When Hallite Seals America, a global manufacturer of fluid-power hydraulic and pneumatic seals, O-rings, and bearings, went looking for a partner to develop a proprietary, one-of-a-kind testing system, it didn’t take long to choose MSOE and its Fluid Power Institute (FPI).

The company wanted to create a wiper-seal ingression testing method to assess the amount of dirt and dust that enters the typical hydraulic system through the rod wiper. Hallite was eager to test its own seals and use that performance data to improve its product lines, but no testing method existed at the time.

FPI agreed to develop a test fixture that could perform the ingression testing. “A steady flow of ideas between both teams helped us develop a very effective test fixture and high-precision testing methods,” said Russ Steinmetz, manager of testing services for FPI.

After eight months of construction, verification, adjustments and countless experimental runs, the test fixture began producing repeatable and comparative test results.

One reason it took that long to develop was “FPI’s thoroughness in its process,” said Chuck White, director of commercial development for Hallite Seals America. “The FPI engineers were very professional and methodical in their approach. They taught us the lesson that patience, and attention to detail, pay off in the end.”

The new test is the first in the cylinder manufacturing industry that uses a standardized methodology for counting the individual contaminant particles that cause hydraulic system inefficiency, degradation and failure. This is an improvement over the traditional gravimetric measurement approach, which relies on the weight of the contaminants. By counting the contaminant particles, the Hallite test provides a more complete and accurate analysis of potential hazards and damage to precision components.

“This test allows us to benchmark our rod wiper designs internally, as well as our competitors,” said White. “Customers crave this data because it allows them to make more informed decisions. We have definitely picked up more business as a result.” 

For MSOE and FPI, perhaps the biggest benefit of the project was getting students involved in the research work. “Students helped develop, construct and perform many of the test programs, getting real-world hands-on experience in the process,” said Steinmetz. “They dealt with a multitude of tasks and deadlines on the project, while still completing their daily class work. The knowledge, experience and confidence they gained will help them become valuable team members to future employers.”

Since the construction of the wiper seal ingression test fixture, FPI has constructed and performed six other custom seal test fixtures and test procedures for Hallite over the last five years; two others are in progress. 

“FPI has never said no to any challenge we have thrown at them,” said White. “They may pick a different direction to go, but that is their expertise and experience talking. I have worked with testing companies in the past that constantly gave me reasons why they couldn’t do something. This never happens with FPI—they are very transparent about any engineering challenges and their final decisions have always been right.”