage Uses

Mixers are another area to ensure keeping grease and other contaminants from the motor to not descend into the product from the mixer shaft.

Another area is pressure vessels where two shells are clamped together to ensure product remains sealed inside. Failure of these seals usually results in loss of product.

Non-metal bearings that don’t requiring grease in rotary motion are an excellent place for Teflon style bushings. These bushings provide long life with very low friction while not contaminating the product. Shaft wear from the bushing may be eliminated with the use of Teflon.

Types of PTFE (Teflon) Seals

Seals in the medical field can be as simple as a static O-Ring, or a mechanical face seal which is costly and requires special consideration during installation. Most dynamic applications can be resolved with spring-energized style seals, which often have very low friction and can be clean in place (CIP) if required.

There are different styles of springs, such as cantilever or canted coil that provide varying loads. The cantilever-style spring-energized seal provides a linear load based on deflection providing a high level of seal-ability. It can be silicone-filled to provide CIP for ease of washing, and there are a variety of materials that are FDA compliant and that work well in both viscous and pure aqueous fluids.

Canted coil spring-energized seals provide a unique feature of controlling the load the spring exhibits on the sealing element. This allows for control of a device being manipulated during a procedure.

The polymer properties give the user materials with the lowest possible friction, while still sealing in an application. The load from a canted coil spring allows the user to feel a tool in a catheter while passing the catheter through a tube, and still retaining a seal.

As you can see, PTFE has a variety of uses across a broad range of industries. GFS’ partner, Eclipse Engineering, manufactures PTFE and can help provide solutions to customers facing both simple fixes or complex problems.

Contact us today to see if PTFE might be the right choice for your application.


For custom engineered parts, or for more information about a variety of PTFE seals we can provide, contact Gallagher Fluid Seals today.

The original article was written by Eclipse Engineering and can be found on their website.

Angled Spring Grooves for Custom Spring Energized Ball Seats

A ball valve is a simple and robust valve used in applications and industries across the spectrum. It consists of a ball with a hole through the center that can be rotated 90°.

custom spring energized ball seat

The hole is either aligned with flow and open, or perpendicular to flow and closed. The straightforward, quarter-turn action is fast and simple to operate, and the position of the handle provides a clear indicator of whether the valve is open or closed.

Most ball valves are typically used as a shut-off valve. Many households likely use ball valves at some point in the water supply plumbing.

Not relegated to common plumbing, many industries use ball valves for critical control applications including aerospace and cryogenics. Their reliable operation and high-pressure handling ability make them an attractive solution for many specialty operations.

Seals Inside a Ball Valve

The seals inside the ball valve play an important role in their performance and reliability. There are two main seals in a common ball valve, which are referred to as seats.

The seats are typically machined or molded to match the diameter of the ball and are mechanically compressed against the ball face. Seat material varies by application needs, but virgin PTFE is frequently used for this application.

The Client’s Issue

The customer wanted a very specialized ball seat: utilizing a spring energizer in the seat. While easy to suggest, this would create a significant challenge in how the seal is manufactured.

The customer was looking for a sealing solution for a ball valve in their industrial gas processing plant. The ball valve would serve as a critical shut-off point in the system. The valve would be actuated by an electric motor, and could therefore be operated remotely.

The customer was looking for an improvement in the overall wear life of the ball seats, while still providing consistent and predictable actuation torque. Being motor activated, the torque required to move the ball open or closed was limited—so the friction generated by the ball seats would need to be carefully controlled.

Operating Conditions:

  • Ball Valve Seat
  • Ball Diameter: Ø2.500”
  • Media: Petroleum Processing Gases
  • Pressure: 100 PSI
  • Temperature: -40° to 175°F

The Challenge

Continue reading Angled Spring Grooves for Custom Spring Energized Ball Seats

How AMS3678 Ensures Consistency in Sealing Materials

When it comes to designing and developing seals, the aerospace and industrial industries need a basis to allow production anywhere in the world.

One of the first PTFE (Teflon) standards, AMS3678, describes Teflon and the addition of fillers. This was used in conjunction with Mil-R-8791, which is one of the Mil specs describing a backup ring device.

The origin of all these specs dates back to the creation of the O-ring.

AMS3678The Origin of the O-Ring Patent

In 1939, Niels A. Christensen was granted a U.S. Patent for “new and useful improvements in packings and the like for power cylinders.” These referred to improved packing rings made of “solid rubber or rubber composition very dense and yet possessive of great liveliness and compressibility.” These products were suitable for use as packings for fluid medium pistons (liquid or air). The improved packing ring is the modern O-ring.

There was a progression of standards for the O-rings created by individual countries, such as AS568, BS 1806, DIN 3771, JIS B2401, NF T47-501, and SMS 1586. Eventually, AS568 became more accepted in the industry.

The backup ring was originally created to help improve the O-ring’s ability to resist extrusion. Teflon was widely used as one of the materials for backup ring devices. Standards were created to unify the production of this Teflon device.

The Progression of Mil Specs

The progression of standard changes has led to AMS3678/1 for Virgin PTFE through AMS3678/16. These standards describe a group of Virgin- and filled-PTFE materials accepted by the industry for manufacturing seals and back-up ring devices.

Mil-R-8791 was canceled in February 1982. This spec was superseded with AS8791, which eventually evolved into AMS3678.

AMS3678 is a tool used by customers and Teflon suppliers to create uniformity in the manufacturing and processing of seal and bearing materials. The standard is inclusive of most of the compounds upon which the industry was built.

When customers approach with an old “mil spec”, they are pushed to the new AMS spec which is currently active. Eclipse manufactures to the spec so their customers will have the confidence that they manufacture to a known standard.

When crossing custom materials from well-known sources, customers are driven to an accepted spec that is equivalent to the original source of the material. This helps customers sell their products with internationally-known materials rather than custom, home-grown compounds that are often intended to single source those materials.

There are several qualifications of the spec that suppliers must observe. This includes dimensional stability tests. This test ensures the material has been properly annealed, and that the seal or backup ring will fit and function as it was originally intended.

Eclipse is uniquely qualified to supply parts to the latest AMS3678 specification. They understand the scope of the specification which allows us to ship parts with fully traceable certification.

AMS3678 helps validate a material to a customer to ensure they get the same material processed the same way with each order. Beyond this, there are other ways to determine what makes a part process-capable.

Continue reading How AMS3678 Ensures Consistency in Sealing Materials