All Mechanical Seals Are Not Created Equal
All mechanical seals perform the same essential function: sealing a rotating shaft where it penetrates a stationary casing or vessel. Because of this common purpose, you’ll find many of the same components in seals from various manufacturers.
You’ll also find mechanical seals with mass-produced and universal interfaces — the components that connect the seal to the rotating equipment — which have become standardized products that can be installed on a wide range of applications with no additional engineering required.
But, if seals have standard components and a universal design, do they all perform the same way?
Unfortunately, some customers believe mechanical seals have become a commodity, i.e., they can buy seals from any OEM with little regard for the product itself and get the same performance. With equipment reliability at stake, that’s dangerous thinking.
Some mechanical seal OEMs have tapped into this commodity mindset and produce the lowest-cost product possible to capture a larger market share. But, because seals play an active role in reliability, environmental impact, and maintenance and operating expenses, it’s crucial that plant operators and reliability engineers understand how seals differ from one another so they can get the right seal to suit their needs.
Seal OEMs employ varying degrees of product testing and product development requirements. Certain OEMs can produce superior seals because they have more sophisticated modeling and analysis capabilities. OEMs that use more rigorous testing and qualification programs can design seals that outperform the competition. Reputable seal OEMs will only purchase raw materials and components that meet very specific demands, many of which are unique to mechanical seals. Further, because seal materials play a vital role in reliability, some seal OEMs utilize corrosive-resistant materials to extend seal life.
It’s easy to think that because seals are so common that they’ve been commoditized and share the same capabilities and quality requirements — but that thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Don’t think of a mechanical seal as merely a piece of hardware. Think of it as a reflection of all the time and dedication the OEM has put into design, development and testing. Then you’ll see that not all seals are created equal.