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Elastomer technology

Elastomer compounding and moulding is at the heart of our activities. It is our ability to develop materials then design and manufacture components using these materials that gives us world‑class status in the field of fluid sealing technology.

We formulate and compound over 300 grades of elastomers in-house. Many of these are our General Grades that, between them, prove suitable for the vast majority of standard industrial applications.

We compound these General Grades with the same no-compromise philosophy regarding quality as we apply to our High Performance Elastomers and other speciality grades.

We are however probably best known for our high performance materials which have been specifically formulated to overcome challenges faced in demanding critical applications in the nuclear, biopharmaceutical, oil, gas and chemical industries.

Nuclear applications
In addition to processing customer specific elastomer compounds, we have developed our own range of materials known as Shieldseal. These elastomers have been designed for long-term use in applications subject to ionising radiation and their performance is endorsed by evaluation results from specialist test houses and nuclear sector customers.

Oil & Gas
Our high performance fluoroelastomer (FKM), hydrogenated nitrile (HNBR) and Aflas based (FEPM) elastomers, known by the names Vermilion, FR and Elast-O-Lion, are specified worldwide by customers who need top quality materials that are validated and proven to operate:

  • At extremes of temperature
  • Under rapid gas decompression (RGD) conditions
  • In chemically aggressive and abrasive environments
  • To tight performance specifications
  • Where failure could have significant health and safety, environmental or financial implications

Our biopharmaceutical grades of ethylene-propylene-diene, fluorocarbon and silicone elastomers, known by the name Elast-O-Pure, have been independently tested and certified to United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Class VI. In addition, we offer two DuPont Kalrez grades, which are also certified to USP Class VI.

This stringent biological evaluation has been designed to ensure that products manufactured from the material will be non-toxic and suitable for use in selected medical devices or in contact with injectable drugs.

Seal & component design
With continual investment in our own world-class materials and product testing facilities, plus the recruitment and retention of experience and expertise in materials science and application and product engineering at our hubs and key facilities around the globe, we believe that James Walker offers an unrivalled service to global industry. 

No substitute for experience
The latest software and computing power are only tools - it is the years of expertise in engineering with elastomers brought to the table by James Walker’s design and applications engineering teams that makes the difference.

Experience in working with elastomers, a detailed appreciation of their limits and capabilities plus the real-world applications experience that comes only from having completed thousands of projects across virtually every industrial sector - that is what James Walker customers are tapping into.

From sealing cartridges in marine propulsion applications to downhole drilling components for the oil industry and diaphragm units on biotech plant, our design engineers have developed new concepts to improve performance, longevity and reliability.

Computer modelling
For proofing of design concepts and problem analysis we use FEA modelling wherever possible. This provides the necessary 'sense-check' and confidence that the correct route is being followed for all parties involved - critical when large financial or time commitments are being made.

Advice - Media, temperature, pressure, speed... there are many variables that will impact upon the successful performance of your seal or component and James Walker can provide expert opinion to help you choose the correct option. 

Experience Validation - From computer modelling and FEA analysis to test rig validation and field trials, we have the resources and experience to offer a full validation service including results interpretation and recommendations on design improvements. 

Prototyping - With in-house compounding facilities including a pilot mixing plant for small batch production, we can offer a full prototyping service and production trials. 

Turnkey service - If all you have is a problem, James Walker has the experience and facilities to take you from a blank sheet of paper right through to finished product all within a strictly controlled confidential framework.

Optimising cost of ownership
Having the ‘right tool for the job’ is not an exercise in cost - it is simply the most efficient way of working. James Walker custom engineered components are tailored to a specific application to provide the best value solution in terms of reliability, longevity, performance and maintenance requirements. This ensures our customers optimise their cost of ownership not just for the component we supply, but also for the critical process or application in which our custom component is a working part.

Manufacturing capability
From a single small O-ring to a large diameter component, we have the experienced workforce, a flexibility of production and a vast tooling library that enables us to offer rapid manufacturing turnaround to meet customer schedules and emergency requirements.

Additionally, with our in-house pilot mixing plant facilities and our own tool manufacturing cell, we can easily and quickly manufacture prototype components for performance evaluation and design verification trials.

With a capability for extrusion, injection, transfer and compression moulding plus in-house tool manufacture and years of experience in working with elastomer compounds of all types, our production management and quality control teams run proven production processes with all the necessary quality and specification checks to ISO 9001:AS/EN 9100 accreditation.

Where necessary, custom processes and documentation are created if there is a requirement to match more stringent application or customer specifications.

Our moulding capabilities include one-piece moulding of components up to 2.25 m diameter plus a continuity moulding process that offers components of infinite length and diameter. Following the moulding process we can carry out further machining operations or build our components into sub-assemblies to customer specification. 

Material bonding
Our intimate knowledge of materials science enables us to engineer solutions using a diverse range of elastomer-based bonded composites.

We bond all standard elastomers, including high-performance grades, to a variety of materials - achieving intimate bonds of very high strength. Our expertise includes the manufacture of bonded components involving;

  • Elastomer - Metal bonding
  • Elastomer - Engineering plastics bonding
  • Elastomer - Elastomer bonding
  • Elastomer - Fabric bonding

Today, many of the components we now regard as ‘standards’, such as end cap seals for the oil and gas industry, involve the successful bonding of metal and elastomer.

Our success in these techniques is the result of many years of process experimentation and development. This expertise is now fully integrated within our manufacturing process at a quality level unmatched by our competitors.

Comprehensive in-house analytical laboratory facilities and the expertise to run such a facility is essential in validating product performance and ensuring quality standards are maintained.

Total in-house capability
Unlike many manufacturers of elastomer components James Walker has the capability to formulate and compound elastomers in-house. Rather than purchase compounds from the open market, we develop and adjust formulations to improve performance, tuning materials for the application in which they are required to perform. This capability also provides total traceability and control over material quality from finished product right back to the raw ingredients for the original material batch.

Material quality control
Our supply chain is very strictly controlled, with all our raw materials coming from fully audited and certified sources. Nevertheless, all incoming batches are checked against specification to ensure full traceability and eliminate any risk of variation in our elastomer compounds.

Each batch of mixed compound is quarantined before being allowed through into the product manufacturing process until a minimum of density (BS ISO 2781), weight, hardness (BS ISO 48) and cure characteristics have been tested and checked against the performance specifications of that particular material. 

Our in-house analytical laboratories also undertake a range of additional tests to fully assess the mechanical and chemical properties of materials including:

  • Tensile strength - BS ISO 37
  • Elongation at break - BS ISO 37
  • Modulus - BS ISO 37
  • Fluid resistance - BS ISO 1817
  • Air ageing - BS ISO 188
  • Tear Strength - BS ISO 34-1 & -2
  • Thermogravimetric analysis
  • Chemical compatibility
  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Torsion modulus - BS ISO 1432
  • Temperature retraction - BS ISO 2921
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Ozone, weathering and UV resistance testing
  • Compression set - BS ISO 815
  • Tg glass transition
  • Differential scanning calorimetry

Product quality control
The first product of each batch is checked against job specification to ensure no tooling or processing defects have occurred. Once this is approved, the remaining production run goes ahead.

Each and every finished product is then individually inspected either by hand or automated inspection machinery. Products may also be subjected to additional testing at customer request.

In addition to batch and specification testing, we also test finished products to ensure that the compound remains true to specification. Further to this we also have the capability to test the effects of application and environmental conditions including:

  • Environmental chamber -75°C to +185°C
  • RGD testing to levels exceeding Norsok M710 Annex B
  • Steam testing of clamp seals and diaphragms
  • Rotary and reciprocating test rigs for dynamic testing
  • High pressure testing

Destructive testing of representative samples can also be carried out (including compression set and immersion testing) as further checks that the finished product retains the desired characteristics of the chosen material from which it has been manufactured.

Expert to Expert

Want to discuss your project, engineering or materials challenge expert to expert? Simply provide us with your contact details and a little information about the application you are working on, and one of our experts will contact you as soon as possible.

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