Whenever something is running smoothly and the introduction one thing somehow brings everything to a screeching halt, you’ll often hear the idiom that goes something along the lines of, “Well he sure threw a wrench in the works there, didn’t he?” This saying can be applied to a lot of contexts, but when it comes to the world of machinery and industrial automation – it says a lot. In reality, a lot can “throw a wrench” into a system, whether the system you’re referring to is an automated assembly line or a machine tool. To prevent this metaphorical “wrench throwing” in the industrial world, a number of manufacturers have dedicated themselves to designing, manufacturing, and perfecting the one thing used around the world to keep mechanical systems running smoothly: oil seals and grease seals.
In many cases, mechanical systems tend to be relatively closed systems, meaning that they are not always designed to exchange materials with the “outside”. Dirt, fluids, dust, and other forms of ingress can negatively affect even the largest machine. In the same way, and especially for machines, keeping certain materials and substances like lubrication in can be just as important as keeping other materials out. So when it comes to industrial automation and machine tools – regardless of size – the business of keeping closed systems closed has become a big one. Without the many mechanical systems we rely on both knowingly and unknowingly, our lives would be very different. To keep these systems running smoothly, grease and oil seals have received continued innovation to help make machines more and more effective. This innovation can be seen in both the materials used to the way they are designed and manufactured.
The fact that grease and oil seals are an essential component in machinery, and have been for many years, is very real. In the very early years of the automotive industry grease and oil seals were no less essential than they are today, but manufacturers and mechanics had to rely on more rudimentary seals than what we have access to today. For instance, most of the seals were made out of leather – and some of the seals produced in the very early days of the automobile were even made out of rope. While these seals were successful for the most part, it was largely because the wheels on those vehicles didn’t move as fast as they do today. More speed required a more effective solution. So as the cars rolling off the assembly line began to evolve, their components did as well. This naturally meant more efficient and effective grease and oil seals.
Eventually, the need for innovation lead to the first rubber grease and oil seals combined with a metal body for support. These seals proved much more effective, and gave the automotive industry some of the reliability and performance it needed to continue making cars more powerful. While automobiles are only one machine that need grease and oil seals, the side-by-side evolution of automobiles and the seals used inside them provide an ideal glimpse into how essential such a tiny component can be. Today, many oil and grease seals from most major manufacturers feature a number of sealing designs matched to accommodate the various needs of original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket applications in the automotive, manufacturing, power transmission, and industrial sectors.
In every case, the design and innovation of oil and grease seals continues to enhance their ability to help many machines meet the demanding performance requirements we’ve come to expect.
From closing spaces components and preventing harmful contaminants from “throwing a wrench” into a closed system, to keeping lubrication confined where it’s supposed to be – seals are essential. For those not in the industrial world, this is a relatively simple matter. For the rest of us, it’s very clear that oil seals can mean the difference between success and failure for just about any type of machine or vehicle in operation everywhere, especially when it comes to high precision and close-fitting bearing systems.