We work with hundreds of variants of available materials at Breiner Non-Metallics. While there’s no one perfect solution for every application, some materials are better all-around sealing solutions than others.
From the late 19th century through all the way up to the 1980s, one such material was asbestos.
Asbestos-based gaskets were used everywhere from ships, trains, cars and factories to oil refineries, power plants, pipes, pumps and boiler doors. Asbestos mixed with fiber fillers was considered ideal by engineers for sealing any mechanical system that involved the transport of hot gasses, oil, steam, acids and other chemicals.
Asbestos was viewed as the perfect gasket material because it was chemical resistant, fireproof and heat resistant, non-conductive, non-corrosive and could be easily blended with other materials to form stable, durable compounds of any size and shape. And, most important, it was readily available, inexpensive and easy to work with. In addition to mass production back at the factories, blank sheets of asbestos could be sent to jobsites where workers could manually cut individual custom parts.
America’s asbestos consumption peaked in 1973 before labor unions began pushing back as the medical evidence linking asbestos to cancer became more evident and companies phased it out of use throughout the 1980s. Asbestos fibers are the sole cause of mesothelioma, a fatal form of lung cancer. Once airborne and inhaled, the fibers permanently attach to the lining of the lungs, building scar tissue that can turn tumorous and eventually deadly.
In asbestos’ place, new materials needed to be developed to fill the gap left for heat- and chemical-resistant seals and gaskets. Demand was high for materials that could perform at similar levels but not damage human health.
Manufacturers found that blends of compressed polymers, including fiberglass, rubber, aramid fibers such as Kevlar and other organic and non-organic materials, could be formed into safe, effective replacements. As they eliminated the need for asbestos in a non-toxic solution, “non-asbestos” became the common terminology for describing this new family of seal and gasket materials.
Dozens of variants have since been developed for specialized applications, including the lines of Thermoseal (Klinger) and Garlock Blue-Gard options you’ll often find on Breiner’s shop floor.
Non-asbestos gaskets generally contain very good heat-resistant properties and perform well in applications involving water, air, steam, fuels, oils, acids and other chemicals. As universally relied upon today as asbestos once was, non-asbestos seals and gaskets can be found on pipelines, air compressors, diesel engines and in all manner of general industrial and marine applications.
If you’d like our help or expert opinion on which variety of non-asbestos would perform best for your unique needs, reach out today. For standard seals, complex gaskets and any amount of custom parts you need, exactly when you need them, our engineers can assist in selecting the perfect material for your projects.