Effect of shaft surface roughness on the performance of radial lip seals

Reduction of leakage from the shaft–radial lip seal conjunction is critical in ensuring enduring performance of entire lubrication system. This paper investigates leakage from three types of shaft surfaces, finished using different manufacturing processes. The measurement of surface topography is conducted in order to determine the pertinent roughness parameters which correspond to the observed sealing performance in real practical applications. It is found that the skewness of the surface topography correlates well with the anecdotal leakage failure rate. To quantify this association, a hydrodynamic model, accounting for shaft roughness in a deterministic manner is developed. The results from the numerical analyses confirm that the lubricant mass flow rate is reduced in the case of negatively skewed surface height distributions, when compared with the positively skewed profiles.