The History of Gaskets
Sealing mechanisms that we would call gaskets were first produced in 1820. Called solid iron sulfate seals, these were fabricated from a mixture of Sulphur powder, pack iron filings and water. In addition, people of that time also often made DIY gaskets. One way to do this was by unraveling rope, then stuffing it into cracks and seams with tar or lubricant. To seal water pumps, people would also pack leather into seams. However, this wasn’t terribly effective, as the water would eventually break down the leather.
Industrial gaskets were given the opportunity to advance significantly after two different inventors, including Charles Goodyear, patented the vulcanization process in 1845. Once they knew how to vulcanize material, they could make rubber. As they learned more, manufacturers were able to make gaskets from not only natural rubber, but also synthetic rubber with all sorts of qualities. These included chemical resistance, heat resistance and impact resistance, among others. Today, rubber gaskets are by far the most widely used gaskets.
In 1899, manufacturers produced the first asbestos gasket. Asbestos gaskets were extremely popular for decades. Mostly they were used to seal components on trains and ships, and to seal shipping containers that held sensitive substances like gases, hot oil and grease. Asbestos gaskets didn’t fall out of favor until the 1980s, when scientists announced the link between asbestos and cancer and lung diseases. Today, asbestos is highly regulated and almost never used.
Over the years, gaskets have proven their importance. Not only have they shown how much better they can improve application performance when things go right, but also how much damage they can facilitate when things go wrong. Nothing demonstrated this so clearly than the Challenger disaster of 1986. This was when the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds into its flight as a result of a faulty o-ring seal in its fuel system. That day, all seven people aboard died. After this tragedy, NASA engineers and others made a point to develop much more stringent gasket quality tests and regulations.
Today, gasket and seal manufacturers are able to create extremely durable and reliable pieces. With better testing practices, more materials and better automation, gaskets are now one of the most trusted components of critical applications.
Generally, gasket manufacturers make gaskets from die cut metal sheets or flat rubber. The practice of die cutting allows manufacturers great power of design; die cut gasket shapes range from simple O-rings to complex automotive engine blocks. When an application calls for a basic gasket with a thick, strong build, manufacturers sub in rubber injection molding for die cutting. Sometimes, manufacturers also make gaskets via water jet cutting or compression molding.
Manufacturers choose gasket materials based on the environment in which they will operate. A wide range of composition materials are available to manufacturers, but the material they use most is synthetic rubber. The term “synthetic rubber” refers to a group of rubber materials, which include: neoprene, silicon, viton, EPDM and a variety of other standard and custom rubber. Each aforementioned gasket material presents different levels of non-reactivity, chemical compatibility, tensile strength, corrosion resistance and extreme temperature performance. This material has revolutionized the industry by allowing for much greater control over demanding and irregular configurations.
For example, special synthetic rubber gaskets, like jacketed mylar gaskets and Teflon gaskets, offer reliable seals in the face of the most hazardous chemicals or the most extreme weather conditions.
For applications requiring a flexible seal, manufacturers make a foam gasket using sponge rubber, like open or closed cell silicone rubber. Other material options include a number of non-asbestos sheets, such as filament, fiberglass, ceramics and Kevlar.
Considerations and Customization
Gaskets come in all compositions, shapes and sizes. Manufacturers decide how to make yours based on your application requirements. If you wish, manufacturers can custom texture your gaskets to fit especially well into a connection point. Texturing includes: tapering, grooving, ridging and specialty shapes. They can also create custom gaskets with custom materials and sizes.
To seal the gap between an engine block and a cylinder head, the only choice is a head gasket. Head gaskets, among the most complicated of gaskets, are heat and chemical resistant and strong.
In addition, to fill in gaps or increase seal effectiveness, shims, which are flat metal gaskets that resemble washers, are used alone or in combination with rubber gaskets.
O-ring gaskets are named after their shape, an O. These thin gaskets are among the most common of all those used. Their popularity is due to their low cost, simplicity, easy construction and versatility. They are used with both static and dynamic mechanisms, such hydraulic cylinders and rotating pump shafts.
Like o-rings, flange gaskets are named after their shape. Flange gaskets have protruding lips or rims that look like flanges; flanges are internal or external lips, rims or ridges. The gasket lips help the flange gasket attach better.
Cylinder Head Gasket
Cylinder head gaskets, also known as head gaskets, are components of internal combustion engines. There, they are wedged between the cylinder head(s) and engine block. Their goal is to provide effective sealing and compression, while preventing leakage of fluids like engine oil or coolant.
Jacketed gaskets are those gaskets that feature an external metallic coating on one or both sides (single-jacket and double-jacket, respectively). Jacketed gaskets, which usually have an interior of plastic or rubber, are stronger, more durable and more flexible than non-jacketed gaskets. Double-jacketed gaskets also feature improved pressure resistance, high temperature resistance and decay resistance.
Intake Manifold Gasket
Intake manifold gaskets are yet another vehicle engine gasket. They serve as the connection between the intake manifold and the top of the engine.
Exhaust gaskets are specialty seal gaskets designed only to help regulate vehicle exhaust. They make sure that any gases leaving the engine stays in the exhaust system until the proper time.
Valve Cover Gasket
Valve cover gaskets are gaskets placed above an engine cylinder head, where their job is to prevent oil from leaking from the valve cover.
Spiral Wound Gasket
Spiral wound gaskets feature a combination or interweaving of metal and filler material shaped in an outward circular spiral. The metal is usually stainless steel, while they filler is usually flexible graphite. To relieve stress, tension or movement issues, manufacturers choose spiral wound gaskets. These gaskets provide a tight, but flexible seal.
Manufacturers recommend silicone rubber gaskets for use with extreme temperatures, from around -140℉ to 480℉. They are also ideal in the face of UV light, which they both resist and shield other materials against.
EPDM gaskets are used to mate machine part surfaces.
Neoprene gaskets, which are available with custom neoprene, are known for their durability. They are used as long-lasting seals in the gaps of machine parts.
Advantages of Gaskets
Gaskets have a lot to offer. First, they allow for the mating of imperfectly matched surfaces. Likewise, they’re effective. When correctly installed, they can seal objects against all kinds of disruptive forces, like heat, pressure, impact and even EMI. Third, soft, malleable and easy to place, gaskets are efficient and require no secondary mechanisms. Fourth, gaskets are quite inexpensive and manufacturers can produce them quickly. Finally, gaskets provide the invaluable service of improving system safety.
Gaskets are pretty self-sufficient hardware. However, they do often come with sealing solution accessories, as well as rubber protectant or wax solutions.
Gasket installation is pretty easy. Let’s go over the steps.
1. Clean the mating surfaces so that they’re free of substances like moisture, oil and dirt. This ensures that your seal quality will not be hindered
2. Prepare for sealing by lying flat your mating surface
3. Optional: Apply a thin layer of adhesive to your mating surface. For this, we recommend pressure sensitive adhesive
4. Place the gasket on top of the mating surface
5. If you’re applying adhesive, continue to do so until the mating surface seals with the gasket. If you’re not applying adhesive, skip this and go on to the next step
6. Connect the gasket to the other mating surface
7. If you’ve used it, let the adhesive sit and dry. If not, you may tighten your gasket with a wrench for uniform compression
To make sure you’re taking the right steps for your particular application, make sure to consult with your manufacturer before installation.
Proper Care for Gaskets
Gaskets require periodic cleaning. How you clean them depends on the composition of your gasket, your gasket’s positioning and your gasket’s application. Some gaskets, for example, can be submerged and washed in warm, soapy water. Others can handle the combination of baking soda, warm water and a scrub brush. (This method also clears out odors.)
You also need to check your gaskets routinely for signs of aging. If you see that your gaskets have begun to leak or crack, you need to replace them. To be prepared for this, you might want to consider purchasing a gasket kit. Gasket kits are full of extra gaskets.
The standards to which manufacturers must adhere during gasket fabrication depend on your application, industry and location. Some, for example, must meet FDA standards, while others must meet Mil-Spec (military) standards.
Some of the most common gasket standards used by governments include: (in the USA) ANA/ANSI, (in the European Union) PN/DIN, (in the UK/Australia) BS10 and (in Japan and South Korea) JIS/KS. Internationally, many organizations also recognize ISO certified gaskets.
Make sure your manufacturer can get the proper standard certifications. If you’re not sure what those might be, talk to your industry leaders and applicable governmental offices.
How to Choose the Right Manufacturer
Gaskets are small but mighty. It’s important that you purchase high quality gaskets from a reputable gasket manufacturer, because if you don’t, your choice could end in system failure or tragedy. Also, when working with a trustworthy manufacturer, you can also feel confident about your custom gasket requests. So, how do you find this trusted manufacturer? Easy—you check out the custom gasket companies detailed on this page! We’ve provided information about several of gasket manufacturers in whom we have extreme confidence.
Take some time to browse the profiles of each of these manufacturers, keeping your specifications in mind. Pick out a few (three to four) companies to whom you’d like to speak. Then, reach out to each of them for a quote. Make sure to discuss your: budget, deadline, delivery preferences and standard requirements. Once you’ve spoken with each of them, compare and contrast their answers and make your choice. Good luck!