Inflatable seals are a common component used in a wide range of applications, most commonly found in sealing doors, windows, hatches, and other access points. While inflatable seals can provide excellent sealing performance, they are also prone to certain defects by mishandling, which can compromise their effectiveness and durability. In this article, we will explore some of the most commonly made mistakes made when applying inflatable seals and how to avoid them.
1. Improper sizing
One of the most common mistakes when using inflatable seals is improper sizing. If the seal is too small, it will not provide adequate sealing, furthermore when an inflatable seal is too small for its groove it is under constant tension. This dramatically shortens the lifespan of inflatable seals. While, if it is too large, it may not fit properly and may be prone to damage. It is important to ensure that the seal is sized correctly for the application, taking into account factors such as the width of the gap, the pressure required to seal, and the expected range of motion. It is always advised to consult a sealing expert for the appropriate sizing.
2. Incorrect material selection
Inflatable seals are available in a variety of materials, each with specific properties that cater to different applications. Selecting an unsuitable material can result in premature failure, decreased sealing performance, and potential safety hazards. When choosing the appropriate material, it is crucial to consider factors such as temperature, chemical compatibility, and abrasion resistance. For example, using an inflatable seal made of silicone in an application involving oil or petroleum-based substances would be inappropriate, as silicone has poor resistance to these chemicals. In this case, a more suitable material like nitrile rubber (NBR) or fluorocarbon (FKM) should be chosen instead, due to their superior resistance to oils and chemicals. By carefully evaluating the specific requirements of each application and selecting the right material, the longevity and performance of inflatable seals can be maximized.
3. Improper installation
Incorrect installation is another frequent issue when working with inflatable seals. If the seal is not properly installed, it may fail to provide adequate sealing or become susceptible to damage. It is essential to adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines and take into account factors such as the seal’s orientation, pressure, and positioning. For instance, if the seal is installed with its inflation point facing away from the mating surface, it may lead to uneven inflation and inadequate sealing. To avoid installation errors, it is advisable to seek assistance from a sealing expert.
4. Overinflation or underinflation
Inflating the seal either too much or too little can cause a range of problems, including reduced sealing performance, premature wear and tear, and potential safety hazards. It is crucial to ensure that the seal is inflated to the correct pressure, considering factors such as the intended use, the size of the seal, and the required sealing performance. It’s important to note that the manufacturer’s recommended pressures are always based on a closed groove or inflation while the seal is in its groove. Inflating the seal to the recommended pressure outside of the groove can lead to damage or incorrect functioning. For example, overinflating a seal can cause excessive stress on its material, leading to a shortened service life, while underinflating can result in insufficient contact with the mating surface and poor sealing performance.
5. Poor maintenance
Inadequate maintenance is another common mistake when working with inflatable seals. Regular maintenance is vital to guarantee that the seal remains in good condition and continues to provide dependable sealing performance over time. Proper maintenance may include cleaning the seal, inspecting it for signs of wear and tear, and replacing it as necessary. For example, neglecting to clean debris from the seal’s surface could cause abrasion or damage during inflation, ultimately reducing its effectiveness. By establishing a routine maintenance schedule and following the manufacturer’s recommendations, the longevity and reliability of inflatable seals can be maintained.
In conclusion, inflatable seals can provide excellent sealing performance in a wide range of applications, but they are also prone to a number of common mistakes that can compromise their effectiveness and durability. By avoiding these mistakes and following best practices for installation, maintenance, and use, it is possible to ensure that inflatable seals provide reliable sealing performance over the long term.