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    Industry Insight

    Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gaskets

    In this guide we’re going to ‘focus in’ on gaskets in high purity systems, the vital area of manufacturing in which we, here at Pure Transfer, specialise.

    Paul Murphy - Job Role

    Gaskets galore

    Gaskets are everywhere.

    OK, that’s something of an exaggeration, but it would certainly be true to say that gaskets are vitally important in many sectors and most people have never given them a second thought.

    Don’t worry, never thinking about gaskets is completely normal.

    In this guide we’re going to ‘focus in’ on gaskets in high purity systems, the vital area of manufacturing in which we, here at Pure Transfer, specialise. So, hold onto your hats as we explore what gaskets are, what they do, why picking the right gasket for the job is important and what can happen when a gasket goes wrong.

    It’s going to be quite a ride! 

    Back to basics

    What is a gasket?

    Here’s ‘the science bit’. From here on in, whenever we say ‘Gasket’ we really mean something based on a ‘Tri-clamp®’ or ‘Tri-clover®’ gasket, originally created by Alfa Laval Inc. The generic versions of these gaskets are now the industry standard within high purity process lines.

    Let’s be honest, the gaskets we deal with don’t seem glamorous. In fact, to the untrained observer these rubber ‘O’s look a bit like flat donuts – although we wouldn’t suggest you ever tried to eat one.

    Yet, the types of gasket we use, here at Pure Transfer, perform a hugely important job – more on that later. As such, they conform to the highest industry standards such as those laid out by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the FDA and USP Class VI. 

    OK, so where are the tri-clamp gaskets used?

    Here at Pure Transfer, we supply and fit gaskets in high purity situations – the areas of manufacturing where hygiene is paramount. Our gaskets are part of the process lines that create medicines, vaccines, biological materials, some foods, drinks and many more.

    It’s a serious business. We’re talking about working in environments where every aspect of the design, construction and operation of a process system is minutely considered to ensure nothing can pollute the final product. The result of a contamination could be catastrophic for the human or animal end users, so anything less than perfection is completely unacceptable.

    So, what does a Tri-Clamp Gasket do?

    It’s a good question.

    The gaskets we use help join two ‘mating’ surfaces (we’ll leave you to make up your own jokes). Put simply, gaskets create a sealed and hygienic union between a pair of ferrules (think pipes) in order to ensure there’s a continuously flush surface inside the high purity process line. It’s vital that the gasket is fitted properly to ensure the interior of the join is free from ‘dead space’ where material can become caught. A build-up of unwanted material could quickly lead to the contamination of whatever product is being produced by the high purity line.

    This would be bad.   

    When it comes to gaskets, only the best will do

    Pure Transfer is committed to excellence. In our field, nothing less will do.

    We believe in using our know-how to ensure we supply customers with quality products that will last. Yes, it’s possible to fill a process line with very cheap gaskets, but not without a very real risk of contaminating £10,000s of product. That’s not how we work. 

    When clients come to us, they understand that the gaskets we provide won’t be at bargain basement prices. What we supply are reliable products perfectly matched to the exacting requirements of their process assemblies. Our gaskets are the best because of the way they are designed, tested and manufactured. Our service is the best because we understand what the gaskets we supply can, and can’t, do. Like latter-day Cilla Blacks, we’re matchmakers, we match the right gasket to the right usage to create a connection that lasts.

    Which gasket does what?

    You know that bit in Cinderella? You do. The bit where Cinders loses her glass slipper and the prince must go all around the kingdom trying her lost slipper on random feet to find the perfect match?

    Gaskets can be a bit like that.

    There’s so much to consider when picking the gasket you need for any situation. At a basic level, it’s all about the material the gasket is made of. How easy is it to clean? How does it react to steam? How flexible is it? Is it resistant to solvents? The list goes on… and on. Luckily the Pure Transfer team knows these gaskets like the back of our hands.

    PTFE gaskets

    Polytetrafluoroethylene (or PTFE for short) gaskets are great at keeping their integrity over long periods in water or steam applications. They’re also excellent at resisting process fluids. That said, they’re not to be used in assemblies where gasket memory or flexibility in low temperatures are required. 

    Search PTFE gaskets

    KM Fluoroelastomer and Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) compound gaskets

    Process equipment manufacturers tend to specify using these gaskets. They are ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ in many circumstances, yet they must be vigilantly monitored and maintained to avoid degradation.

    Search EPDM gaskets

    Tuf-Flex® gaskets

    These gaskets have a PTFE surface with an EPDM rubber inner core. They’re flexible, with a great memory. They can work well within a wide range of temperatures and have a long service life.

    Search Tuf-flex® gaskets

    Tuf-Steel® gaskets

    These unique gaskets are created from a 50/50 blend of PTFE and passivated, atomized stainless steel. Suitable for a wide range of usages, they’re strong and durable gaskets that can maintain a seal within an extreme range of temperatures over an extended service life.  

    Search Tuf-Steel® gaskets

    Kalrez® gaskets

    These gaskets are used in food, beverage and pharmaceutical applications that require both the FDA and Class VI standards. The great thing about Kalrez® gaskets is their excellent chemical and high temperature resistance.

    GYLON BIO-PRO® gaskets

    These gaskets are made from a modified and restructured PTFE material. Pre-formed and stress controlled, they are suitable for a wide number of usages and temperatures. Additionally, the gaskets’ dimensions are stable and can resist intrusion into the high purity line.

    GYLON® BIO-PRO PLUS ™ gaskets

    These gaskets provide a class-leading performance. Made from modified PTFE, they excel in chemical compatibility, seal-ability and, vitally, creep and cold flow.

    Getting the right gasket for the job

    If you’ve just read all about which gasket does what and feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, don’t worry. We firmly believe that all our customers should be helped through the process of picking the right gasket for their needs.

    This must be a collaborative process.

    That’s why we do our best to educate and inform our customers, through easily accessible and digestible guides, to make sure that they can ask the ‘right’ questions of us and highlight any relevant concerns that they may have. At Pure Transfer, we’re constantly trying out new ways to make ordering easier for all of our clients. At the core of our service is our ability to leverage our unique know-how to ensure that, when they arrive, the gaskets our clients have requested are exactly what is needed to do the job properly.

    Need help getting the right gasket?

    We’re proud of our team of gasket devotees here at Pure Transfer. We’ve spent untold hours building up our gasket know-how. We know all about temperature ranges, chemical resistance, creep and degradation, that’s why we’re the perfect people to talk to if you need a little assistance (or a lot) in choosing the correct gasket for your needs.

    Let’s cut to the chase, if you’re having a gasket nightmare, give us a call.

    Meet the team

    To find what makes the Pure Transfer crew tick or to discover more about our never-ending desire to provide the perfect products with unsurpassed customer service, take a look at our Meet the Team section. You’ll be glad you did.

    When things go wrong

    It’s not a perfect world.

    The truth is that, sometimes, gaskets fail. A large part of our work, here at Pure Transfer, is dealing with the aftermath of failed gaskets and getting high purity assemblies back online. So, how will you know if a gasket failure has occurred within your high purity setup?

    Common signs of gasket failure

    Unfortunately, not every failed gasket can be spotted by the naked eye – life would be so much easier if it could! But, that said, here are some common ways in which a gasket in distress can be seen.

    Puddles, puddles everywhere

    Is the floor in your process assembly full of puddles? Unless your roof is leaking, you’ve probably got some struggling gaskets. In high purity manufacturing, as with many aspects of life, the general rule is puddles are never a good thing. 

    Trouble letting off steam?

    Do you feel like your factory is turning into a sauna? Finding steam escaping between the ferrules in your process assembly can only be a bad thing. It’s another sure sign that your gaskets aren’t happy.

    Having impure thoughts?

    Is your product failing purity tests? Failing gaskets don’t only lead to leaking pipes. An unsuitable gasket breaking down and polluting the process line means unwanted extractables and leachables showing up in purity tests. As you’ll imagine, this contamination is far from ideal in high purity manufacturing.

    So, why do gaskets fail?

    Let’s be honest, maintaining a sanitary system is not easy. Far from it.

    Every seal within a process system, and the gasket that provides it, needs to work perfectly. The time and care that must go into making sure everything runs smoothly is extensive, and the consequences of not doing the job well can be devastating.

    Nine times out of ten, when Pure Transfer is called in to solve a problem caused by a failed gasket, the basic cause of the malfunction can be put down to one thing: human error.

    Communication & tact

    Before we go any further, it’s important to say that, here at Pure Transfer, we’re not about witch hunts.

    What do we mean?

    While human error is a real problem (gaskets do not badly install themselves, gaskets do not badly maintain themselves, gaskets do not overtighten themselves) we don’t see gasket breakdowns as occasions to point the finger of blame at an individual. Instead, these incidents need to be viewed as learning opportunities. In order to stop history repeating itself, it’s essential that we get to the bottom of every gasket failure, this often takes strong communication skills and, in many cases, a whole load of tact.

    We don’t believe in crying over spilled milk, but we do champion systems and approaches being put into place to avoid further dairy droppages. What follows are the range of ways in which these human mistakes usually manifest themselves. 

    Poor or inadequate maintenance

    The truth is, a process system that doesn’t properly maintain its gaskets is doomed to failure.

    It’s amazing how frequently we encounter high purity manufacturing setups where there is no fixed routine of scrutiny and maintenance of gaskets and other components. Without such a basic system in place, how will a failing gasket be identified before it becomes a major problem? 

    Overtightened gaskets

    Everyone understands the desire to give a wrench that ‘one last turn’ to make sure the clamp is on ‘properly’. Yet, so often, it’s totally unnecessary. That’s why, again and again we see overtightened gaskets, where the gasket is crushed to such an extent that it begins to protrude into the pipe. This type of incursion will lead to the gasket eroding and contaminating the process system. Equally, the part of the gasket that intrudes into the pipe can also become a dam where bacteria and soil can collect. The thing is, this is an easily avoidable situation. What is needed is proper training in how to apply the amount of torque each type of gasket requires.

    At Pure Transfer, we’re all about finding solutions, not just moaning about problems. That’s why we’ve produced our amazing new booklet ‘The Gasket Squasher’. Forget all those comic book bad guys, ‘The Gasket Squasher’ is the type of villain that really needs to be stopped! So, if you’re the type of person who likes to wear a cape and underpants outside your tights, click on the link for some great advice.

    Link to Gasket Squasher booklet

    Under tightened gaskets

    Nothing in life is ever simple.

    This is certainly true with tightening gaskets. Just as over tightening a gasket causes problems, so does under tightening – a recess is created between the ferrules where soil and bacteria can become trapped.

    Tightening gaskets is the high purity manufacturing equivalent of Goldilocks’ porridge – the margin between ‘too tight’, ‘too loose’ and ‘just right’ is so easy to miss. 

    Aging gaskets

    Like all of us, gaskets don’t last forever. Yet, all too often, high purity manufacturers act as if they do. It’s easy to forget that gaskets do a really tricky job, maintaining a seal in a wide range of testing temperatures and pressures. Some gaskets have a longer working life than others, but all of them need to be put out to graze at some point. Any process system without an effective maintenance and inspection routine may easily fall foul of a pensionable gasket that’s outlived its welcome.

    Gaskets installed the wrong way

    How can you install a flat rubber donut the wrong way? It’s a reasonable question. The thing is, it’s incredibly easy to install a gasket incorrectly. And an incorrectly installed gasket can cause a lot of damage in a very short period of time.

    Once again, training in the proper installation of these deceptively complex items is essential – and always money well spent.

    Using the wrong gasket for the job

    If you had the stamina to read through the above section ‘Which Gasket Does What?’ you’ll remember that gaskets, although they may all look pretty similar, are each designed for a different use. Gaskets are not interchangeable, but all too often they’re treated as if they are. Here at Pure Transfer, we often find gaskets within a process system are doing jobs which they weren’t designed for. Rather than getting the ‘right’ gasket, technicians have used the closest gasket to hand, with little regard to its properties.

    We’d recommend readingGaskets & Socks’  by our founder Paul Murphy. In this funny and revealing blog, Paul discusses how gaskets are so often treated without respect. This usually leads to high purity assemblies becoming the gasket equivalent of badly maintained underwear drawers – filled with mismatched socks. 

    Here at Pure Transfer, we like to innovate. That’s why we don’t just talk about training people on the best practices in high purity manufacturing, we set up the training ourselves! We’re proud of the PTL online university, which will be launching soon. It’s a hugely important legacy project for us. For more information, click here.

    The true cost of a gasket going wrong

    When a gasket fails the true cost of fixing the problem is so much more than the expense of a new gasket. Equipment failure in a high purity assembly can have far reaching and extremely costly ramifications.

    What follows should act as a reminder that investing in a well-trained staff who can properly install, maintain and monitor gaskets is always the preferable, and cheapest, route to take.

    Cost of lost output

    A failed gasket, only a few pence in value, could lead to an entire process line of product becoming polluted and being destroyed. The financial implications, in terms of lost product, could reach £10,000s. The financial hit doesn’t stop there. Even when a new gasket is fitted, the whole system may need to be cleaned, another large cost to be added to the loss in revenue that comes with the assembly standing idle.

    Costs of wages during outages

    Even if a process assembly isn’t in use, the reality is it still has fixed costs – most notably the wages of the workers who operate it. A faulty gasket that could cost less than £1 might lead to many £1000s being paid to workers who are unable to do their jobs until the problem is fixed.

    Reputational risks

    In the world of high purity manufacturing, reputation is everything. This is understandable as the vital products delivered are so easily polluted if the correct care is not taken. The ramifications of what could happen if an impure product, the result of a faulty gasket, was released to the market are massive. Legal cases and disputes from episodes such as these have rumbled on for years.

    What is a gasket worth?

    We’d recommend you take the time to read ‘What is a Gasket Worth?‘ the insightful blog by our founder, Paul Murphy, which examines the real, long-term costs that can occur when corners are cut with the choice, installation and maintenance of gaskets: COMING SOON!

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