Is Chemical Resistance Overrated? A Deep Dive into Material Selection

Offshore bearing seals

Why You’ve Been Choosing Sealing Materials All Wrong: The Untold Story of Chemical Resistance

Introduction: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom on Chemical Resistance

For years, the sealing industry has been hyper-focused on chemical resistance as the primary factor in material selection. While it’s undeniable that resistance to chemicals plays a crucial role in the performance and longevity of seals, this article aims to challenge conventional wisdom by exploring interesting angles and unpopular opinions on the subject. By examining lesser-known sealing materials, we will showcase how sometimes going against the grain can lead to innovative solutions.

The Hidden Advantages of Lesser-Known Sealing Materials

NBR, EPDM, VMQ, FKM, FFKM, PTFE, and PU are all well-established materials in the sealing industry. However, there are several lesser-known materials that, although they might not boast superior chemical resistance, have their own unique advantages. In this section, we will uncover these hidden gems, including materials like HNBR, AFLAS, and PEEK, and discuss the potential benefits of using them in specific sealing applications.

HNBR: Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (HNBR) is a material that offers improved temperature resistance, wear resistance, and mechanical strength compared to NBR. It has been successfully used in applications such as automotive and oil & gas, where these properties are highly valued.

AFLAS: As a copolymer of tetrafluoroethylene and propylene, AFLAS is a unique material that offers excellent resistance to heat, oils, and chemicals. Its unique characteristics make it suitable for applications in the chemical processing and automotive industries.

PEEK: Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK) is a high-performance thermoplastic that provides excellent mechanical properties, wear resistance, and dimensional stability. It has been used in industries like aerospace and medical equipment, where these properties are highly desirable.

Challenging Popular Sealing Material Choices: The Real-World Impact

This section will delve into real-world examples of unconventional sealing material choices and how they have performed in various applications. By examining these case studies, we will challenge the notion that chemical resistance is the sole determining factor for successful sealing solutions.

Case Study 1: HNBR in Automotive Applications: An automotive manufacturer producing high-performance engines was facing frequent seal failures in their fuel injection system. The traditional NBR seals were unable to cope with the high temperatures and pressures in the engine, leading to early degradation and failure. After conducting extensive research and testing, the manufacturer decided to replace the NBR seals with HNBR due to its superior temperature resistance and mechanical strength. The result was a significant reduction in seal-related failures, leading to improved engine performance, reduced warranty claims, and increased customer satisfaction.

Case Study 2: AFLAS in Chemical Processing: A chemical processing facility producing highly reactive chemicals was experiencing repeated FKM seal failures in their high-pressure pumps. The aggressive chemical environment was causing the FKM seals to degrade rapidly, leading to frequent leaks and costly downtime. After evaluating various sealing materials, the facility decided to switch to AFLAS, which offered excellent resistance to the specific chemicals being processed. The AFLAS seals were able to maintain reliable sealing performance, even in the highly aggressive chemical environment, resulting in increased pump reliability, reduced maintenance costs, and improved overall plant efficiency.

Balancing Chemical Resistance with Other Critical Factors: A Comprehensive Approach

Chemical resistance is just one aspect of sealing material performance. Factors such as temperature range, mechanical properties, and cost-effectiveness also play a significant role in material selection. In this section, we will discuss the importance of considering these additional factors and how striking the right balance can lead to superior sealing solutions.

Temperature Range: Sealing materials must be able to withstand the temperature range of the application, as temperature extremes can cause material degradation or failure. By considering materials with wider temperature ranges, engineers can ensure seal reliability in challenging environments.

Mechanical Properties: The mechanical properties of sealing materials, such as tensile strength, elongation, and hardness, are critical for ensuring the durability and proper functioning of seals. Selecting materials with suitable mechanical properties for the application can prevent premature failure and improve overall performance.

Cost-effectiveness: While high-performance materials may provide superior chemical resistance, they often come at a higher cost. Engineers must balance material performance with budget constraints to find the most cost-effective solution that meets the application’s requirements.

Unexpected Benefits of Lower Chemical Resistance in Specific Applications

While it may seem counterintuitive, there are certain applications where lower chemical resistance can be advantageous. In this section, we will explore these scenarios and reveal the surprising benefits of choosing materials with lower chemical resistance for specific sealing challenges.

Application 2: Low-Cost, Short-Term Solutions: In a water treatment plant, a temporary sealing solution was required for a non-aggressive chemical storage tank during scheduled maintenance. The initial choice was an FFKM seal, which provided excellent chemical resistance but was costly and not readily available for quick installation. Engineers decided to use an NBR seal, which had lower chemical resistance but was more cost-effective and available for immediate installation. The NBR seal provided adequate sealing performance for the short-term application and allowed the maintenance team to complete the scheduled work without incurring additional costs or delays.

Conclusion: Embracing the Unconventional for Better Sealing Solutions

In conclusion, this article aims to challenge conventional wisdom on chemical resistance and encourage a more holistic approach to sealing material selection. By embracing unconventional materials and strategies, engineers and industry professionals can develop innovative sealing solutions that meet the diverse and ever-evolving needs of various applications. By considering factors such as temperature range, mechanical properties, and cost-effectiveness alongside chemical resistance, professionals can make more informed decisions and optimize sealing performance in any application.