Inflatable seals are elastomeric tubes designed to expand and round out with the introduction of a medium (usually air) to form a tight barrier between a mounting and striking surface. Inflatable seals are used to form barriers between uneven surfaces to maintain pressure or keep out moisture and contaminants. They can be custom-molded into a specific configuration depending on the application and can be concave, convoluted, or flat. The plane configuration of an inflatable seal can be radial in, radial out, or axial.
The inflation medium and operating pressure for inflatable seals depends upon the application. In some instances, inflatable seals may be filled with a liquid or gel to reach the optimum operating pressure. Once inflated, the seal forms a tight connection between the two surfaces, ensuring a leak-proof closure. Deflating the seal returns it to its initial configuration.
Inflatable door seals and inflatable dock seals are made of rubber or vinyl-coated nylon with a plywood backing and can pressurize the space between a rail car or truck and a loading dock to ensure a constant, positive pressure and minimize loss of heat or refrigeration. Inflatable hatch seals fit around the perimeter of a hatch and when inflated form a tight seal against the inner wall of the hatch. Inflatable reflective seals are also available.
Inflatable seals are useful for all types of industrial applications, including securing large doors and loading docks for truck or rail car deliveries, securing wind tunnels and underwater installations, creating radiation barriers and providing a positive seal on dam gates. Inflatable seals can also be used as pneumatic clamps, to hold pieces in position during machining, and actuators, to open and close mechanical components. Some inflatable seals are used in powder and bulk solids processing equipment, food processing equipment, or conveyors. Other inflatable seals are used in the manufacture of semiconductors and electronics.