Although not necessarily visible, hydraulic systems are everywhere. They are what make lift mechanisms and mechanical arms work. Advanced seals keep these systems performing effectively. Such seals are now enhanced by the new Trelleborg Lubrication Management system.
Long life and performance of hydraulic systems depend on a sealing configuration within a rod and piston housing that involves multiple seals. Best practice is to use both a primary and a secondary seal. The primary seal does the job of sealing in lubricant and the secondary seal takes over when needed. Because the lubricant is sealed within the hydraulic system, the secondary sealing element runs under dry conditions. The more effective the primary seal, the drier the running conditions of the secondary seal. This lack of lubrication can lead to wear, reduced seal life and ultimately downtime for an operator.
This dilemma in terms of optimizing the performance of both the primary and the secondary seal has resulted in the creation of the Trelleborg Lubrication Management System, a new discipline in which Trelleborg Sealing Solutions is investing a substantial amount of R&D time and resources. Lubrication management involves adjusting the conditions for the individual sealing elements, such that the load on each element is reduced to ensure performance of the primary seal and the extended life of the secondary seal.
“It’s not enough to know about sealing technology,” explains Mandy Wilke, Technology Specialist, Fluid Power Europe within Trelleborg Sealing Solutions. “You also need to know about the operating conditions. When you think of a sealing system, all the elements must work together as a team: the seals, the counter surface, the pressure fluid and the lubrication.”
First exhibited as a design studyat the Hanover Fair in 2014, the Trelleborg Lubrication Management System uses a thicker oil film under the first sealing element to reduce the load on that seal. The amount of fluid film moving past the primary seal is then controlled, normally by an integrated check valve in the primary seal. “This means we can achieve the best possible solution despite the many increasing challenges in the world of fluid power,” Wilke says.
“These challenges include an increasing demand in terms of power, performance and efficiency. As hydraulic systems reduce in size and weight, this leads to an increase in pressure as well as higher speeds in hydraulic applications. At some point, all seals reach their physical limits, but through lubrication management the sealing system in these cases can be enhanced.”
Wilke is head of the Global Surface Competence Team, which is currently concerned with counter surfaces in hydraulic applications. The type of counter surface within a hydraulic system is often decided for technical reasons, without considering the sealing system. Yet the counter surfaces can play a significant role in limiting the service life of seals within an application.
“By maintaining good contacts with our customers, we’re integrated on a regular base in their development process from the start,” Wilke says. She also points out that teaming up with clients can easily work the other way around. “We often have specific solutions for concrete applications and then transfer these ideas to other markets so as to multiply the benefit.” One example of this is the new switch seal, which incorporates a sealing and a guiding element, with any number of innovative possibilities.
This teamwork has proven important in optimizing the performance of sealing systems in fluid power applications and is a key reason why customers work with Trelleborg: The company can bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and materials to each individual fluid power design, and that now includes an understanding of lubrication management. “We have to stay ahead of the competition,” Wilke explains, “and it’s our determined- to-be-different mentality that makes us outstanding.”
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