The Difference Between Soft, Semi-Metallic and Metallic Gaskets

Gasket selection is driven by the needs of the application. Temperature, environment, media and pressure dictate the gasket required. While there are many different types, to aid selection they are usually separated into three classes:

  • Soft
  • Semi-metallic
  • Metallic

Soft gaskets

These are made from materials that compress easily, such as elastomers like nitrile, (NBR,) EPDM and silicone, as well as graphite, PTFE and fibrous materials. Their corrosion resistance is good but they are limited in the temperatures they can handle. Nitrile gaskets for example only work from -60 to 250°F (-51 to 121°C) and EPDM is only slightly better with a range of -70°F to 350°F (-57°C to 177°C). Silicone gaskets will however go up to 500°F (260°C) and PTFE is effective from cryogenic temperatures up to 450°F (232°C).

Soft gaskets are also limited in their ability to handle high pressures. The best applications are those involving sealing variable gaps as might be found around the doors of an electrical enclosure.

Semi-metallic gaskets

Bridging the gap between metallic gaskets and soft gaskets, the semi-metallics combine features of each. The two main types are spiral-wound and metal-jacketed, although other forms exist. Spiral wound gaskets are made from a ribbon of soft material like PTFE or graphite layered with metal, usually in a ‘V’ form to provide compressibility. Jacketed gaskets consist of a metal cover over a filler material.

Semi-metallic gaskets can handle a wide range of temperatures and pressures up to 6,000 psi, (based on ANSI pressure class 2,500,) so are used in applications ranging from refineries and chemical processing plants to aerospace.

Metallic gaskets

As the name implies, this type of gasket is made from metal. That allows it to resist pressures as high as 10,000 psi but also means it has virtually no compression. Very high bolt loads are needed to create enough deformation for joint sealing.

Metallic gaskets are vulnerable to galvanic corrosion. To minimize problems the gasket metal should be close to the flange material on the electrochemical scale. Alternatively, the material should be chosen to make the gasket the sacrificial element.

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