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Gasket history 101: from cork to silicone

Mobility & Transportation 12.11.2020

Gaskets in Automotive engine have been around for more than a century. The changes they have undergone over the years paint a clear picture of how the automotive industry has also evolved. Elkem Silicones has been able to adapt its solutions to provide new techniques for manufacturing gaskets…but, hold on. Let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. In order to better understand the present and the future, we must first take a look at the past.

Roll back the clock to the 1960s. At that time, gaskets were essentially made out of very thin layers of cork. Since the cork was very brittle, positioning gaskets was indeed a long and tedious process. Imagine the patience required by workers assembling them in the production line! Manufacturers then started opting for coated paper gaskets. However, these gaskets were rigid and installing them on a flat surface created problems, provided that a certain degree of roughness is needed in order for gaskets to better perform under pressure. Fast forward to the early 1980s and that’s when we see the first Formed-in-Place Gasket (FIPG) based on liquid silicone elastomer appear on the market. Compared to their predecessors, these new gaskets were a world of improvement.

Silicone FIPG were first used in Europe by car manufacturer RENAULT. German car manufacturers were actually quite cautious and didn’t begin using silicone gaskets until 10 years later! In a second step, improvement of the technique of FIPG has been implemented by increasing the adhesion of the silicone material to the parts on which it was applied.

For a while, this strong adhesion which was the warranty of a perfect seal became also very difficult to manage for the aftermarket (Engine disassembly and repair). However, modern engines are so reliable nowadays, that disassembling of engine parts is less and less frequent. No doubt that silicone FIPG has contributed tot this exceptional reliability. With its excellent adhesion properties and resistance to temperatures, both high and low, silicone effectively prevents oil leaks which are quite often at the origin of engine destruction. With our silicone solutions, car manufacturers can now break with the past and enjoy the advantages of reliable gaskets.