Many industries rely heavily on the benefits of rubber, from automotive and aerospace to manufacturing and medical. Over 40,000 different products are made out of this versatile material, and it seems that its uses only continue to grow. Another industry benefiting greatly from rubber’s versatility and hygienic characteristics is the food and beverage sector, and understandably so.
If you are in the food industry, then you’re probably well aware of the daily impact rubber has on your business. The stakes are high; for instance, the malfunctioning of rubber o-rings can lead to a loss of profits due to loss of ingredients or final product, an impact on consumers’ health if there is microbial contamination, legal implications and costs related to repairs or replacing equipment that leaks, just to name a few.
However, it is not easy to choose the right type of o-rings. There are several factors you must take into consideration as each of them can cost you revenue, time and nerves.
Legal requirements for rubber used with food and drinks
Firstly, choose FDA-grade rubber. The Food and Drugs Administration has provided a list of rubber materials that are safe to use with food and drinks, such as natural rubber or elastomers. These approved types of rubber must be made out of non-toxic materials, can’t have any taste or odor, must tolerate high and low temperatures and can’t harbor bacteria. From a legal standpoint, they must not affect the purity or composition of the food or beverage, but from a performance side, they shouldn’t affect the taste, smell, color or consistency of the product.
Consider the ingredients the o-rings will be touching
Even if they are FDA graded, some types of rubber may interact with ingredients such as milk or oil. As a result, you might end up with changes in color, taste or consistency, sometimes making the ingredient unsafe to use. The interaction can go both ways, and the o-ring could also deteriorate from being exposed to some incompatible ingredients.
Conditions the o-ring should be functioning in
When choosing a rubber sealant, you must also consider the working conditions it should endure. Some types of rubber cannot handle very hot or cold temperatures or running friction, which also creates heat. If you require a sealant that should endure extreme temperatures, a prolonged period of exposure to friction or pressure, then you should consider investing in high-grade sealing devices that are designed to sustain these kinds of conditions. Sealants that are exposed to conditions they were not designed for can break or leak, causing damage on multiple fronts.
Hygienic processes for sealing devices
In order to adequately clean the o-rings, they must be exposed to water, steam, chemicals, aggressive temperatures and high-pressured liquids. Sealants must not only endure all of these challenging conditions, but they must also remain unaltered, maintaining their high performance after many cleaning cycles.
Choosing the right o-ring: how to navigate the constraining factors
When choosing a sealant, you should analyze both your own needs and the rubber’s characteristics. Certain brands of sealing devices offer high-performing o-rings, such as the Viton fluorocarbon o-rings, which provide great durability and excellent versatility under extreme conditions. A reliable manufacturer is your best ally in choosing sealing materials that will keep your food and beverage manufacturing running smoothly.