What Is Labyrinth Seal

Labyrinth seals are critical components in turbomachinery. They prevent leakage and maintain efficiency.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what labyrinth seals are, how they work, and their importance in various applications.

labyrinth seals

What Is Labyrinth Seal

A labyrinth seal is a type of non-contacting seal that uses a series of cavities to create a tortuous path for fluid flow, reducing leakage. The design consists of multiple grooves or teeth arranged in a circular pattern on the rotating or stationary component.

As the fluid enters the labyrinth seal, it is forced to navigate through the intricate path created by the grooves. The fluid loses pressure and velocity as it moves through the maze, reducing its ability to leak past the seal.

Components of Labyrinth Seal

The main components of a labyrinth seal are the rotor and stator.

  • Rotor: The rotor is the rotating part, typically a shaft. It may have protrusions or teeth that interact with the stator to create the sealing effect.
  • Stator: The stator is the stationary part, usually the housing. It also may have teeth or grooves that complement those on the rotor, forming a complex path for fluid flow.
  • Seal Teeth: These are protrusions on either the rotor or stator. The teeth are designed to create multiple restrictions and turbulence, which impede fluid flow and cause pressure drops.
  • Grooves: The grooves are the spaces between the teeth. They play a key role in creating a tortuous path that further restricts fluid movement and enhances the seal’s effectiveness.
  • Clearance: The clearance is the small gap between the rotor and stator. This gap allows for relative motion between the rotating and stationary parts while minimizing leakage. 64f411af830ca 1024x683 1

Types of Labyrinth Seal

Straight Labyrinth Seal

A straight labyrinth seal has a series of straight grooves or teeth. These are arranged in a circular pattern around the shaft or rotating component. The grooves are parallel to the axis of rotation. This type of seal is simple and easy to manufacture. However, it may not provide the highest level of sealing efficiency.

Staggered Labyrinth Seal

In a staggered labyrinth seal, the grooves are arranged in an alternating pattern. Every other groove is offset from the adjacent grooves. This creates a more complex path for the fluid or gas to follow. Staggered labyrinth seals offer improved sealing performance compared to straight seals. They are more effective at reducing leakage.

Stepped Labyrinth Seal

A stepped labyrinth seal features grooves with varying depths or heights. The grooves closest to the high-pressure side are deeper than those near the low-pressure side. This step-like arrangement helps to create a pressure drop across the seal. It further reduces leakage. Stepped labyrinth seals are used in applications with high-pressure differentials.

Interlocking Labyrinth Seal

An interlocking labyrinth seal combines elements of both staggered and stepped designs. The grooves are arranged in an alternating pattern, similar to a staggered seal. However, the grooves also have varying depths, like a stepped seal. This combination provides excellent sealing performance. Interlocking labyrinth seals are used in demanding applications where minimal leakage is critical.

Advantages of Labyrinth Seals

  • Simple and Robust Design: Labyrinth seals have no moving parts, making them highly reliable and durable with minimal maintenance requirements.
  • Non-Contacting Nature: The non-contacting design eliminates friction and wear, reducing heat generation and extending the seal’s lifespan. This also allows for higher operating speeds compared to contact seals.
  • Versatility: Labyrinth seals can handle a wide range of fluids, temperatures, and pressures. They are suitable for both liquids and gases and can operate effectively in high-temperature environments.
  • Tolerance to Misalignment and Thermal Expansion: The relatively large clearance between the rotating and stationary components makes labyrinth seals more tolerant of shaft misalignment and thermal expansion compared to other seal types.
  • Particle Tolerance: The clearance in labyrinth seals allows for some particles to pass through without damaging the seal, making them more robust in environments where contamination is a concern.

Disadvantages of Labyrinth Seals

  • Higher Leakage Rates: Labyrinth seals are not suitable for applications requiring extremely low leakage rates. Some fluid leakage is inevitable due to the clearance between components.
  • Limited Pressure Capability: They are not effective at sealing against high-pressure differentials. As the pressure differential increases, the leakage rate also rises, necessitating additional sealing methods for high-pressure applications.
  • Precision Requirements: Labyrinth seals require precise installation and alignment to function properly.
  • Manufacturing Cost: They may be more expensive to manufacture compared to simpler seal types.


Do labyrinth seals wear out?

Yes, labyrinth seals can wear out over time due to various factors. Although labyrinth seals are non-contacting and designed to minimize wear, they are still subject to gradual deterioration.

What can I use instead of labyrinth seal?

Mechanical seals and lip seals are superior alternative to labyrinth seal.

In conclusion

Labyrinth seals are an effective solution for reducing leakage and improving efficiency in rotating equipment. Their unique design and ability to handle various operating conditions make them a valuable asset in many industries.

To learn more about labyrinth seals and their applications, contact a trusted seal manufacturer today.

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