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Home - News - Understanding Common Failure Modes and Causes in Rubber Seals for Mechanical Equipment

Understanding Common Failure Modes and Causes in Rubber Seals for Mechanical Equipment

July 25, 2023
Rubber seals play a crucial role in various mechanical equipment by ensuring effective sealing to prevent leaks and maintain optimal performance. Despite their differences in manufacturing processes, shapes, assembly methods, and functions, many sealing rings share common failure modes. Understanding these failure modes is essential for identifying potential issues and implementing preventive measures.
The primary forms of failure commonly observed in seals are as follows:
1. Leakage in an Intact Seal: In this scenario, the sealing ring itself remains intact, but the sealing system still experiences leakage. This type of failure may result from improper installation, inadequate sealing pressure, or compatibility issues between the seal and the medium being sealed.
2. Distortion, Deformation, and Wear: Seals can experience distortion or abnormal deformation due to excessive pressure or temperature fluctuations. Additionally, continuous wear caused by friction against moving parts can lead to reduced sealing effectiveness.
3. Bubbling, Falling Blocks, and Loosening: Bubbling or the detachment of seal components from their intended positions can occur due to improper adhesive bonding or manufacturing defects. Loosening of seal components may result from vibration or mechanical stresses.
4. Cracking, Fracture, Shrinkage, and Swelling: Seals may develop cracks or fractures due to exposure to extreme temperature variations or chemical incompatibility with the surrounding environment. Additionally, certain materials may experience shrinkage or swelling, leading to compromised sealing performance.
5. Softening, Hardening, Cracking, Oiling, and Foaming: Over time, seals can undergo changes in their physical properties. These changes may include softening or hardening of the material, cracking, or even foaming, especially when exposed to aggressive chemicals or environmental conditions.
The main causes of seal failure are attributed to the following factors:
1. Overload: When the equipment operates at a rate higher than the sealing ring's design capacity, overload fracture may occur, leading to seal failure and leakage.
2. Fatigue: Prolonged operation at high stress levels can lead to fatigue failure, where the seal reaches its fatigue threshold and experiences fractures.
3. Aging: Seals have a service life, and when used beyond this period, they are prone to aging damage, losing their original properties and effectiveness.
4. Foreign Object Damage: Seals can be damaged by sharp objects, friction, wear, or extrusion from foreign objects that come into contact with them during operation.
5. Corrosion: Seal failure can result from incompatibility between the seal material and the sealing medium, leading to chemical corrosion and deterioration.
To address these failure modes and causes, proper selection of sealing materials, regular maintenance, and adherence to recommended operating conditions are essential. Implementing preventive measures and using high-quality seals can significantly extend the life and performance of rubber seals in mechanical equipment. Additionally, conducting periodic inspections and replacing seals when needed can help prevent potential issues and ensure the reliable operation of the equipment.