O-rings are a form of gasket or seal that features a round cross-section. They are commonly used to prevent leaks of either fluids or gases from occurring in products, systems, or machinery and find use across a variety of industries. Because of their low cost, simple production process, ease of installation, and pressure resistance, they have found application in a lot of common products, such as automobiles and engines. The aerospace industry uses o-rings in many types of rockets and aircraft applications.
This article will review information on the types of o-rings and material options available, along with their suitability for different applications.
The fact that o-rings can function in so many applications is largely attributable to the fact that there is a wide range of materials available from which they may be fabricated. This range of selection allows the designer to consider the properties of the material and select a suitable option based on how well that material performs against the expected operating conditions of the application. The factors that are usually considered when selecting a material for an o-ring include:
- The material’s compressibility or hardness (durometer)
- The performance against environmental and operational conditions, including:
- Corrosive chemicals
- The abrasion performance of the material
- The permeability of the material (permeation)
- The cost of the material
O-rings are usually produced from some form of elastic polymer or elastomer. These polymers are cured, often through vulcanization, resulting in improved strength, durability, and elasticity. Different materials have different properties, though, with some exhibiting greater elasticity and others possessing more tear-resistance.