by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

PTFE Rotary Shaft Seals in High Speed Applications

PTFE Rotary Shaft Seals

The design and specification of rotary shaft seals is challenging enough, but things get even more complicated for high speed seals. High speed rotary shaft seals pose their own set of wear and heat generation problems that can make it difficult to select an appropriate lip material, but PTFE is up to the challenge.

Issues for High Speed Seals

In the context of rotary shaft seals, high speeds are often defined as those above 3,600 rpms. Such seals can be found in industries such as pulp and paper, wind energy, pumps, gear boxes, steel and aluminum processing, electric motors, medical devices etc.

High speed applications, such as those found in turbomachinery, can cause a seal to wear out faster and generate more heat because speed and friction do not get along well together. If the heat generated is sufficient, it can result in higher operating temperatures and changes to the geometry of the seal. And not all high-speed applications are compatible with lubricants, so in some cases the seal may need to be capable of dry running. It is also key that these seals do not exhibit stick and slip behavior at startup.

Requirements for High Speed Rotary Shaft Seals

High speed rotary shaft seal materials, in addition to the normal requirements for seals, must be …

  • abrasion and wear resistant (to reduce wear)
  • Dimensionally stable (to prevent changes in geometry due to high temperatures)
  • Thermally conductive (to dissipate heat generation)
  • High operating temperature (to account for heat generated during use)
  • Possess an extremely low coefficient of friction (to reduce heat generation and wear)
  • Reduced stick slip and breakout friction
  • Self-lubricating (for when lubricants cannot be used)

While there are several options available for seals that meet these requirements, one in particular stands-out: PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene.

PTFE High Speed Rotary Shaft Seals

PTFE exhibits several key qualities necessary for high speed rotary shaft seals. It has good abrasion and wear resistant properties, is dimensionally stable, and has good thermal conductivity. PTFE also has an operating temperature of up to 500°F and a melting point of almost 650°F. It also has the lowest coefficient of friction of any solid currently known to mankind, exhibits reduced stick slip, has an extremely low breakout friction, is self-lubricating, and can continuously operate as a dry running material.

PTFE also comes in various grades beyond virgin PTFE. It is available fillers such as Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) for increasing wear resistance, carbon for increasing wear resistance while keeping friction low, glass for better hardness and wear resistance, or various combinations of these. Keep in mind that there are also FDA approved seals for use in connection with pharmaceuticals and medical applications as well as food and beverage production.

PTFE rotary shaft seals are available in hydrodynamic, plain and multi-lip configuration and for situations where the production volume is low, they can be constructed from machined shells so there are no tooling charges.  At the same time, high production volumes can be manufactured from pressed shells to reduce unit costs.


For applications that demand reliable, long-lasting high-speed rotary shaft seals, PTFE is the engineer’s choice for reliable performance. It combines low friction, high operating temperatures, good wear properties, and dry running capabilities that can handle the rigors of high-speed applications.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

PTFE Rotary Shaft Seals versus PTFE Spring-Energized Seals

PTFE is an excellent material for seals: it has extremely low friction, can operate in extreme temperatures, is dimensionally stable, available in FDA approved grades, and is compatible with a wide range of chemicals. When it comes to seals for rotating shafts, PTFE is often used with both standard rotary shaft seals as well as spring-energized seals — but aren’t they the same? The short answer is no, they are not.

Dynamic Seals

Dynamic seals, including those used in connection with rotating shafts, face far more challenges that static seals. If the shaft is misaligned, it is possible for the seal lip to lose contact with the shaft surface during rotating, compromising the integrity of the seal. Shaft surfaces must be extremely smooth when rotation is taking place to minimize the wear on the seal lip and to make the seal more effective — and this is especially true when high speeds are involved. 

PTFE Rotary Shaft Seals

Rotary shaft seals are designed to provide a seal (and in some cases a wiping functionality) for circular shafts that are rotating or swiveling. Their job is to keep lubricants (either for the bearing or for the shaft itself) from leaking out while preventing the ingression of contaminants, which is why they are often called oil seals or grease seals. There are many different designs that are well adapted for specific sealing applications, such as mechanical pump seals, cryogenic temperatures, and harsh environments.

When designed and specified correctly, PTFE rotary shaft seals can provide excellent performance at relatively high speeds as long as the pressures are low (there are high speed shaft seals that can handle higher speed levels, but again the pressure must remain low). In addition, the shaft must meet strict tolerances for surface finish and must be straight and correctly aligned. They are a cost effective sealing solution for many designs

Spring Energized Teflon Seals

PTFE Spring-Energized Seals

PTFE spring-energized seals serve the same purpose as rotary shaft seals and can achieve all that rotary shaft seals can, with a few additions made possible by the spring energizer. For example, the presence of a spring-energizer enables the sealing lip to remain in contact with the surface of the shaft even when there is a significant pressure difference or the shaft is eccentric. The springer energizer also maintains seal integrity when there are significant changes in temperature that can affect the dimensions of the shaft size or the PTFE seal lip. The drawback for this enhanced performance, however, lies in the price: PTFE spring-energized seals are going to be more expensive than PTFE rotary shaft seals.

Polymer Spring Energized Teflon Seals


PTFE is an excellent material choice for many dynamic sealing applications, including those that involve high speeds, dry running capabilities, FDA approved materials, extremely high temperatures, or cryogenic temperatures. There are some dynamic applications where a PTFE rotary shaft seal simply cannot provide the necessary performance, and in those instances then a PTFE spring-energized seal should be considered.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Spring-Energized Seals for the Wind Industry

Spring-Energized Seals for the Wind Industry

There is little doubt that global interest in renewable energy sources remains high, and that includes wind-based energy sources. According to the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), the overall capacity of wind turbines installed worldwide reached 650.8 gigawatts in 2019, representing a 10.1% increase from 2018. However, for increased growth in the wind industry, the design of wind turbines must become even more efficient and reliable — and wind turbine seals are one area where there is potential for improvement.

Wind Turbine Seals

Among over 5,000 components in a typical wind turbine, there are six places where you will always find seals:

  • Main bearing
  • Main gear
  • Pitch cylinder
  • Lock cylinder
  • Main and yaw brakes
  • Hydraulic accumulator

Another way of looking at wind turbine seals is by their location:

  • Rotor
  • Blades
  • Tower
  • Alternator
  • Gear box

The importance of reliable seals in the wind industry cannot be overstated. They enhance the performance and efficiency of the wind turbines, extend their useful life, and minimize the costs and downtime associated with maintenance. Investing in the right type of seals for wind applications are critical, and traditional seals may not offer the sealing power and expected life that is needed.

Sealing Challenges in the Wind Industry

There are a host of challenges faced by engineers selecting seals for wind turbine applications beyond just vibration and high stresses caused by wind gusts and rotor speed variations. and . Because they are outdoors year round, wind turbines are constantly exposed to UV and ozone which can cause seals to degrade more rapidly than normal. Then there are the extreme operating temperatures, from an icy  -40°F in Arctic regions to 140°F as a maximum standard operating temperature which can make it challenging to find a seal material that can maintain reliable performance. 

Then there are issues with abrasive substances such as sand, grit, and salt from seawater that can cause the lip of seal to wear away. Then there are the inevitable changes in pressure that come from normal weather variations. The use of polymeric spring-energized seals, however, can address many of these challenges.

Spring-Energized Seals

In a spring-energized seal, a metal spring is used to maintain the seal lip in place to achieve a far more reliable seal for both keeping contaminants out and critical lubricants within. Spring-energized seals can maintain contact even in the presence of misalignments and uneven mating surfaces, dimensional changes resulting from temperature fluctuations or water absorption, premature wear from contact with abrasive substances, and vibration.

Various geometric configurations for the spring element are available, including coil, canted coil, helical, and cantilever springs. Each of these spring types have conditions for which they work best (e.g., cantilever springs work very well for static sealing). When the right spring geometry is coupled with an appropriate polymer, the result is a durable, rugged, reliable seal.

Arkansas Spring Energized Seal Company


One of the key aspects of wind turbine design involves selecting the right kind of seals — seals that will maintain consistent, secure contact even in the harshest of operating conditions.Spring-energized seals are an excellent way to contribute to the efficient performance, reliability, and reduced maintenance requirements for modern wind turbines.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Spring Energized Seals for Use in Food Processing, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Applications

Spring-energized seals are a popular choice for applications that involve food, dairy, and medicinal applications, as well as medical devices. However, not just any polymer can be used for these seals because of the risk of contamination. In this blog post, we are going to review why FDA approved materials are so important, and then talk about the three most common engineering polymers that are used with spring-energized seals.

FDA Approved Materials

The FDA CFR 177 is contained in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations and deals with indirect food additives in the form of polymers. The term indirect additive refers to something that inadvertently makes its way into food, pharmaceuticals, or inhaled substances (i.e., via an inhaler or oxygen machine).

Real-world applications where FDA approved materials are of concern include filling and mixing equipment for food and beverages as well as pharmaceutical products that can include pills, powders, caplets, tablets, liquids, oral suspensions, and inhalers. In the context of medical equipment, FDA approved materials are key to the design of devices that must be free of contamination.  For analytical equipment it is vital that samples are not contaminated; machines and devices for treatment, such as blood dialysis machines or ventilators, must not have any contaminants that can harm the patient.

Spring Energized Seals with FDA Approved Materials

When spring-energized seals are combined with FDA approved materials, the result is a durable, reliable seal that is safe for use in food processing, pharmaceutical, and medical applications. Three of the most common materials used are UHMW PE, Virgin PTFE, and mineral-filled PTE


UHMW PE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) is an FDA and USDA engineering polymer with an extremely low coefficient of friction, low moisture absorption, and good chemical compatibility. In addition, it can withstand rigorous sterilization requirements that may involve hot water, steam, or aggressive chemicals. One of its key characteristics is its self-lubrication, which eliminates the need for lubricants that could cause contamination issues.

Virgin PTFE

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) often goes by the trade name Teflon. Virgin PTFE, which has no fillers added, has the lowest coefficient of friction of any material in existence. It is also one of the most chemically inert engineering polymers and handles extreme temperatures (both cold and hot) and is both thermally and dimensionally stable. Like UHMW PE, it is also FDA and USDA approved as well as self-lubricating.

Mineral-Filled PTFE

Mineral-filled PTFE takes the outstanding properties of PTFE and enhances them for improved wear performance and strength. It, too, is FDA and USDA approved, self lubricating, a wide range of operating temperature, chemical inertness, and compatibility with even the most aggressive cleaning and sterilization regimens.


Spring-energized seals provide the often mission critical reliability that is demanded in industries involving food, medicine, and medical treatment. However, they must be matched with an FDA approved polymer such as UHMW PE, virgin PTFE, or mineral-filled PTFE.

by Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson No Comments

A Growing Medical Market

A Rapidly Growing Market

There are many factors that contribute to the rapidly growing medical plastics market. There is an increased demand of advanced medical devices, a rise of disposable income and changing lifestyles, and a demand for affordable and efficient healthcare systems.

These and more are currently driving the medical market, with a current estimated net-worth of 22.8 billion USD.

And it is only growing.

Experts suggest that by 2024, the market will grow to a whopping 31.7 billion, with a CAGR of 6.8%.

Medical Plastics Market

Source: Markets and Markets, Medical Plastics Market

Applications of Medical Grade Plastics

Plastic packaging is widespread across many industries, but no more so than in the medical field. Within the next few years, packaging is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8%, due to the increased use in pharmaceutical packaging, device packaging and more.

Surprisingly though, it is devices such as medical implants and machinery that are the generating the largest revenue and driving the industry forward. A perfect storm of an ever-growing population and an increase in chronic diseases, along with the lower manufacturing cost of these devices has led to the largest growth in the medical plastics industry.

Global medical polymers market

Source: Grand View Research, Medical Polymers Market Size

An Industry Standard

Since the 1980s plastics have dominated the medical device industry on account of their low manufacturing cost, flexibility, ease of replacement and low risk of infection.

Plastics also provide radiolucency, enable light-weighting, and reduce stress-shielding. Because they are radiolucent, polymer-based surgical devices allow surgeons to have an unobstructed view.

All these combines to make medical grade plastics the gold standard in the industry. Which in turn creates a very lucrative market.

In Conclusion

The medical grade plastic industry has taken off in an incredibly short amount of time. With increasingly easy to manufacture products coupled with an ever expanding market, the industry will only get bigger over time. Want to learn more? Contact us today! 



by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

State of the Worldwide Plastics Industry

State of the Worldwide Plastics Industry

The markets for plastics are extremely diverse, including textiles, alternative energy, automotive, fluid handling, life sciences, agricultural, medical, pharmaceutical, packaging and many more. In recent months, there has been a significant increase in the demand for polymer-based products related to PPE for medical personnel. But who is producing these plastics, and what industries are driving this demand?

Global Plastic Production

It isn’t surprising that, according to data compiled by Statista, 350 million metric tons of plastics were produced globally in 2018 alone. In that same year, data shows that China was responsible for close to 30% of the production followed by NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, composed of Mexico, Canada, and the United States) and Europe, both responsible for 18%. In terms of production per capita, NAFTA countries are in the lead followed by Europe and Japan. When it comes to nations however, Japan produces more plastic per capita than any other country.

Infographic: Developed Nations Produce the Most Plastic | Statista
Statista, Developed Nations that Produce the Most Plastic

Growing Market for Plastics

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the market is growing for plastics: experts estimate that worldwide plastic production will reach 24 billion metric tons by 2050, and Grandview Research reported that the plastics market at the end of 2019 was valued at $568.7 billion.

Major Industries Drive the Need for Plastics 

The major industries supporting this demand for plastics are the automotive, construction, electrical, and electronics industries, although with the COVID-19 pandemic it is also possible that there will be a significant rise in demand for plastics related to the medical industry. 

Automotive applications drive much of the demand for plastics as manufacturers seek to achieve better fuel efficiency through the use of polymers with high strength to weight and strength to stiffness ratios. In the construction industry, plastics are being used for pipes, windows, flooring, and cables as well as in the equipment used, ranging from handheld nail guns to the hydraulic excavators used to dig the foundation. 

In electronics and electrical systems, polymers are used in the connectors that ensure clean signals are transmitted between components. They also provide protection and insulation for even the IC chips used in devices, and secure everything from tiny transistor chips to large smart televisions in durable packaging.

Of course, packaging is another major source of demand for plastics, accounting for up to 35% of the market. Food, beverages, medications, and consumer products depend heavily on plastics. And there is a wide variety of plastics used for packaging, including HDPE, LDPE, PET, PVC, and polystyrene.

Wide Applications of Plastics

However, these are not the only industries where plastics are critical; plastics have become almost ubiquitous in our daily lives. For example, we know that plastics are used extensively in the textile industry, and many polymers we see used in applications such as pipes (PVC), gears and bearings (Nylon) can also be found in clothing, although in a different grade and form. In alternative energy, lightweight but strong plastic components contribute to efficiency and sustainability. 

For medical and pharmaceutical applications, polymers are used for everything from medical cabinets to hold supplies, to PPE equipment to protect medical professionals working at the frontlines, to seals for ventilators and other respiratory equipment, to implantables that support human health and well-being.


Plastics have become a critical factor in many industries. Whether it is recyclable HDPE packaging or high strength, high speed industrial bearings, polymers are a part of our every days lives, and according to economists the market will only continue to grow and expand in the near term.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Medical Engineering in the Age of COVID-19

Medical Engineering in the Age of COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in worldwide demand for thermal scanners, respirators, and ventilators. This has been accompanied by an increased need for medical disposables such as gloves, respirators, medical masks, face shields, single-use syringes, and drapes. As a result, medical engineering and manufacturing both have temporarily shifted their focus and the results are fascinating.

3D printed hand sanitizer clasp

Additive Manufacturing

Shortages of some items have led to innovative design and manufacturing, much of it involving additive manufacturing using polymer materials. For example, Old Dominion University has been 3D printing masks and mask components made from PLA and designed so that they can be easily sterilized and reused. Europe has already seen companies in the 3D printing industry volunteer their equipment and knowledge to aid in manufacturing replacement parts for critical equipment such as oxygen and respirator valves, and many other countries are doing the same thing. 

Ventilator Designs

Many countries, including the United States, are worried about a potentially deadly shortage of ventilators. Various technology firms worldwide such as Nvidia are working to design critical care devices that can be produced both quickly and inexpensively. NASA has been given permission to start production of their emergency use ventilator that can be manufactured and built quickly, with the only drawback being its limited lifespan. 

In addition, ventilator manufacturers such as Medtronic have ramped up production and publicly shared their design specifications for one of their ventilator models so others can help meet this critical need.


Engineers all over the world are looking for ways to make the treatment of COVID-19 patients easier and safer for medical personnel. For example, engineers in the Boston area have teamed up local doctors to develop a 3D printed bracket that will hold the tube and respirator hookup together in ventilator patients. The goal is to prevent release of the COVID-19 virus into air when these connections come undone, as they often do. 

Others at Boston University are looking at polymer nasal swabs that will do a better job of collecting mucus for COVID-19 tests, which could increase the reliability of testing and help with testing material shortages. At the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering, engineers are leveraging wearable technology to allow nurses to track the vitals of COVID-19 patients who are not on ventilators and thus must remain mobile to recover.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how much of the world lives, and has affected a shift in the focus of many engineers. Trademarks of this shift include the use of additive manufacturing for PPE and replacement parts for life-saving equipment, a fresh look at ventilator designs that emphasizes manufacturability and availability, and the birth of innovative approaches to medical issues related to the pandemic. And, in this midst of this, companies like Advanced EMC are still working hard to make available the right polymer seals and bearings needed for medical equipment. 

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Polymers for Implantable Devices

Polymers for Implantable Devices

Due to the growing demand for implantable devices, there is also a growing demand for approved materials for use in manufacturing these devices. Polymers are an increasingly important material for use in medical implantable devices, with UHMW PE and PEEK being the most popular.

The Implantable Device Market

According to the FDA, implants are defined as devices intended to stay within the body for more than 30 days. Implantable devices are an ever growing market that was already worth $96.6 billion back in 2018 and expected to reach $143.3 Billion by 2024. These implantable devices include joint replacements, deep brain neurostimulators, pacemakers, insulin pumps, gastric stimulators, and more. 

Requirements for Implantable Device Materials

When it comes to materials, the implantable device market is divided into metals, ceramics, polymers, and biologics. For implant materials to be considered safe, they must remain stable in the presence of body fluids, not elicit an adverse response from the host, and, if applicable, meet requirements related to strength, stiffness, and performance. Long-term long-term biostability and biocompatibility are also key, as well as compatibility with medical imaging methods. For load bearing implants such as those used in hip replacements, how a polymer responds to wear can also be critical.

Implantable Polymers

The two most widely used implantable polymers are FDA approved grades of UHMW PE (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) and PEEK (Polyether ether ketone), although there are other polymers in use.

UHMW PE for Implantables

UHMW PE has been in use for orthopedic applications for over 30 years. UHMW PE can be found in joint replacements and spinal disc implants, where properties such as a low coefficient of friction, excellent fatigue resistance, and good impact strength are vital. Its primary drawback is a lack of strength, which is why it is not used in applications that involve significant load bearing. Note that UHMW PE can be machined or molded, but cannot be injection molded.

PEEK for Implantables

Implantable PEEK offers some properties similar to UHMW PE, including good impact strength and a low coefficient of friction. It is also self-lubricating, possesses a high compression strength, and offers good wear resistance. As a matrix material combined with carbon and graphite fibers, it can be customized to offer improved properties related to strength, stiffness, and dimensional stability. Unlike UHMW PE, PEEK is more versatile when it comes to manufacturing: it can be machined, molded, extruded, and even powder coated. One of PEEK’s more recent applications is implantable spinal cages, which requires significant load bearing capacity.

Other Implantable Polymers

Other polymers for implantables include PSU (Polysulfone), which is known for its toughness, dimensional stability, and moldability. PSU can be found in implantable devices such as shunts and access ports. Another polymer is PPSU (Polyphenylsulfone), which combines toughness with transparency and is often used as a coating for wires and leads. Both of these polymers also provide excellent tensile strength and biocompatibility.


Materials for use in implantable devices must be stringent requirements, and for good reason. There are a host of issues, such as biocompatibility, biostability, wear properties, friction, stiffness, and strength, that all depend heavy on the application. However, there are polymers such as UHMW PE and PEEK whose performance and safety have been well established.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Spring-Energized Seals for Cryogenic Environments

Spring-Energized Seals for Cryogenic Environments

Cryogenic environments deal with temperatures that range from below freezing all the way down to absolute zero, which is -460° F (or -273° C). Trying to seal fluids and gases at those types of extreme temperatures, but one of the most effective sealing solutions for cryogenic environments is the use of a spring-energized seal. 

Spring-Energized Seals

Energized seals are often used in situations where standard seal designs simply cannot provide the performance needed. And when cryogenic temperatures are involved, finding a reliable seal design is extremely challenging — and failure to do so can be fatal. 

How Spring-Energized Seals Work

A spring-energized seal includes a metallic spring (usually in the form of a coil) that applies a near constant load throughout the circumference of the seal. That load enables the lip to remain in contact with the mating surface, even during pressure and temperature variations as well as dimensional changes. In addition, the spring helps the seal compensate for eccentricity, misalignment, and wear. More importantly in cryogenic environments, energized seals can compensate for dimensional changes related to temperature variations.

The result of using a spring energizer is a highly reliable, almost leak-proof seal. This can be especially important when there are safety and environmental regulations are involved, as is often the case when cryogenic materials are in use. In addition, spring-energized seals can be used with both static and dynamic applications, with dynamic including rotary, linear, and oscillating motion (as well as any combination of these).

There are several different types of spring-energizers, from simple elastomeric o-rings and familiar coil springs to V springs, helical flat springs, and cantilevered finger springs. For cryogenic applications, V ribbon springs are typically used. They are found in the harshest of applications, including vacuum pressures and/or cryogenic temperatures.


For cryogenic applications, the spring lip is often made of PTFE and the energizing spring is made of metal. Typical spring metals include 17-7 precipitation hardening stainless steel or 301/304 stainless steel, Elgiloy, Hastelloy, Inconel, or 316 stainless steel.

Cryogenic Applications for Spring-Energized Seals 

Spring-energized seals are successfully being used for a wide in a variety of cryogenic applications:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Biosystems
  • LNG fueling systems and compressors
  • Pharmaceutical and medical research
  • Rocket propulsion filling systems
  • Scientific instrumentation
  • Specialty gas manufacturing
  • Infrared telescopes
  • Radio astronomy
  • Satellite tracking systems

Typical fluids and gases involved include LOX (Liquid Oxygen), liquid Helium, liquid Hydrogen, liquid Xenon, refrigerants, coolants, liquid methane, LNG (Liquid Natural Gas), and LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas). More specific examples include LAR (Liquid Argon) used in surgical environments, LN2 (Liquid N2) used in environmental test chambers, LCO2 (Liquid CO2) for cleaning and deburring. 


While finding a solution for a cryogenic sealing application can be challenging, it is certainly far from impossible. Spring-energized seals can provide durable, reliable sealing power in even the harshest conditions — including extremely low temperatures. By combining the right type of coil, seal geometry, and materials, you can engineer the right spring for applications ranging from rocket development to bioengineering.

by Sara McCaslin, PhD Sara McCaslin, PhD No Comments

Canted Coil Springs: Benefits for Medical Applications

What is a Canted Coil Spring?

Canted coil springs (also known as cant or slant coil springs) are not your typical spring, and this becomes obvious when you take a look at the three different types of tasks they support:

  • Acting as a mechanical connector
  • Energizing seals for better performance
  • Providing EMI/RFI shielding
  • Serving as a multiple contact point conductor

Read more