Hydraulic equipment may seem indestructible, but its cylinders need protection from dirt, debris and the elements. Preventive maintenance with Seal Saver extends the life of equipment and helps prevent the need for expensive repairs.
Powerful hydraulic cylinders lift thousands of pounds with effortless ease, but they have an Achilles heel that can bring progress to an expensive halt. Fluid Control Services, Inc. (FCS), makes the Seal Saver, a product that can prevent costly interruptions.
During the time spent maintaining equipment for the paper mill and sawmill industries in and around the Southeast, throughout the early and mid-80’s, company founder, Don Andersen came up with the idea that he would eventually develop into the patented Seal Saver his company manufactures. The original business model of FCS, Inc. was built around the concept of preventative maintenance for mill machines, with the goal to keep systems running smoothly through regular scheduled parts changeouts, and many oil samples.
Daughter Leigh Carlson recalls his many visits to various mills where “he would survey the machines and devise changeout kits for each, along with a written schedule of when the changeouts needed to occur.” It was during these visits, coupled with his experience within the wood products industry that allowed him the opportunity to observe, troubleshoot, and ultimately design new ways to solve many of the common causes the contributed to mill downtime.
Detecting the Problem
Andersen began to detect the cumulative effect of the damage that dirt and particles from the saw and paper mills were causing to hydraulic equipment. Motivated by the importance of preventive maintenance, he chose to do something proactively to prevent breakdowns and keep the heavy equipment running. His vision of the significance of preventive maintenance still guides his company today.
Andersen’s observations of on-site conditions nearly 30 years ago found that the oil became contaminated no matter how often he changed the filters and elements. A persistent problem that he noticed was that “the cylinder seals in the machines were being damaged by things that would hit the rods and get sucked in, causing damage” according to Carlson. As an alternative solution, “some mills were using the accordion-type bellows, but they required machine disassembly to be installed. Many times the fit was off, and the design just wasn’t strong enough to hold up,” she explained.
Developing a Problem Solver
Andersen’s goal was to “design something that could be installed quickly and easily, not require any cylinder disassembly, would fit well and would hold up under some extreme conditions,” Carlson said. He started developing concepts and conducting experiments that led to testing the Seal Savers in the mills. Once he realized that “ a boot that was custom designed to fit specific cylinders worked better and would last longer,” he knew he was onto something important. At that point, “he began contacting heavy machinery users and dealer to talk about testing this new product. From there, we have branched out into protecting cylinders across many industries, including drilling, wind turbines, steel mills, and more.”
Putting Expertise to Work
Andersen knew nearly 30 years ago what almost everyone who understands hydraulics knows today: contamination of hydraulic fluid leads to failures, repairs and downtime. From his experience in protecting hydraulic cylinders from ingression of dirt and oil in the wood industry, he knew that particulate matter would inevitably damage seals and eventually the entire hydraulic system. The effect of debris and dirt in combination with oil and elements in the environment was to create a lapping compound, a substance that serves as an abrasive to erode a surface. Inside a system, it can cause wear to the valves and pumps, eventually damaging functionality. While some products on the market at the time made attempts at correcting the problem, they were ineffective.
Inventing the Seal Saver
Within three years of founding Fluid Control Services, the company that would become the sole manufacturer of his patented Seal Saver, Andersen had perfected this different protective cover. With the success that it had in protecting cylinders in forestry products equipment, it was time to apply it to cylinders that work in challenging environments all around the world. The product provides preventive protection for hydraulic equipment in “construction, mining, waste management, quarries, refineries, marinas and ocean vessels, wind turbines, ready mix concrete, oil and gas rigs and steel mills,” Carlson said.
Choosing Customization for Effective Maintenance
Andersen’s goal for his Seal Saver was to encourage preventive maintenance with a protective cylinder cover, and it is still a guiding principle of the company. One size does not fit all, and customization is a key to the success of a product that can enhance a maintenance budget and extend the life of hydraulic cylinders and seals. In fact, the company creates a custom design for each cylinder to ensure a perfect fit, and it has more than 6,000 different patterns that uniquely suit clients’ specifications.
The materials that the company uses to protect cylinders from dirt are distinct from those that provide protection from exposure to high heat or chemicals. A practical choice for standard applications, the ballistic nylon cylinder covers prove useful in preventing dirt, and other contaminants, from entering a hydraulic system through seals, abrasions and dents or dings. Kevlar, coated silica and aluminized silica, among other specialty materials, offer protection in challenging environments.
In the early days when Andersen was encountering the problems on job sites that eventually led him to design the patented Seal Saver, products on the market had two failings that limited their success. They were ineffective, but the time-consuming installation procedure was equally discouraging to owners. Andersen determined to make a cover that was quick and easy to install. Each Seal Saver has a Velcro closure and a design that allows for complete installation in fifteen minutes, or less, in most cases.
Choosing a Path toward Preventive Maintenance
To curtail the seemingly endless cycle of cylinder repairs, Andersen invented a product that minimizes, or even eliminates, rod scoring and increases the viability of cylinder seals. While providing protection from the elements, it also prevents pitting that often occurs from chemical washes. The protective cover the Seal Saver provides achieves the essential function of reducing particle contamination of hydraulic systems, and it reduces the damage from falling debris.
Created by an astute inventor who had an idea for preventive maintenance of heavy equipment in Marietta, Georgia in 1988, the Seal Saver protects hydraulic cylinders in leading industries around the world.