The hardness of elastomeric gasket materials is measured with a durometer. Knowing how this device is used helps in interpreting specifications and selecting gasket material.
Durometers come in two forms, analog and digital. Analog durometers look like the traditional stopwatch with a single hand that sweeps around the dial. This dial is mounted on a flat foot, from which protrudes a pin. The pin is spring-loaded, so when the foot is pressed against the gasket material the pin moves up into the body of the durometer. The harder the material, the more the pin moves into the body. Or to put it another way, softer materials let the pin press in deeper.
The dial is marked from zero to 100. These numbers have no units but are related to the spring load and the size and shape of the head of the pin, more properly called the ‘indenter.’
Spring strength and indenter geometry are specified in ASTM standard D2240. This fixes every aspect of rubber hardness testing, including the size of the ‘presser foot’, sample preparation, the duration for which the indentor is pressed into the material, and calculation and presentation of results.
Rubber and rubber-like materials can vary enormously in hardness, so ASTM D2240 defines a number of different scales. Each scale has its own indenter form and spring load. Gasket materials are typically measured on the Shore A scale. The ‘A’ indenter is a pin of 1.27mm (0.050”) diameter, tapered at 35 degrees to finish as a truncated cone with a flat area of 0.79mm (0.031”) diameter. At a reading of 100 (no indentation,) the spring force will be 8.05 Newtons.
Determining the Hardness Number
According to ASTM D2240, the test specimen should be at least 6.0mm (0.24”) thick. Hardness is calculated as the mean or median of five measurements taken at least 12.0mm (0.48”) from any edge.
A Comparative Measure
Being dimensionless, the Shore A number tells you little about the properties of an individual material. Its real value is as a standardized test method, allowing comparison of alternative materials for elastomeric gaskets.