Don't Let These Hydraulic Seal Failures Grind Your Manufacturing To A Halt

Hydraulic seals perform the same function in all areas and types of manufacturing: they keep liquid in its proper place in the hydraulic process, so that the power of that liquid can be harnessed to produce linear motion. Failure of hydraulic seals to perform as intended can cause catastrophic results for your business, from having to shut down your line (and losing the associated revenue) to injuries to human equipment operators. Here are five common causes of hydraulic seal failure that you can prevent to keep your manufacturing running smoothly.

Extreme Temperatures

Because they are usually made of rubber or similar material, hydraulic seals are subject to cracking or breaking in extreme temperatures. While usually this is due to very high temperatures where the seal is located, it is a lesser known fact that very cold temperatures can cause failure as well, similar to what happened with the O-rings in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

If you are counting on hydraulic seals in a cold manufacturing process or operating in a hot climate, you need a seal that can handle the temperature. New seals on the market today are made of composite materials or a combination of two different materials with the rigidity to stay in position adequately but the flexibility to withstand extreme temperatures. Increasing lubrication can also sometimes help in very hot environments.

Chemical Deterioration

Exposing your hydraulic seals to the wrong type of chemicals can cause them to deteriorate. When ordering hydraulic seals, be sure to inform your supplier or seal fabricator about any chemicals they will be exposed to during the manufacturing process, so you can select the proper material for the job.

Incorrect Installation

Incorrect installation covers a range of errors, including contamination during handling, ordering the wrong type of seal, or inserting the seal upside down. The latter mistake usually results in fluid leaks. Make sure your installation is being done by someone with experience in the machinery (or have an engineer review placement), and take care not to contaminate your seals (see below).

Additionally, order the proper seal for the job and machinery from the outset. Since hydraulic seals come in standard sizes, many companies often build or retrofit their manufacturing machinery to work with existing seals on the market. You can, however, order custom-made seals for your equipment, which ensures they'll be a perfect fit for your equipment every time.

Outside Contamination

Contamination can cause seals to erode faster, as noted above. Besides chemical elements, bits of dirt, debris, and swarf can work their way from the pistons to the hydraulic seals. Use rod wipers to help prevent this, and maintain a regular cleaning and inspection program for your hydraulic system.

Damage to Other Parts in the System

Your hydraulic seals are only as good as the rest of your system. If you have damage to your piston rods or rod bearings, your seals can also fail. This damage is most often caused by misalignment or load mismatches. Rods or bearings with wear only on one side are a tell-tale sign that something is off. Your engineering department should double check all piston load capacities and ensure that thrust forces have been calculated correctly.

Hydraulic seals are small and relatively inexpensive parts in the scheme of your overall manufacturing setup. However, if you don't select or treat them properly, their failure can be a huge problem for your business. Use the information above to formulate a checklist for your hydraulic system, and you can avoid costly and dangerous problems with your equipment.