When mechanical seals fail, work stoppage and loss of productivity are just the beginning of the problems that can ensue. In the worst cases, seal failure can damage equipment, harm the environment, and put people and wildlife at risk. The severity of these hazards becomes even greater in harsh environments or when dangerous chemicals are involved. In these circumstances, it is vitally important that every seal put to use is engineered specifically to withstand the conditions it will face in operation.
Regardless of how harsh or benign the environment, a properly engineered seal will perform dependably, without significant repairs or excessive maintenance, for the entirety of its expected service life as determined by its manufacturer.
There are many potential hazards to mechanical seals in industrial use. A seal that is designed, assembled, or installed without heeding these hazards is likely to fail, whether immediately or gradually. Some of the forces at work in a harsh environment include extreme thermal stress, high pressure loads, chemical intrusion, atmospheric contaminants, steam and moisture intrusion, and many others. Any of these can lead to premature fatigue and failure of seal elements.
Choosing the right seal for a harsh environment is critical to protecting equipment, ensuring safety and compliance, optimizing performance and efficiency, and achieving long-term cost savings. Proper seal selection enhances reliability, extends equipment lifespan, and minimizes the risks associated with challenging operating conditions.
Any deviation from expected normal wear and tear is an indication that something needs adjusting in either the seal itself, or in the system that contains it.
Choosing the Wrong Seal
A seal that is inadequately designed, incorrectly installed, or improperly maintained can cause all kinds of problems down the line.
Properly engineered, a mechanical seal will act as a barrier, protecting the internal components of equipment or systems. It prevents the ingress of contaminants and ensures the integrity of the system, enhancing its reliability and lifespan. But when a seal isn’t built for the precise conditions under which it will operate, the ramifications can be severe.
When a seal fails in a harsh environment, the consequences can range from regulatory non-compliance to low productivity and lost revenue, to safety and health hazards, to large-scale ecological damage. The right seal for the job will meet all standards and regulations, ensuring the safety of assets, people and community, while delivering consistently high performance in operation.
Harsh environments can adversely affect the performance and efficiency of equipment. By installing seals specifically designed for actual contextual conditions, you can optimize equipment performance over a longer service life while minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.
Choosing the Right Seal
In many industrial settings, seal failure is a preventable occurrence that can be remedied by revising the specified seal design to better resist the demands of its application and environment. The more hazardous the setting, the more robust a seal needs to be.
Arriving at the appropriate seal design for your application requires the individual and simultaneous consideration of these variables:
The viscosity, temperature, and flow rate of the fluids used will influence the seal design.
Misunderstanding the environmental influence on seal construction can lead to design flaws and misguided material selection. Exposure to certain chemicals can cause deterioration of integral seal elements. Identifying environmental hazards lets you spec the right materials for a successful seal every time.
Operating temperature and pressure, as well as caustic properties of the fluids used, are all critical variables that must be factored in when choosing the right seal.
The larger system into which the seal will be installed must be considered to ensure compatibility with the chosen seal.
Each application has unique requirements, including temperature range, pressure rating, chemical resistance, and durability. With these parameters accurately defined, engineers can develop an effective, efficient seal that will function optimally in its environment.
Though a newly installed seal may perform well initially, performance will degrade quickly if the seal is not properly designed for its environment. Seals should be designed to perform optimally for the duration of the run. If durability is not prioritized, costs can increase dramatically due to frequent seal maintenance or replacement.
Installation and Maintenance
The installation of a mechanical seal is always important to achieving optimal performance. The harsher the environment, the more critical this becomes. The installation process must take into account multiple factors, such as compression, groove design, and surface preparation. Likewise, a maintenance program must be provided to ensure the seal is inspected, operating as designed and replaced at an appropriate interval.
Standards and Regulations
Certain industries, such as pharmaceuticals and food production, have oversight bodies that insist on adherence to strict regulations. The time to address compliance is in the design phase.
Mechanical seals can be expensive, especially when engineered for harsh environments. But the initial outlay of capital can lead directly to long-lasting seals with minimal downtime, less waste and greater productivity on every run.