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How does Saint-Gobain Seals power the world’s mobility? We do it mostly from behind the scenes! Our critical sealing and polymer solutions are “mighty” but almost always “invisible” in core systems for automotive, aerospace, space, life sciences and other industries that are “moving” and “protecting” us every day. Take a close look around you … you may be surprised where our seals and polymer materials are. In this blog, we are revealing 10 amazing facts about our OmniSeal®, Rulon® and Meldin® products and how they are making THE difference in our daily lives.
OmniSeal® Spring-Energized Seal: The Polymer Solution for Extreme Hot & Cold
Fact #1: Our seals have gone into outer space for over 60 years
When NASA was first created in 1958, our engineers were a part of that space history, helping to resolve elastomer seal failures on rocket launches through our OmniSeal® RACO® spring-energized seals. Proven to address extreme wear as well as cryogenic and high temperatures, these seals were consistently used on many space missions in the main engine, life support, and tanks with hypergolic fuels for the last 60 years. For example, as part of every space shuttle mission since the first human spaceflight (132 in all), the seals have traveled over 500 million miles. Where else have these seals been?
- On Atlas V rocket that launched the Mars Rover Curiosity (2012). Another interesting fact is that our Rulon® ball bearings were used on the Curiosity drilling tools. The rover is still exploring – follow its progress via the Mars Curiosity Rover Twitter account.
- On Delta IV heavy rocket in the slip joint system (2013). Did you know that the heavy rocket is the most powerful rocket currently flying and known for its delivery of exceptionally demanding payloads? The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will surpass it when it launches in 2021. Guess what? Our cryogenic seals are also on this amazing rocket – and they are huge – over six feet wide!
- On the International Space Station (1998-present). Did you know that the station is the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit and that we have thousands of seals on there – in core systems that support the astronauts' lives on the station as well as experimental equipment where they conduct testing?
- On Falcon Heavy (2018) which made history when it was launched with a Tesla vehicle - cool rocket with a cool car! The rocket is three rockets in one. Do you know how many different versions of Falcon rockets have been made? Our seals have been used in the very first Falcon Prime to Falcon 9.
Fact #2: Our seals have gone deep into the ocean on the world’s first subsea gas compression station
Our oil and gas team dug deep into their sealing expertise when they collaborated with a key customer on the world’s first subsea gas compression station, installed in the Åsgard field offshore Norway in 2015. According to the customer, 11 million man-hours have been spent on the Åsgard project, and more than 40 new technologies have been developed and employed. Our seals were selected to ensure a tight seal in water depths of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) as well as their reliability in severe environments, typically characterized by pressures beyond 15,000 psi (1,034 bar) and temperatures above 150°C (302°F). They have become known for their ability to address harsh chemicals, high-pressures, and extreme temperatures from more complex reservoirs in oil and gas exploration. What else has our oil and gas team contributed to the industry?
- Proven success and expertise in leading standards such as NORSOK M710 and API 6A resulted in a major U.S. oil and gas customer to request that we develop a technical engineering manual with selection guidelines for polymer lip seals in API 6D isolation valves. The documentation was widely distributed among operations, and used to improve awareness of importance of seals in severe service operations.
- OmniSeal® spring-energized seals were developed for single stem sealing on quarter-turn valves to lower fugitive emissions in oil and gas.
Fact #3: Our seals have given surgeons more confidence through one of the first full-powered, reusable endoscopic staplers in the world
Our OmniSeal® seals as well as our Meldin® bearings set a new standard when they were first used on one of the first full-powered, reusable endoscopic staplers in the world (2013). With the trend toward micro instrumentation and smaller, more versatile surgical solutions, these devices enable easier installation of surgical staples through simplified tool design and portability. The seals used on them need to be extremely small—¼ inch or smaller—and provide a tight fit that can withstand multiple steam autoclave sanitation cycles and low torque operating conditions.
Fact #4: Our seals helped to protect the environment on the world's first supplier of industrial CO2 dyeing equipment
Protecting the environment comes first! We worked with the world's first supplier of industrial CO2 dyeing equipment, installing spring-energized seals in Netherlands-based DyeCoo’s environmentally-friendly industrial dyeing machines (2015). Carbon dioxide is used to save billions of liters of water and prevent billions of gallons of toxic chemicals from being dumped into waterways.
OmniSeal® Rotary Lip Seals: The Polymer Solution for Extreme Speed & Caustic Chemicals
Fact #5: Our lip seals are helping firefighters combat wild fires
Hot weather equals a higher rate of wild fires. Our OmniSeal® rotary lip seals are also on “duty” being used by firefighters in pump systems, propelling fluids and foam retardant. These lip seals are used because most elastomer rubber lip seals would not survive the demanding chemicals used.
Fact #6: Our lip seals have been around the track as part of “superfast” racing competitions
When automotive engine makers need speed, they look to our rotary lip seals. The seals are installed in crankshaft, distributor, fuel pump, and cam seal applications and widely used in the racing industry where engines are pushed to their limits. Most NASCAR teams and Indianapolis car engines use our lip seals. In fact, all of the top qualifiers and finishers at Indianapolis this year used lip seals in at least the front and rear crank shaft. We patented a design created specifically for NASCAR to address common problems causing PTFE split seals to fail.
Fact #7: Our lip seals protected the Auxiliary Power Unit on US Airways Flight 1549
Did you know that the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was deployed on US Airways Flight 1549 (Miracle on the Hudson), providing electrical power and helping to land the airplane safely? Our lip and spring-energized seals were installed in this core system. This system is considered critical to flight and must work 100% of the time when deployed.
Rulon® PTFE Materials: The Polymer Solution for Extreme Wear & Tear
Fact #8: Our PTFE materials are providing a strong foundation when earthquakes strike
For many years, Rulon® materials have been used in seismic systems in well-known buildings in Japan and with several earthquakes recently hitting California, the technology may prove to be helpful in the States. The sliding seismic isolation units (comprised of a laminated bearing with a sliding mechanism) are installed between the ground and upper structure to offer low friction, high resistance to wear, and resistance to deformation when an earthquake strikes. Isolation materials detach the building from the ground so that motions are reduced and do not transmit up through the building. Where can you find our PTFE materials?
- On the world’s largest suspension bridge, where it protects cable connections under the road from earthquake and wind and wave vibrations
- In many hospitals
- On a leading Japanese baseball stadium, protecting the grandstand roof
Fact #9: Our PTFE materials are being used in many places you eat, play and travel
When you go to a restaurant or other eating establishments, our Rulon® 641 bearings are working hard in industrial equipment like fryers where heat is an issue. This specific grade is perfect for food processing applications as it is manufactured from FDA and USDA compliant materials.
Our Rulon® J material goes on a lot of rides. The PTFE material has been used on trains; one example is on the bogie of the 7000 series trains in the Washington DC metropolitan area as sliding elements, making the trains more stable. If you have been spending time at amusement parks, going on rollercoasters and rides, our Rulon® J materials are hidden in the brake calipers and seat belt retractors. They were selected for their wear and friction properties. Getting some exercise on your favorite mountain bike? Our material improves the performance of the bicycle’s rear shock absorber. Shock absorbers are a crucial part of higher-end bicycle suspension systems which increases comfort for the rider. Additionally, bicycle suspension systems help keep one or both wheels in contact with the ground to improve control and traction, and thus provide a safer ride. These features are especially beneficial for mountain biking and riding over rough terrain.
Meldin® Thermoplastic Parts: The Solution for Tolerance & Efficiency
Fact #10: Our Thermoplastic Parts Helped a KA-Raceing Team Win Formula Student Germany
Our automotive team lent their full support to the Formula Student Electric KA-Raceing team at the University of Karlsruhe Germany by sponsoring them as they participated with their KIT16e electric racecar, which raced them to the very top. For the first time in its history since they first competed in 2007, they had won the competition! The KA-Raceing team used Meldin® thrust washers that were designed for the racecar’s gearbox. The Meldin® 4000 thrust washers were selected due to its excellent tribological and mechanical critical properties, having a temperature range from cryogenic through +600°F (+316°C) for continuous operation and may be used intermittently up to +900°F (+482°C).
The automotive team has also supported other racing adventures where Meldin® 5330 gerotors are used in oil and scavaging pumps on Formula 1 racing vehicles and MotoGP motorbikes. The gerotor (a combination of the “generated” and “rotor” words) is a positive displacement pumping unit that consists of two elements: an inner rotor and an outer rotor. The outer rotor has an additional tooth compared to the inner rotor and its central axis is positioned at a fixed eccentricity from the one of the inner rotor and the shaft.
In this type of motorsport application, typical working conditions include temperature level of around 150°C, low pressure (a few bar) but high speed (20,000 RPM or more). Lubrication is provided through oil and the counter surface is aluminium.
We hope you enjoyed our 10 amazing facts – some you may have not known! The list keeps growing and our Saint-Gobain Seals team is excited to see where our seals and polymer solutions will show up. Even in our daily routine, you will find us – use a dryer, dishwasher or blender – our materials are there to enhance the quality of our lives. Let’s continue to make history and memories to keep us “moving” ahead every day - contact us to see how we can work together!