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The History of the O-ring

Orings at IGS Industries

The History of the O-ring

O-rings are one of the most common seals in manufacturing today, owing much of their widespread use to their simple, effective design. O-rings are not expensive and are very simple to install, yet they offer tremendous sealing capacity for both dynamic and static seals.

People have been working with rubber for centuries, but in 1936 it was Niels Christensen who invented the coveted O-ring. Originally from Denmark, Christensen came to the United States when he was 26 years old and became a leading draftsman at Fraser and Chalmers, a manufacturer of mining machinery, boilers, and pumps in Chicago. From there, he went on to work for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition and for the E.P. Allis Company of Milwaukee (a manufacturer of agricultural equipment, construction equipment, and power transmission equipment).

In 1936, Niels discovered that a ring-shaped piece of rubber in a groove one-and-a-half times as long as the minor radius of the ring made a reliable, tight seal for a piston/cylinder application. In 1937, he applied for a patent and it was granted in 1939.

It wasn’t widely accepted, however, until the increase in aircraft demand during World War II. Christensen sold his O-rings to the military after demonstrating their effectiveness on a Northrop plane. Within just a few years, the O-ring became the standard seal for Air Force hydraulic systems.

The United States bought out key military patents, giving them away to manufacturers. Neils made $75,000 in the buyout.

In the years following the war, O-rings became more widely used in industry. Farm equipment manufacturing, industrial hydraulics, and automobile manufacturing are just some of the industries that led the way for the growth of the O-ring.

At IGS Industries, we’ve been selling O-rings to customers for over 50 years. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings, please visit our page about O-ring seals here.

The History of the O-ring