Seal Makers Plug Away

Many new developments focus on niche applications.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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"Prior to its launch, over 2,000 gaskets underwent extensive beta testing at various customer locations in numerous industries. It's been in development for over three years and we are looking at it as an important new opportunity," says Jim Drago, manager, business development and integration. "By doing extensive beta testing in many industries, we built up a wealth of experience. After one free sample run, beta-customers were already ordering prototypes," he adds.

"We took this development from the ground up, identifying brand new materials in order to develop something different and we now have patents pending. There are lots of downsides with traditional vermiculite and mica-based materials. For example, mica is very fragile, making cutting difficult, and its plate structure typically results in quite high permeability, which affects its sealing quality. Vermiculite suffers from similar problems," notes Matt Tones, director of product management.

Meanwhile, in response to operating companies' increasing use of energy-saving variable frequency motor drives, this year GST introduced its shaft grounded bearing insulator, the SGi.

Plants are encountering voltage potentials on shafts when they install variable frequency drives, explains Earl Rogalski, director, customer driven innovation. The resultant voltage discharges act like lightning strikes, melting bearing steel and causing fluted bearings.

"With the SGi properly installed, the user should never have a voltage potential as the seal provides the path of least resistance to ground. We are seeing more interest in the U.S. for this because of the various regulations that exist to improve motor efficiency. [See: "Understand the New Motor Standards"] Having efficient motors can cut at least 40% off an energy bill. We see this as having huge potential," he says.

The company also launched this year the EnDuro oil mist and flooded bearing isolator, which mainly targets vertical and over/under gearbox applications, and similar situations demanding full lubrication levels. "One major electric motor manufacturer has specified this seal for its cooling-tower applications because it is the only seal they found will work in this situation. So there is a great deal of interest in it," notes Rogalski.

Earlier this year, parent company EnPro Industries acquired Pipeline Seal and Insulator, Inc. (PSI), adding Link-Seal modular products to Garlock's portfolio. These rubber seals go around the outside of a pipe when it passes through a wall, floor, ceiling or other structure to form a penetration seal (Figure 2).

PSI also specializes in electrically isolating gaskets for cathodic corrosion protection systems and just received a patent for a very critical fire-safe gasket for oil and gas service. "This is a very big deal for us and now that it's out there, we are seeing it spec'd in more and more refineries and gas pipelines," says Drago.

On a broader technical level, increasing numbers of chemical and petrochemical companies are asking for help with their emissions reduction programs but don't want to be tied to one manufacturer, he notes. "So we are becoming more and more consulting engineers and trainers than simply seal suppliers."

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