The What, Where, Why & How of O-Rings

When it comes to o-rings, the expression “good things come in small packages” is a very appropriate analogy. These tiny but mighty parts can literally make the difference between life and death in vehicles, rocket ships, medical equipment and other products.

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To get to know these amazing little circular objects a bit better, including what they are, how they are made and more, check out the following.

What Is an O-Ring?

Very simply, an o-ring is a small, donut-shaped object that is most commonly used for sealing. For instance, if a device or product must contain fluid or gas in a certain area, an o-ring will help prevent any leaking or loss. They come in a wide variety of sizes and can be made from a number of materials (more on this later).

How Are O-Rings Made?

O-rings are usually created in one of two methods: an extruder or a mold. In the case of the extruder, whatever material is being used to create the o-ring is placed into an extrusion system, where it is then pressed at a high temperature. With the mold, the material is injected inside, causing it to be the desired size and donut shape.

Why and Where Are They Used?

One reason o-rings are so amazing is that they are inherently able to return to their original shape. This means if pressure pushes down on this small little component, it will bounce back to the O shape, which in turn makes it a remarkably strong seal. Another reason o-rings are so useful is because they are made from different materials, each with its own tolerance to heat, cold, chemicals and more. 

As for where they are used, you will find them in the air conditioning system in your car, in scuba gear, a wide variety of medical devices including respiratory equipment, drug delivery systems and dental implants. O-rings are also commonly found inside the mechanical portions of airplanes and also rocket ships.

What Are O-Rings Made From?

O-rings are most commonly made from one of six compounds: Nitrile, which is also commonly called Buna-N; fluorocarbon, also called Viton; Ethylene-Proplylene or EPDM; Silicone; Fluorosilicone and Chloroprene, which is also known as Neoprene. As you might suspect, deciding which o-ring compound is best depends on how it will be used. For instance, nitrile is a synthetic rubber copolymer made of two compounds called acrylonitrile and butadiene. It can withstand temperatures from -40 to 257 Fahrenheit, and is useful in products that require the o-rings to be resistant to ozone and weather conditions. 

As for fluorocarbon o-rings, their ability to withstand temperatures up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit makes them ideal for aircraft engines and automotive fuel handling systems. It is resistant to swelling when exposed to high octane and oxygenated fuel blends, so this type of o-ring can handle ethanol/methanol blends of gasoline with no trouble. 

Silicone refers to a family of high-performance materials including reactive silanes, silicone fluids and polymers. With their decent resilience and ability to withstand a wide range of temperatures, silicone o-rings are most often found in the food and medical industries.

The Amazing O-Ring

The small o-ring is huge in what it can accomplish. Whether a manufacturer needs them when producing cars, medical equipment, restaurant equipment or airplane engines, there is a perfectly sized o-ring made from the correct material that is waiting to be used.

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