An O-ring is a simple item that you don’t usually see because it is hidden. However, it is of great importance because of its vital use in most of our modern technological products.
O-ring is actually a mechanical seal made in the shape of the letter O and is made from elastic polymer. This ring is designed to seal liquids and gases and therefore, it is often used between the cylinder and piston. But this is not the only use of this mechanical seal.
You can also use it in the circular joints, non-moving parts or to seal static connections of metal components. So if it is just a seal then what great difference it might have encountered? Right? It is only natural for this question to come to your mind.
Here is another question for you then. What is the fundamental feature of these seals?
As the use of O-ring seals was vital, it was necessary to improve their performance. Therefore, the researchers paid attention to the material and how we can improve it. So basically, all the advancements that took place during the time were in the material. Because this is what will give strength and functionality to the seal.
Size and material selection
Over time and with the improvements, we now have a wide variety available in the market. Therefore, now you can have different sizes and material options. Although O-rings are vital for aerospace technologies, they also have their use in basic products. This shows that the need for material varies with the use. All the information related to the calculator and guidelines you can check here at applerubber.com.
If you have to use it in equipment with high-pressure bearing capacity, the material should be capable of that. Likewise, if you need it to seal a gap in the car or bike system, you can have a different material. The material selection guide is also present on the site.
Another interesting option that you can now get is the chemical compatibility option. As the manufacturing material comes in a variety, it is possible that the new one is not compatible with some other chemicals. Therefore, before you get the O-ring seal, you should check for all this relevant information. This is essential if you aim to make safe products.
O-rings have this name because of their basic ring shape and their shape is essential. Why? Because they seal areas where O shape is needed. If any other shape could do the job why would O-rings be there? Therefore, all the advancements and improvements are in the development of materials. Researchers made seals with different materials, test them and explain their characterization.
All of this was done over all these years. Therefore, now we have plenty of information on the characteristics of these rings. So all you need to be careful of is the size and material that you order. Because they will determine the performance of the seal.
The Challenger Explosion
The reason for researching O-ring material advancement and characterization was an accident. O-rings were already in use in space shuttles in the last century. In 1986, a space shuttle exploded tragically. This accident raised a lot of questions and everyone was eager to find the reason for the accident.
Then the physicist, Richard Feynman, stated that the main reason for this accident was an O-ring failure. The space shuttle went into a low-temperature region and the material of the seal was not able to bear that. The cold temperature made the O-ring rigid. As a result of this, the seal lost its pliability and high-temperature gases were released. Eventually, the Challenger space shuttle exploded.
At this point, everyone knew the problem, which was the material. Therefore, the scientists at NASA, re-designed that rocket. In the new design, there was a heater on board and it kept the O-rings at 10° C. and guess what? It worked.
So now they knew that all they need is a material that can bear temperature differences and can still work.
Change in the industry standards
Everyone saw clearly what could happen with the failure of this mere seal. Therefore, there was an immediate need for some industry standards for these seals. If O-rings were to be used in military and aerospace sectors, it was vital to ensure their durability and compatibility. A failure is completely unacceptable in these sectors.
Therefore, now we have a variety of different materials available in the market. All these materials are specific to machinery. You do not have to buy an O-ring for military purposes on a regular use car. It would be a waste.
Every seal available right now is made from different combinations of some chemical ingredients. These include;
- Polymers and we also call them by the name elastomers
- Inert or carbon fillers that improve physical properties
- Activators, retarders, accelerators and curing agents
- Anti-degradients are helpful to prevent any chemical reaction
- Plasticizers that improve temperature difference property
- Flame retardants and pigments and other special additives
Because of material advancements, the use of O-rings is increasing. They are now in use in almost every sector. Do you need an O-ring seal for making jewelry? That size and material are available. You need to do some plumbing job and seal a leakage? O-ring will do.
So now, it is not just making Space Shuttles, but almost every sector of life. Wherever you need a seal in O shape, O-rings are available for that job. And to meet the requirements of every sector, a wide range of material options is there.
For example, if a plumber is using this seal, it means that there will be contact with water. Therefore, the seal must be able to bear contact with water. If the material of the seal will change its performance when in contact with water, it will be of no use.