Gaskets seal gaps of varying size by compressing under load. Best practice is usually to keep that load as low as possible, which is why softer gasket materials are preferred. For products like silicone or PTFE gaskets durometer numbers give a good indication of material hardness, (following the ASTM D2240 standard,) but they don’t show how that material will perform in a joint. That means turning to the ASTM F36 test data.
Compressibility and Recovery
When selecting gasket material it’s important to understand its compression and recovery behavior. This is because joints tend to move, whether due to varying temperatures, (media and environmental,) or loads. A material that compresses easily but has no recovery may not do a good job of sealing a joint that experiences a lot of cycling.
ASTM F36 provides a standardized method of testing and measuring compressibility and recovery. The test has two parts. First, the material is put under a load of 5,000 psi for 60 seconds and the reduction in thickness measured. Then the load is taken off and the material given another 60 seconds to spring back before the thickness is measured again. Both compressibility and recovery are expressed as percentages.
The conditions F36 testing is done under don’t necessarily reflect the actual usage conditions as temperatures, pressures and loads will almost certainly be different. Neither do they take time into account, which in reality is a significant factor when dealing with viscoelastic materials, (where properties change over time.) What the numbers do provide is a basis for comparing between different gasket materials.
Typical F36 Numbers
Compressibility and recovery values vary greatly between different materials. For example, expanded PTFE has a compressibility of around 68% but recovery of just 12%, while the same numbers for a neoprene gasket could be 7 to 17% compressibility and 50% recovery. This would suggest the neoprene material would perform better in an application where flange faces are in good condition but gasket loads cycle. Of course, other factors such as temperatures, media and pressures must also be considered.