Inflatable Seals

Clyde Sharpe
President of International Sales at Elasto Proxy

Have you heard the old saying, “It’s just like riding a bike”? Some skills, once learned, are not forgotten. Without the right rubber parts, however, even the best bicycle can’t carry you along roads or trails. You may be able to maintain your balance for a while, but you won’t get far riding on a metal rim. A flat tire is no fun, and repairing or replacing a bicycle tube can be challenging.

Has it been a few years since you’ve ridden a ten-speed or a mountain bike? Even if it has, you can still appreciate the example of a bike tube and tire. When the rubber inner tube is inflated, the doughnut-shaped balloon expands and increases the tire’s pressure. In turn, this pressure supports the weight of the bike and rider. Air is added through a valve, and avoiding a flat means filling the tire (and tube) to the proper pressure. Otherwise, deflation can leave you stranded with a long walk home.

From Bike Rides to Manufacturing Operations

Inflatable seals are similar to bicycle tubes and tires. Like inner tubes, they’re made of rubber materials and inflated with air. Like bike tires, they’re also made of rubber, but reinforced with fabric or fiberglass for greater abrasion and wear resistance. Compounders add different chemicals to the rubber to impart specific material properties, including color. Product designers and manufacturers, including custom fabrication specialists, then transform stock profiles into application-specific solutions.

Unlike bicycles, however, inflatable seals are used mainly in manufacturing environments. These industrial rubber parts are ideal for covering a gap when there’s little room and no friction on the gasket. Inflatable rubber seals expand when they’re needed and then contract when an operation moves to the next step or level. Standard seals made of materials such as sponge EPDM may work for a while, but lose the gap after a few uses. When rubber seals aren’t tight enough, they can crack and fail.

Inflatable Sealing for Manufacturers

For manufacturers then, inflatable seals are used during operations such as the movement of powders between drums or barrels. The sealing action that these rubber parts provide helps to prevent the loss of bulk solids, ensure product purity, and protect personnel. Waste reduction is important, of course, but manufacturers must also prevent unwanted admixtures of different types of powder materials. In high enough concentrations, too, some powders can be explosive.

Applications for inflatable seals include the powdered metals industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and food processing. To help contain metal powders, reinforced seals made of EPDM and neoprene are used since wear and abrasion resistance are important. In the pharmaceuticals industry, FDA-approved silicones may be required. Because of their high service temperatures, silicones are also used in ovens, where inflatable seals support robotic fingers that grab and move containers or products.

How Can We Help You?

Do you need to source inflatable seals for these or other applications? How can we help you? For 25 years, Elasto Proxy has been working with partners in a variety of industries to solve sealing challenges. By listening to all of your requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can recommend inflatable seals that are right for your application.

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