In our previous blog, we talked about Pneumatic Seals with an insight into some of their most common applications. Hydraulic seals are different in that they are typically used in liquid or oil, whereas pneumatic seals operate in environments of compressed gas.
What role do hydraulic seals play in the medical industry?
The reliable high performance of hydraulic seals is very important to applications in the medical industry. They are typically used in a wide range of pharmaceutical equipment and medical devices where fluids are contained or transferred.
Identifying the right sealing solution is always critically important when human life is involved. Hydraulic seal failure in medical applications can cause serious problems, ranging from inaccurate drug dosages to critical malfunctions with artificial hearts. These extreme examples might not be commonplace, but they serve to highlight the importance of using high quality sealing solutions designed for the specific demands of such critical environments and applications.
What types of equipment in the medical industry require hydraulic seals?
There are many pieces of equipment that require precise motion control and sealing within the medical industry, and with ever-increasing technological developments, the demand for specialist sealing materials and products will only grow.
Currently, hydraulic seals are present in many different medical devices, including but not restricted to:
- Clinical blood pumps
- Respiratory systems
- Medical lasers
- Robotic surgery instruments
Sealing materials designed for life science and medical applications must demonstrate excellent resistance to the aggressive organic and inorganic chemicals and media associated with surgical and laboratorial procedures, including intensive cleaning regimes. Sealing specialists Novotema, are well-versed in specifying the correct elastomer materials for medical application requirement, as well as a wide range of other life science industries.
A detailed understanding of the challenges seals will face in their exact operating environment is essential for an accurate specification, with different elastomer materials offering radically different performance characteristics across a range of parameters.
A sealing supplier would also need to provide the stringent certification requirements required by operators in the industry to ensure the safety and reliability of equipment. As an example, materials supplied into food and pharmaceutical applications typically should be fully compliant and certified in accordance with the FDA and USP Class VI (United States Pharmacopeia) standards. You can read more about certifications in the medical industry here.
Hydraulic applications and the risk of common failures
Seals located inside hydraulic cylinders are necessary to prevent leakage between components within the cylinder, which is as much of a concern as leakage out of the hydraulic system. An additional consideration for hydraulic applications is that sealing components are often required to perform in higher temperatures, as well as return to their original dimensions after a sustained period of dynamic motion.
So, what are the common reasons for failure?
When the elastomer seal is operating at a high temperature or under thermal pressures at speed, the seal can harden, crack and lose its elasticity.
If the seal is under excessive lateral load or has not been sufficiently lubricated, the dynamic face of the seal can sustain considerable damage rendering it ineffective.
Improper installation can cause cuts or dents in the lip of the seal, affecting the hydraulic seal’s efficiency and exposing the hydraulic fluid to contaminants.
Improper installation is a key cause of many different sealing issues, ranging from contamination through to incorrect seal sizing in the first instance.
If the correct elastomer material is not chosen, the seal will break down when it encounters a corrosive fluid and contamination will occur.
When choosing a sealing solution for your application, it can be helpful to consider the following key questions:
- What environmental factors will the seal operate in? (temperature, chemical, stroke speed)
- What is the expected seal lifetime, or mean time between service intervals?
- Am I working with a reputable hydraulic seals manufacturer with expert knowledge?
If you are looking for some in-depth advice to guide you in finding a sealing solution for medical applications, you can reach our expert team by getting in touch, or read about our range of elastomer materials.