Flange and Gasket Arrangements: Using the Right Technology to Avoid Unwanted Leaks

25 March 2019

For any given sealing application, the correct gasket material and flange type are picked by an informed engineer. A fluid-suitable material is high on the features shortlist, for the gasket has to resist heat and chemical attacks. A tough seal structure comes next. It needs to be mechanically tough so that it can withstand great pressure extremes. Still, there must be more to leak management than flange types and gasket materials, right?

Flange and Gasket Geometry

Quite so, contemporary sealing technology is as much about surface contact profiles as it is about material compressibility. The flanges are stationary, although they do absorb massive amounts of kinetic energy as their bolts are tightened. Similarly, the gasket compresses but conforms to the shape of those twin sealing faces. The modulus of elasticity contained within the gasket material assures this essential leak stoppering effect. All the same, there’s always the remotest chance of a leak propagating pathway, behind which a fluid quickly follows. A raised face, followed by a gasket that incorporates a mild steel insert, stops unwanted leaks in their tracks. In effect, that softer steel is pressed beyond its yield point. With extreme bolt loads applied, the mild steel insert deforms so that it occupies every flange imperfection and leak propagation pathway.

Utilising the Correct Sealing Technology

Coming to the rescue, improved engineering practices produce mirror-like finishes. Those flange surfaces exhibit fewer surface imperfections, along with machine-sharpened profiles that tighten exactly against mirror-image gaskets. Like the old apparel makers used to say, “They fit like a glove.” There can be no gaps, no leakage pathways when such a fit is maintained. However, there are a number of real-world seal-attenuating influences that also require a technology-based solution. Thread friction, bolt creep and elasticity issues, these are just a few of the factors that technology can purge. Of course, a healthy measure of high-tech joint analyzing ingenuity also helps.

And that’s the key to this approach, the application of a leak analysis study. CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modelling is of great use, as is the proper application of a pressure distribution simulation. Computers take over when such number-crunching duties beckon. All the same, the practicalities cannot be ignored. Proper bolt loading patterns are essential. Even so, such attention to detail means little if the threads loosen because of vibration or thermal expansion. Heat treated metals mitigate this effect somewhat. At any rate, flange materials, gaskets and fasteners are constantly under scrutiny. Always under development, external flange and gasket arrangements eliminate bend and orientation stresses. Inside those flanges, raised faces and composite rings counteract creep and elasticity changes.

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