Custom Sealing Components: Who Needs Them and Why?

Custom Sealing Components: Who Needs Them and Why?

Have you ever tried something that claims “one size fits all”? More often than not, you will quickly realize that one size does not, in fact, fit all—and this is especially true for sealing components. 

An excellent seal is pivotal to equipment’s successful operation, but building a design around a standard seal is often frustrating or impossible, especially as applications become more complex. That’s where custom sealing components come into play. 

Seals are typically customized in one of two ways: geometry or material. These are the two foundational pillars of a seal, and customizing either one allows for endless sealing opportunities.

When you work with sealing experts to develop a custom seal, you can reduce the burden of designing towards a standard seal and, instead, open up new opportunities for efficiency within your design.

Who Needs a Custom Seal?

Here’s the reality: almost any design can be conformed to be a standard seal with enough work, but that is far from the best option for many industries and applications.

In industries like aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, food and beverage, and medical device manufacturing, using a custom component, like an o-ring, could make your seal last significantly longer, drastically reducing maintenance costs and downtime.

In industries where flow control is important, such as pharmaceuticals, seals have a massive impact on your operational efficiency and yield loss. By using a standard seal, you could be working with an incorrect sealing pressure and impacted fluid movement. What percentage of fluid could you be saving if, instead, you were operating with a custom-designed component for that particular seal?

Using standard o-rings in almost any industry or application that has needs outside of the basic demands of a seal could result in lost efficiency and reduced life of your seal, which would increase maintenance costs and downtime. 

The Benefits of Going Custom

Investing in a custom seal where a standard seal “could” work can seem superfluous; however, there are numerous benefits. 

While custom seals can cost more upfront, if they are deemed a better solution for your application, they can save you money in the long run. Custom seals designed to withstand your application improve durability and performance, extending the life of your seal. This also improves overall operational efficiency while reducing downtime. 

This is, of course, referring to applications that could, theoretically, use a standard seal.

There are some applications where it is obvious right from the start that a standard seal is not the answer. When you go custom with these seals right from the start, you save yourself time, energy, and money spent on failed prototypes to go custom from the beginning. 

Marco Rubber’s Approach to Custom Sealing Solutions

When someone approaches us for help with a seal, they are at one of three stages: at the very start of their design, in the middle of a design where it became apparent a standard seal would not be suitable, or they have a working prototype that has failed because the seal keeps malfunctioning.

The very first thing we do is ensure they actually need a custom seal. Over the last 40+ years, we have amassed millions of solutions for different sealing scenarios. If we can avoid tooling fees for our customers, we know that is optimal.

When we determine that a custom seal is the right step for them, we get to work. 

First, we conduct an in-depth consultation with the client. Depending on the complexity of the needs, we conduct this consultation over email, a phone call, a video call, or even a visit to the site. Our focus is on getting the job done right.

We will ask basics questions like:

  • What is the operating temperature?
  • What Is the operating pressure?
  • Does the application require contact with steam?
  • Is there contact with any other chemicals or media?
  • Is this a dynamic or static seal application?
  • Are there any regulatory requirements needed, such as USP CL VI, USDA, or FDA?

From there, we will move into more in-depth evaluations that depend on their current stage of development. These questions could include:

  • What kind of housing is in use (steel, plastic, aluminum, etc.)?
  • What type of surface do the native parts have?
  • What tolerance do you need?
  • For just o-rings, what is the cavity size?

Once we have this information, we develop a quote for your potential 1-year production and we get to the fun part: actually building out the prototype.

Our engineering team takes the information provided to us and reviews the feasibility of the design (materials, dimensions, chemical and environmental exposure, etc.). If the customer has come to us at the very start of their design, we help design the seal so they can focus on other aspects of the build. 

We work with accredited laboratories for extensive testing to ensure feasibility before we provide a prototype and 5 samples. We can conduct standard ASTM tests or develop a custom test in collaboration with the customer and laboratories. 

We also offer Design For Manufacturing (DFM) testing, where a customer can bring a completed design to use and we can test feasibility before you cut it. We just need prints, design files, and 3D files. Then we can use our testing process to identify failure points. 

Additionally, our engineers and experts can reverse engineer a sealing solution you already have. For example, if the part has been discontinued, we can work backwards to develop a geometry and formula that works for your application. 

Custom Sealing Components in Action

Custom sealing components in action can save you time, money, and effort. For example, a medical manufacturer asked us to design a custom seal for a new surgical tool. The seal fits around a small tube that will be inserted through the hardware and rotated during the tool operation.

The requirements included:

  • Low friction,
  • Sealed in both directions,
  • Needed to keep debris out of the chamber,
  • Occupy a single cavity with minimal footprint,
  • Must be able to operate in rotary and reciprocating motion at various speeds,
  • And enduring cleaning and sterilizing temperatures up to 300°F.

 We developed a compact, bi-directional elastomeric seal capable of low friction and operating in slow or fast rotary and reciprocating motion. We used an FKM with temperature capabilities over 400°F.

The seal went on to perform well and meet all performance and life cycle length requirements!

Getting Started With Your Custom Component

At the end of the day, engineers will need to develop seals. But engineers also have a thousand other things to invest their time in.

Whether you choose to work with us from the start or end up needing a custom seal after developing your prototype, we can work with you to get a solution. We offer start-to-finish design services complemented by our expertise in a wide range of industries.  

As we work with you, we dedicate ourselves to become experts on your design and ensure you have the most optimal seal for your design.

Explore our custom product options.