Pump Packing: Traditional Versus Modern Approaches

The concept of pump packing involves material selection and a cost-benefit analysis of determining the right approach to seal any pump being used for industrial processes. Formerly, packing consisted of choosing material that would last until the next mechanical retool. While this may have sufficed in the past – and continues to satiate the average company – the modern approach to packing involves mechanical sealing that the superior company can utilize to take their business to the next level.

Traditional materials

A simple lubricated rope has been the industry standard for pump packing. Flax, carbon, graphite and polytetrafluoroethylene coatings – more commonly known as Teflon – are some of the selections. Classic packing materials must withstand high temperatures and be resistant to chemicals and abrasives used in pumping applications. The braided fibres used in these situations include Ameril-lon, GFO, Novaloid, Nomex and Kynol. Thus far, a satisfactory approach to pump packing has been discussed but as Bob Dylan once crooned, “the times, they are a-changin.”

Current Trends in Pump Technology: Mechanical Sealing

Mechanical sealing is currently what’s trending in pump applications. From a cost-benefit perspective, sealing versus packing makes the grade. Packing is less costly but is high maintenance, requiring periodic repairs in order to keep the equipment in good working order.

Less leakage, noise reduction and increased safety are supplemental benefits to the higher cost of mechanical sealing. Leaking fluid causes bearings to fail on the pump. Further equipment failure is prevented with mechanical sealing, which negates wear-and-tear on the shaft sleeve of centrifugal pump packing.

Innovation for the Future

Pumps are examples of interindustrial apparatus used across the sectors of water, chemical, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and biofuel. In addition to mechanical sealing, the pharmaceutical industry is leading innovation by breaking the chromatography-column mold by changing its intrinsic design. Chromatography is the separation of a mixture in a lab setting and is how the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) is separated from unusable material.

Standard design for a chromatography column is axial; however, the latest technology alters this setup to have a radial schema instead. It is called Radial-Flow Chromatography – RFC – and it is changing how pharmaceutical drugs are manufactured by big name companies in the industry.

The footprint of an RFC system is small, pump packing is easy to accomplish, there are low pressure differentials and productivity remains high. Depending on the economic climate of an individual company, this is innovation that may be replicated.