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Cork: The Unlikely Hero of Technical Sealing, Vibration and Protection Solutions

November 13, 2019

In our nearly 70 years of service, PGC customers have come to expect innovative solutions to their gasket, vibration and protection challenges. Many of our customers’ components include high-tech materials that can hold up to extreme environments, such as a low-orbit satellite or Navy ship.  But our warehouse also includes a natural, low-tech material that may surprise you: cork.

What’s Special about Cork?

Cork is the tissue of a layer of bark from the cork oak tree, a native of southern Europe and northern Africa. It is elastic, water impermeable, and even resistant to fires. It can be converted into nearly any shape and mixed with other materials to improve its sealing, energy control and durability capabilities.

Though it’s elastic, cork does not change significantly when it is pulled or pressed. For proof of this, think about the last time you opened a bottle of wine. The cork stopper’s shape does not change significantly once you’ve popped it. All these characteristics make cork one of the leading materials for sealing, controlling vibration and protecting equipment.

Cork is also a sustainable material. Harvesting the bark of a cork oak does not kill the tree and enhances the trees’ growth. Farmers harvest a layer of bark, wait a few years, and take another layer. This makes it one of the more economical materials PGC employs.

Gasket and Protective Applications for Cork Composite Materials

Whether used alone or mixed with another material, cork is important for a wide range of applications. NASA has applied a cork composite as a heat shield in its Genesis, Pathfinder, Stardust, and Mars Exploration Rover missions. It’s used in earthly vehicle applications, too.

Often PGC offers cork that is blended with other materials, such as nitrile rubber. This composite combines the best properties of cork and rubber to accomplish more than each individual component can do alone.   Dimensionally controlled particles of cork are mixed uniformly with the nitrile rubber or other rubber material, compressed and processed into sheet form. From there, we precisely cut the cork-rubber composite into the customer’s component part shape, just as we can with our other engineered materials.

Customers Who Use Cork or Cork Composite

At PGC, we support each customers’ development of custom solutions, beginning with thousands of material options. No two customers’ end products are exactly alike, and we do our part, offering technical advice to narrow the material choices.  We often suggest specialized cork or cork composite materials for applications in the heavy-duty vehicle, fluid handling and electronics industries. Since cork is an affordable and renewable material, it serves customers who require low-cost, green materials, too.

PGC works with state-of-the-art synthetic sealing, vibration and protection materials today.  But perhaps the best material is one Mother Nature designed.  If you’re interested in discussing a sustainable, low-cost solution for your product development, contact us today.