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Material matters

Step-by-step guide on selecting sealing material

Your choice of sealing material can literally make or break your seal. Thermal and chemical resistance, elasticity, and lubricant compatibility are just some of the critical factors. These four tips can help you arrive at the right decision.

Seals come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Today, there is such a wide range of sealing materials on offer that finding the right one for your application is a real challenge. Add to that the different grades, brand names, and designations, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Although there is often no one-size-fits-all solution, following this guide will help you narrow down the options. 

1. Know your application 

Whether they’re used in construction machinery or on the main shaft of a ship, seals often operate in harsh conditions. Before choosing a seal, it is essential to know the operating temperatures, physical forces, and external contaminants that your seal will be exposed to. PTFE compounds, for example, can withstand wider temperature ranges than natural rubber. 

2. Understand compatibility 

Lubrication is vital in reducing friction and wear on the seal. But certain lubricants and other media, such as cleaning agents and hydraulic fluids, can have negative effects on particular sealing materials. Always check the chemical resistance and compatibility before selecting a sealing material or lubricant.  

3. Check standards and certification 

For environment, health, and safety reasons, many industries require you to use certified sealing materials. In the food and beverage industry, for example, you must use seals that meet food safety and hygiene standards according to organizations such as the FDA or EFSA. Similarly, in the oil and gas industry, sealing materials must fulfill NORSOK or API regulations to ensure they can withstand aggressive chemicals and extreme temperatures. 

4. If in doubt, look for support 

As choosing sealing material involves many factors, it can be useful to seek expert advice. Many suppliers provide a list of lubricants approved for use with their seals. It can also help to refer to seal selection tables for more information, such as temperature ranges and pressure differentials. Speak to SKF for further advice and tools to help you find the right seal for your needs.