The Hydraulic Seal industry has come a long way since the age of steam with the development of rubber piston seals, wiper seals and rod seals to ensure that hydraulic systems can deliver effective work with the minimum flow-by and leakage from the system. Our Victorian engineer forebears soon realised that hydraulic systems are a really effective and elegant solution both as a force multiplier and a means of transferring water and other fluids from one place to another.
The problem has always been the limitations of technology. You may have heard of the classical quotation by Archimedes: “Give me somewhere to stand and I can move the Earth.” He could well understand the concept of leverage but he didn’t have the technology to carry it out. Likewise, in the machine age, hydraulic systems were limited by the hydraulic seal designs and technology. Since Victorian times, we have moved from leather and natural rubber, to nitrile rubber and many other complex elastomers to allow hydraulic systems to work in extremes of pressure and temperatures and in demanding (abrasive) environments. The design of seals has become ever more complex with the use of interlocking profiles and the use of high-tech materials such as PTFE, Kevlar as stiffeners, fillers and retainers to allow the hydraulic seal to function effectively in these extreme situations.
In terms of mobile plant, the need for low maintenance systems has driven much of the innovation to date. But now, there are limits, that present systems can progress. Hydraulic system designers can now ensure that moisture and particulate matter are kept out and hydraulic oils can be formulated for higher pressures using existing technologies. The limitation is on pressures that the hydraulic seals can operate.
The future, therefore is clearly to increase mobile plant operating pressures to allow greater amount of work to be carried out using the same size of plant. To do this, the hydraulic seal industry along with the chemical industry are working hard to create a new standard well in excess of the 400bar systems currently in use. If you double the operating pressure, you can double the work for the same piston area at a stroke (sic).
There are a number of piston seal products available from FTL, our main sponsor.