Saint-Gobain Seals’ Rulon® cup seals continue to contribute to improving the quality of life for many users of portable oxygen concentrators (POC), which deliver oxygen therapy at higher concentrations than typical ambient air.
Portable oxygen concentrators are smaller and much lighter than home oxygen concentrators and designed for mobility and flexibility in the form of a small cart with a retractable handle or as a shoulder bag. Their usage increased in 2009 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved this equipment for use on board commercial aircraft.
The equipment typically utilizes an air compressor along with other parts such as a cylinder, valve and tubes. The Rulon® cup seal is a crucial component of the compressor and serves a dual purpose: as a bearing to optimize piston movement up and down the cylinder wall and as a seal to prevent air from escaping the chamber while it is being compressed by the piston movement. Because of its very low friction, low heat, low noise, long wear life, and low maintenance, the Rulon® material is ideal for this application. Saint-Gobain Seals’ engineering and manufacturing teams are able to provide either standard or customized solutions with hundreds of compositions available.
Although this equipment has been available for several decades, earlier versions were bulky and unreliable and did not improve until after 2000. According to WinterGreen Research’s 2013 study of Oxygen Concentrators: Market Shares, Strategy, and Forecasts, Worldwide, 2013 to 2019, “Oxygen concentrator markets [were] at $242.5 million in 2012 [and] are anticipated to reach $1.9 billion dollars by 2019. Growth is a result of new competitors in the market, demand for the smaller lighter technology by patients, and the market need for greater mobility support for older people.” As demand for these portable oxygen concentrator increases, manufacturers are focused on not only reducing costs, size and weight but also improving performance and reliability.
Several benefits for manufacturers to use Rulon® cup seals include:
- Increased durability and reliability of the concentrators due to the material’s long wear life and low friction/heat
- Decreased total costs due to decreased post-sale costs
- Potential for lighter and smaller concentrators due to Saint-Gobain Seals’ ability to formulate optimal material and manufacture specific shapes
Saint-Gobain Seals’ Rulon® high-performance fluoropolymer compounds have also been used in other life sciences applications such as harmonic scalpels and chemical analyzers. There are more than 100 standard Fluoroloy® and Rulon® grades available, several of which are FDA compliant and USP Class VI certified, making them well suited for medical and analytical equipment applications.