More about O-Ring Seals

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O-ring seals are some of the most important components in any pressure system. Simple in design, these mechanical seals serve a complex function. Essentially circular elastometer mountings, o-rings form a durable seal when compressed between parts. The cavity where the seal is placed is called a gland. The o-ring seals at each gland are capable of withstanding immense pressures.

O-rings are typically made by a process called molding. Manufacturers use a wide variety of pliable materials in the fabrication of o-rings. These materials include polyurethane, neoprene, silicone, nitrile and other similar products. Using various precision molding processes, manufacturers can customize o-rings for any system. They even create micro-sized o-rings for incredibly precise machines. Some applications that require o-ring seals are hydraulic lifts, aircraft lubrication systems and automotive joints.

It might seem that such small parts have little importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a small o-ring seal contains very high pressures. The space shuttle Challenger disaster is a very dramatic example of the importance of o-rings. Investigators determined that it was the failure of an o-ring due to cold temperatures that caused the explosion.

To determine the appropriate o-ring for your needs, you need to know a number of important details. O-rings specifications are classified by the ring’s inner and cross-section diameters, its material and the material’s hardness. Many custom manufacturers can help you determine what size and type of o-ring you should use. There are also reference materials available that detail mounting information. Make sure your specifications are correct—it could help prevent future disaster.

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