While you can buy off-the-shelf O-rings, this solution doesn't always work. In some scenarios, you need to order custom-made products. When should you do this?
1. You Can't Source Exact Replacements
If an O-ring wears down or breaks, then you can often simply switch it for a new one. All you have to do is to buy and install the exact same ring.
However, this only works if you can source the same product. Sometimes, manufacturers discontinue product lines that don't sell in high enough volumes. Or, they might change current O-ring lines, which makes it hard for you to find an effective direct replacement.
If this happens, then you might need to order custom O-rings to fill this gap. You can ask manufacturers to exactly replicate a discontinued or amended product to give you a guaranteed supply in the future.
2. You Need a Non-Standard Size
Off-the-shelf O-rings come in standard and metric sizes. While you can choose from a wide variety of sizes, you won't always be able to find the right fit.
For example, if you are designing a new product, then the dimensions of the areas you need to seal might not fit off-the-shelf ring sizes. You won't necessarily factor in these dimensions during the design process. Or, you might have a machine or piece of equipment that needs a seal that is larger or smaller than the norm.
If you can't find a regular fit, then you need a customized solution. If a ring doesn't fit exactly, then it won't work correctly. You won't get the effective seal you need.
3. You Have Unusual Material Needs
O-rings are made from different materials, such as synthetic rubbers and thermoplastics. They also have different thicknesses and diameters. Some are flexible, while others are harder.
All of these factors dictate how well an O-ring performs. If a ring will be subject to movement, liquids, chemicals, or gases, then its material and design have to match these working conditions. O-rings that are used outdoors have different needs to rings that work indoors because of problems such as weather conditions, ozone exposure, and UV-ray damage.
For example, if an O-ring will come into contact with a chemical, then you have to make sure that its material is robust enough to cope with this exposure. If it isn't, then the chemical could burn, warp or eat away at the material. The ring will then break.
Or, if a ring sits on a piece of equipment that is stored outdoors, then the ring might sit in the sun for long periods of time. If the material doesn't have built-in protection against UV light, then it could become brittle and snap.
While off-the-shelf O-rings come in a variety of materials to cope with different conditions and substances, there might be times when you need a ring that can cope with a mix of different circumstances. For example, you might need to use a product in a softer material that can cope with chemical exposure, outdoor conditions, and high mechanical stress. If you can't find the right solution in an off-the-shelf ring, then you might need to have one custom-made to get the resilience you need.
4. You Want More Customization Options
Even if you can use off-the-shelf O-rings, you might have other needs that these products don't match. For example, you might place a custom order for O-rings in specific colors. You can then allocate a color per ring type, say by application, machine, or equipment. This makes it easier for people to know which ring to use at any time.
To find out more, ask custom O-ring manufacturers for advice.
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