Don’t Let Your Seal Leave You with A Bad Taste…

FDA, NSF, 3-A Sanitary, E-3A Sanitary, … how many of you have actually read the specs and requirements? By the way, I like milk, eggs, and beer. Let me explain…

True story. We have a pump and valve customer who came to us because of complaints he was getting from his end customer, a beer producer. The seals he was using were affecting the taste of the product. Now if it was yogurt or some green juice concoction, I probably wouldn’t have given it the proper urgency. But after all, this was beer! This was urgent!
In fact, there were minuscule particles of the seal material ingredients that, over time, were leaching and potentially affecting taste. The material was determined to be to spec and it met all the requirements and certifications, but it still affected the beer.
I bring up this story from time to time when I get into a discussion about FDA or NSF approvals, uh, I mean certifications, or standards… it can be confusing. Is there a difference? Yes!
Ever been asked to provide something FDA Certified? How about NSF Approved? In essence, the questioner is asking for something that meets the federal requirements, and knowledge of the difference between what’s approved, certified or just meeting the standard is sometimes blurry at best.

Here’s a quick tutorial (Thank you Parker O-Ring handbook to keep me straight too.)

The FDA does not approve end compounds. What they have done is created a list of ingredients that can be used in compounds that are neither toxic nor carcinogenic. If compounds are created using these ingredients and pass further extraction tests they then “meet the FDA requirements”. They are not “approved”. They are not “certified”. As Parker states, “It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to compound food grade materials from the FDA list of ingredients…”

Then there’s the NSF, National Sanitation Foundation. Here is where there are certifications. In this case, materials are submitted for certification and must pass very stringent tests. Once certified they can be promoted as being NSF 61 “listed” materials. There is also an NSF 51 standard. Applications vary and so do the appropriate materials. Consult your seal supplier (ESP) for the proper compound to the necessary certification. Oh, and then are multiple European and global standards that I won’t get into here (WRAS and such).

Confused yet? So what about 3-A Sanitary and E-3A requirements that were developed in cooperation with several agencies and no, despite popular assumptions, not the FDA. And by the way, there’s a crackdown to see who is and who isn’t in compliance. You’ve been warned. In short, the 3-A standards are intended for elastomers used in the dairy industry where there is product contact on dairy equipment. The E-3A, on the other hand, is intended where there is contact with egg processing equipment. Now the specifications are virtually the same but meant to establish criteria for the rubber material in how it holds up to frequent cleaning and anti-bacterial treatments to the equipment as well as being compatible with the product and process. As we know, cleaning agents can be hard on elastomers if you don’t have a compound that is compatible. Clean equipment also means good functioning seals.
Short and sweet but a few basics. There’s a lot more to these standards but it’s important to know the differences. After all, I don’t want an o-ring ruining my breakfast. And I really like the taste of my beer.


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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Robots Are Everywhere

In 1965 Lost in Space was a very popular show. And one of the most popular characters was “Robot B9” otherwise known as “Robot”. Clever writing back then.  But even before Robot, there was Rosie.  That faithful, trusted, hardworking housekeeping robot owned by the Jetsons. Both were depictions of the future. What can be… will be.  You know, they were ahead of their time by only a few decades – not millenniums.

Robots today can vacuum our carpets, play the piano, perform surgery, destroy you at ping pong, or in Japan, actually be your family pet.  But in our industrial world, I would say they are even more impressive – and necessary.robot blog

We’ve seen the robotics on the automotive assembly lines but in actuality what precision manufacturing process today doesn’t use robotics.

In a story last month by NBC News, China will have more robots in production facilities than any other country by 2017.  Today, South Korea has 437 robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers. The US has 152.  That’s a lot of robots!

Reliability becomes essential. These are mechanical and electronic beings.  Components pieced together by very smart people to do very specific tasks often without supervision.  Turn them on, let them go.  The don’t take breaks. They run multiple shifts. Like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep on going.  …or at least they are expected to.  That’s where my world comes in. SEALS.  Testing seals for robotic applications have led to some interesting results.  Not all seals are created equal.  Some look alike. Generically they appear the same. But little nuances in design and material can be the difference between a robot running all through the night, or having its Servo motor overheat and die. Thus stopping production and requiring expensive repair.

At ESP we know seals. We know seals for Robotics.  Lip loads, speeds, temperatures all affect a seal lasting 500 hours or 10,000 hours. Yes, 10,000 hours. Materials act differently from NBR’s and HNBR’s to FKM’s and acrylics compounds.  Robots for assembly, cutting, sawing… the opportunities are endless for robotic applications and the requirements are only going to become more demanding for performance and cost effectiveness.  Let ESP help you in your robotic seal design.


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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3 Easy Rules to Keep Your O-Rings From Turning Into Bad Potato Salad

Ever go to the fridge and spot that Tupperware container in the back corner of the second shelf. What is it? Is it any good? Do I dare open it? OK, if you are already getting squeamish, STOP. Find another blog.

I don’t think bread should have green spots, should it? Ever smell bad potato salad?  I would have sworn I just bought that freshly sliced deli roast beef… shouldn’t feel slimy. How fast can mushrooms turn bad? Fast!

I’m old school as most of you know. At our house, we can feed an Army at any time because of full cabinets, freezer, and fridge.  Other than a bowl of cereal, I don’t think any of my grown children have enough food in the house at any given time to have a good snack – except for the apples, bananas, and grapes – all that healthy stuff. They go to the market when they are ready to cook, get what they need, cook it, eat it, and dispose of it.  No leftovers. No storage. Not much need for plastic containers that burp when you put the lid on.tupperware

So what’s the point? Is that how you manage your seal consumption too?  Buy what you need when you need it? Use it… ship it.  No leftovers?

Or, do you have Tupperware containers in the fridge? …boxes, and bags full of o-rings. Some opened. Some unopened. Is it climate controlled? Not climate controlled? Are they still good?  How do you know?  Here’s the deal, not all o-rings are created equal.  Not all shelf lives are the same. AND, if not properly stored, who knows what effect their environment has had on their performance.

Here are a few rules to live by:

  1. Store in sealed bags, preferably in boxes, and out of sunlight. Ozone can be bad on many elastomers.

  2. Keep in controlled temperatures between 60 and 100 degrees. Too cold, they get hard and can deform. Usually come back when warmed, though. Too hot? Too bad. Overheated elastomers don’t usually recover.

  3. Manage your o-rings batch and lot dates. The SAE has issued the current standard for a shelf life of o-ring elastomers – ARP 5316. For a complete listing you can check out our website.

Keep in mind, again, not all o-rings are created equal. Good manufacturers have recommendations for their compounds based on the recipes that go into those compounds. SAE’s ARP 5316  is a generic standard.

Here’s what I have found from four different suppliers when it comes to shelf life… DO NOT FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES!

  • EPDM: from 10 years to unlimited
  • NBR: 5 years to 15 years
  • FKM: 15 years to unlimited

That much variance, really? Know the shelf life of the material you are using. These variances are because of what is really in some of those seals.

Don’t rely on that container in the back of the fridge to be good. Store parts properly and know your shelf life.


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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Brrrr… It’s Hot!

coldI live in Iowa – and proud of that I might add. By our standards, it was hot here last week. 95 degrees, sweltering humidity and I’m told there was a slight breeze. I must have missed that part of the day. That said, six months ago we had temps in the -teens and wind chills in the minus 20’s. Oh, and a breeze that I did feel. Safe to assume, I dressed differently in those two instances. I need a wardrobe to cover both extremes. Clothes for hot days. Clothes for cold days. So what does that have to do with seals?

Over the past couple years of writing these blogs, there has generally been a common theme. Know your application and its impact on the seals you use. Remember? Faster, lighter, stronger, hotter are the new dynamics we are dealing with and how we sealed those fluids and gasses before doesn’t always work in the new environment. Let’s add “Colder” to the mix.
So… how about some good news on that front. In a world of specialization, we have seen some vast improvements in FKM material capabilities. Especially on the low temp end. But not really all that cold. Typically -25F and some specialized materials to -40F. FKM’s have typically been regarded as good high temp dynamic sealing material with good chemical compatibility. But when it comes to cold temperature requirements standard FKM’s don’t fare so well. Ah, but what about GFLT materials? Better for low temp but you’re giving up some of the other physical properties, and they still only go to -40F. Fluorosilicones? Expensive and they don’t offer the full range of physicals (life) you may desire, but you use today because of the temperature ranges. So where’s the good news you say?How about an FKM with posted TR-10 value of -50F and reliability temperature range of -65F to +400F AND retains good compression set numbers – the killer of many elastomers. It exists! Originally developed for jet engines and jet fuel compatibility, this 75 durometer FKM can be used in a wide array of extreme conditions. Oil and gas, aerospace, power generation are just a few of the markets looking at this material for severe applications.
So, apparently one wardrobe for the extreme of temps? I may need to go shopping.

Visit our website to learn more. [Click Here]



Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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I forgot I had that!

So we are two-thirds + through spring and heading into summer. Time to clean out the garage. I did it last year but it sure doesn’t look like it. Whenever I do this it’s always interesting what I find that I long forgot about. I forgot about those pruning shears! Not to mention the items I knew I had but bought another because I couldn’t find it at the time. Just how many bottles of wood cement does one need if he isn’t a craftsman?  I have too many utility knives too. It’s got me to thinking….multilayer2

In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned the challenges of keeping up with the new demands of
your products you design and produce. Faster. Lighter. Hotter. Stronger. Compared to just a few years ago, most industrial and equipment applications have these challenges in front of them. For some of these challenges, as they pertain to what was once simple gasket applications, I have rediscovered in my garage of seal materials a solid performer in Thermoseal’s Multi-Layer gasket sheets.

Are you using beater addition gaskets and gunking them up with silicone beads trying to make up for its shortcomings of poor compressibility performance, air leaks, temperature limitations? Starting to see pressures that the material won’t hold? Are fluids actually starting to wick through the gasket material? We’ve seen renewed interest and success with the multi-layer material line because the outer layers are tough to permeate and prevent leakage between the gasket and flanges while a strong inner core provides strength and stability.
Frankly, this isn’t “new” technology. It’s been in the garage buried with all those other materials. Time to bring it out and put it on the workbench. This stuff works. Check it out.

Thermoseal Multi-Layer Data Sheets


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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Reliability of Your Seals: No Toast or In Harm’s Way?

Reliability. There are some things in life you just count on and come to expect.toast

Yesterday morning I had toast. I put bread in the toaster, and it toasted – as expected. I got in my car to drive to the office. The car started – as expected.  I put it in reverse and it went backwards – as expected. At the end of the driveway, I applied the brakes. It stopped – as expected.

That was yesterday.

Today? Well, the toaster still made toast. My car, however, didn’t want to stop. The brake master cylinder went out and the car had ideas other than stopping – so much for reliability.  Thank goodness my 10-year-old toaster worked.

But not having toast is one thing. That would be inconvenient.  The brakes on my car?
Well, that could be disastrous.  A whole different level of reliability here.

In the seal business, we count on reliability every day.  We all recognize the need for reliability of a seal in all applications.  A leaky faucet is very annoying. We take it apart and replace a seal, tighten it down as hard as we can (because we assume the tighter it is, the better), and you no longer have a leak… you hope.  It takes a few hours, days or maybe weeks of performance to call it reliable.

How reliable are the seals you use?  What are the ramifications when they start to leak? Does it mean no toast this morning? …or being put in harm’s way?

When talking aboutgoetze application mechanical face seals, reliability is essential.  The applications are
used in some of the most challenging environments:  eating seals and causing significant cost and downtime when they don’t perform.  In the mines, construction sites, oil fields, wherever mechanical face seals are performing, they are expected to – well, perform. Period. More and more options are hitting the markets from unknown sources and the reliability must be questioned. At ESP, we have eliminated the guess work and partnered with one of the most reliable mechanical face seal suppliers in the business.

German produced Goetze Goetze Master Distributormechanical face seals, are engineered to the highest performance and expectations. ESP is proud to be the North American distributor of this highly-engineered product supported with the quality and engineering teams at ESP as well as our partners in Germany.

Please take the time to check out this high-quality product on our website.

Reliability? Two names you can trust. Products you can rely on. Goetze and ESP.


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at


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Getting on the Right Bus in a Foreign Land…

My son accepted a new position within his company, which required a move to a new town. It brought him and his family to Cedar Rapids, which just so happened to be where my wife and I live.

He has a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. It’s been fun chasing them all
around town, getting involved in activities you would imagine at that age. But here’s the thing…

This is the first time since starting their family that they moved. New town, new school, new neighbors, and ultimately new friends. We all have been through something like that, right?  All in all, it’s been a smooth transition… except…busline-1257316

My grandson’s school is four miles away. It means taking a bus. No big deal you say?  How long since you were nine years old and having to navigate getting on a bus for the first time – and the right bus, sitting with complete strangers who have been taking this bus for all their school years, and knowing who to sit by, who’s cool, who’s not, older kids, bullies??? … and, when to get off.  His anxiety was off the charts. I didn’t know there could be so many “what if” questions, but a 9-year-old can come up with a lot of them. He was not going to do this! Now his mom and dad did a dry run; taking a drive along the bus route and visiting the school, meeting the teachers etc, but that isn’t the same as having to go it alone. Then suddenly, all is well.  Alex, a friend he met the first day in town, rides the bus too. A good friend. Lives down the street. A familiar face. A known entity. Anxiety left. Life is good.

Has this happened to you?  What about that plan to expand into the global market? How do I make that first shipment to China? How do I get paid?  Who do I buy from in India?  Is it any good?  Can I rely on the services of this state-owned factory? Where is my comfort zone? Where is my friend to take my hand and lead the way?

OK, now I might be getting a bit dramatic but the fact is, multi-national companies spend large sums of money to set up infrastructure, develop alliances, audit suppliers all in trying to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s. …and there is still a learning curve, ramp up issues, surprises… anxiety. And they are the big guys.  What about the rest of us?  We, with limited resources, but competing in the global market and needing to just get it right… a little anxiety?

You just moved to town. You’ve set up shop
and mostly it’s been a smooth transition. ButIndia
then it’s time to get on the bus (buying parts, managing inventory and making the product). There are too many buses to choose from. Too many people (Suppliers,
customers, advisors, officials) and things I don’t know. Anxiety is setting in and I china-top-imageneed… hey, I know you! An old friend at the same bus stop. Ahhhhh.

Whether you are a major multinational competing on the biggest stage or just getting into the arena, ESP International has trained professionals in India and China to help ease some of the anxiety of global manufacturing, sourcing, and engineering. An old friend you trust. A friend you can count on to get you on the right bus. Let’s get on board together.


Don Grawe is Director of Seal Markets for ESP International. He has over 20 years of experience in the seal industry serving the OEM industrial marketplace. You can learn more about ESP International at

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