Latex vs Silicone Tubing
Many industries have battled ongoing supply chain disruptions and supply shortages since early 2020. Silicone costs have risen dramatically, with price surges up 300%, and will likely continue to fluctuate, making it more expensive than ever to produce silicone surgical tubing and other products.
Many companies are considering alternative compounds and materials for their silicone products. One such alternative is natural rubber latex.
Natural Rubber Latex & Silicone Tubing Properties
Many products traditionally made from silicone are just as effective when made from natural rubber latex. Both natural rubber latex and silicone offer a variety of advantages that may benefit certain industries. Understanding the differences between natural rubber latex and silicone can help you determine which material will best suit your application.
Natural Rubber Latex Tubing
Natural rubber latex tubing has several desirable physical properties. Natural rubber latex is resilient and does not deform easily. It has excellent elasticity properties and high tensile strength. Natural rubber latex also takes color quite well and can be made in a wide variety of vibrant shades.
Silicone offers a meaningful advantage for surgical tubing and other healthcare applications because it’s latex free. Silicone surgical tubing poses no risk of triggering a latex allergy or sensitivity in a patient or caregiver. Silicone is also very chemical stable and thus highly resistant to extreme cold and extreme heat, making it a popular choice for both baking and ice molds.
The Benefits of Natural Rubber Latex Tubing
The flexible properties of natural rubber latex tubing make it an ideal choice for a variety of applications. The material can handle a lot of stretching and bending without deforming or breaking, so natural rubber latex tubing can be manipulated to fit in a tight space, even if it’s transporting fluids. It’s elongation and tensile strength also make natural rubber latex tubing a durable choice for a variety of applications.
Natural rubber latex is less resilient to weather than other materials, but the right manufacturing strategy can sidestep this challenge. With a protective coating, your product can maintain the beneficial properties of natural rubber latex and still be resistant to outdoor elements.
PVC Tubing & Other Alternatives
Silicone and natural rubber latex are not the only material options for tubing that are well-suited as a replacement or alternative to silicone. There are a variety of alternatives for non-latex surgical tubing and other varieties of tubing.
Most polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds are compliant with FDA food grade and USP Class IV standards. PVC tubing tends to be stiffer than natural rubber latex tubing, which can be desirable in certain applications. Thanks to its excellent clarity properties, PVC is ideal when being able to see inside the tubing is important.
Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) tubing is highly flexible and easy to sterilize. TPE can handle very tight tolerances in manufacturing and offers good dimensional stability, which allows for a high precision final product. It’s also cost effective, making it an attractive choice when material prices can be unpredictable.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) tubing holds up well against abrasion and harsh substances, such as chemicals, greases, oils, and solvents. TPU has a greater load-bearing capacity than many comparable compounds, making it a popular choice when strength is a top priority.
Kent Elastomer Products Tubing
If a spike in pricing or a desire for different physical properties is making you reconsider silicone, talk to the experts at Kent Elastomer Products (KEP). We’ll help you choose the right silicone alternative to redesign your silicone tubing or bring new products to life. Whether you’re considering natural rubber latex tubing or another compound, you can trust our experts to learn about your product’s service environment and advise you on the right material to meet your needs.
Our services go beyond just manufacturing too. KEP is your one-stop shop for elastomer product manufacturing and distribution. We offer custom labeling, packaging, assembly, and customized shipping options, so you can streamline your processes without juggling multiple vendors. Contact KEP today to get started.