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Choosing Seals for Your Hydraulic Cylinders: An in-Depth Guide

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Hydraulic cylinders are used in a myriad of applications. From industrial applications to agricultural machinery, hydraulic cylinders are applied in various other industries like automotive, mining, oil and gas, aerial work platforms, forestry and logging, food, production, manufacturing, etc. Generally, hydraulic cylinders create the mechanical force necessary to push, pull, or lift loads in different applications.

Various components create a hydraulic cylinder. Some of these components include cylinder bores, cylinder rods, and pistons. For optimal functioning of the hydraulic cylinder, all these components must stay closed to prevent hydraulic fluid leaks and keep contaminants at bay. Here's why hydraulic cylinder seals come in handy. However, they may fail over time. Therefore, if you are in the market for replacement hydraulic cylinder seals, here's what you should consider.

1. Operating Conditions

Where do you intend to use your hydraulic cylinder seals? Since hydraulic cylinders are used in many applications, the operating conditions for the hydraulic seals vary with each application. Therefore, consider fluid media, reciprocating speed, temperature and pressure range, and hardware dimensions. Higher temperature and pressure ranges are often suitable for heavy-duty applications. Therefore, it's always best to go for such options if you are unsure of your application's duty level. A medium- or light-duty hydraulic seal in a heavy-duty application will fail prematurely.

2. Material Selection

Hydraulic seals also come in different materials. Therefore, be extra careful to choose the correct one. Standard hydraulic seal materials include rubber, thermoplastic elastomers, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and rigid plastics. Rubber seals are generally highly compressible and flexible. They are also resistant to most hydraulic fluids, grease, and mineral oils. On the other hand, rigid plastics have moderate resistance to chemicals, temperature, and pressure.

On the downside, their durability does not match up to that of their counterparts. However, go for thermoplastic elastomers if you are after the best of both worlds on rubber and plastic. They combine rubber's flexibility with plastic's strength, ideal for medium to heavy-duty use while maintaining high-level elasticity. PTFE seals tend to be the best when it comes to hydraulic seal materials. They are highly durable and can withstand extreme chemical, temperature, and pressure conditions. 

When choosing a hydraulic seal material, consider its elasticity over fluctuating temperature levels. Also, go for high flexibility and hardness, which tend to promote easy installation and prevent leaks. The material's chemical compatibility in different hydraulic fluids is also crucial. It's imperative to know that the seal you choose will perform well in different fluid media.