Humans have been creating and using rubber since as early as 1600 BC. Early indigenous Mesoamerican communities used rubber balls made from stabilized rubber for sports. This strong, stable rubber was also used for waterproofing, containers, and other functional purposes.
Hundreds of years later, in 1839, Charles Goodyear rediscovered the vulcanization process when he dropped natural rubber on a hot stove. The rubber stabilized as it heated through, giving us the basis of today’s vulcanization process.
Today, society relies on synthetic and natural rubber to meet many needs—from transportation to medical and beyond. The process for creating each type of rubber varies widely.
Kent Elastomer Products is the only company to domestically manufacture natural rubber latex tubing. Because it is so often manufactured overseas, many companies require long lead times on natural rubber orders. KEP is proud to manufacture natural rubber latex in the U.S.A. for shorter lead times and higher quality products.
Read on to learn about the steps to creating a rubber product and the machinery required to bring them to life.
How Are Rubber Products Made?
The answer to that question depends on the type of rubber you are making. Natural rubber latex begins from a rubber tree, found mostly in South America and Southeast Asia. Synthetic rubber, on the other hand, begins with a base of petrochemicals which are processed in a lab.
Below is a more in depth look at the ways natural and synthetic rubber are made.
Natural Rubber Latex
The rubber manufacturing process begins at the point of harvesting latex from a rubber tree. Professional tappers extract latex sap from the trees. The sap is then filtered and packaged into drums, which are sent to a factory to be processed into slabs using an acidic additive.
Next comes prevulcanization. Chemical treatments and low, slow heating prepares the latex sheets to be vulcanized. Vulcanization follows, during which additional intense heating hardens the rubber for use in applications that require hard, durable rubber.
Unlike natural rubber, which begins with the natural latex sap of a rubber tree, synthetic rubber begins with a blend of petrochemicals in a lab or factory. These chemicals include neoprene (polychloroprene) and emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber (E-SBR). E-SBR is the synthetic rubber used to create most vehicle tires.
Additional ingredients for synthetic rubber include oil, coal, and other hydrocarbons. These are all refined to produce a substance called naphtha. Naphtha is then combined with natural gas to create monomers. These monomers include butadiene, styrene, isoprene, chloroprene, ethylene, or propylene.
Once the monomers are created, a catalyst is introduced to the substance in order to initiate polymerization. This creates chains of polymers, giving us synthetic rubber. If needed, the rubber is then further vulcanized using the same methods used to vulcanize natural rubber.
The Machinery Used in Rubber Manufacturing
Rubber manufacturing companies need to have a strong lineup of heavy machinery in order to create high quality rubber. Two of the most crucial rubber manufacturing machines are the rubber mixer and hydraulic press.
- Rubber Mixer
Rubber mixers come in many sizes from five liters to 110 liters. These heavy duty batch mixers are made to powerfully combine the raw materials needed to make rubber.
- Hydraulic Press
Hydraulic presses also come in smaller and larger sizes. These machines are designed to apply incredible amounts of pressure to compress materials. In rubber manufacturing, this is ideal when flattening natural latex into sheets or molding rubber into the desired shape for its end application.
Kent Elastomer Products Makes Natural Rubber Latex for You
Need a custom natural rubber latex product made quickly? Kent Elastomer Product is here to bring your innovations to life. We manufacture your natural rubber latex products here in the United States, so you can count on high quality rubber, excellent customer services, and unmatched turnaround times.
Our natural rubber latex manufacturing process is tried and true. Bring us your ideas, and we will work with you to make sure your custom product is quickly created to your exact specifications.
Interested in natural rubber latex manufacturing with KEP? Click here to learn more.