Rubber is an incredibly flexible and versatile natural product that has been used for over a thousand years.
When you think of rubber, products such as car tyres and elastic bands are probably the first things that come to mind. But rubber is used in tens of thousands of products, from stamps and shoes to hoses, swimwear, and flooring.
What is rubber?
Rubber is a natural polymer that is widely used thanks to its ability to be stretched and shrunk into countless different shapes.
There are many different kinds of rubber, but they can be categorised into two main types:
Natural rubber, also known as latex, is grown from plants
Synthetic rubber, which is made artificially in a chemical plant or laboratory
Natural rubber is made by collecting latex milk from the rubber tree, while synthetic rubber is made from petroleum.
While natural rubber offers greater potential for mechanical control, it is not as resistant to temperature, atmospheric, and chemical compounds whereas synthetic rubber is.
Today, natural rubber is being replaced with synthetic rubber in some applications as its chemical composition allows it to be subjected to industrial processes that guarantee better performance at a lower cost.
What is rubber used for?
Rubber has many favourable and beneficial qualities, making it popular and widely used. It is strong and durable, it can protect components from leakages and eliminate gaps, and it is a poor conductor of both heat and electricity.
Rubber can be moulded into various shapes and sizes and can be transformed into almost anything.
Of course, rubber products and components are not manufactured directly from natural rubber extracts. The rubber goes through a process where the tensile strength and hardness are manipulated, which is done using different methods.
Here are some of the key uses of rubber:
Machines often require the use of gaskets to reduce the risk of leaks or fill any space between their parts. Flexible and able to withstand high levels of friction, rubber is the ideal material for creating gaskets.
Tools and equipment
Because rubber is an excellent insulator for both heat and electricity, it is used in the manufacture of tools and equipment. Tools having rubber handles also provide comfort and grip to the person using them.
It is also used as strong, thin jacketing for electrical cables, fibre-optic cables, and heating pipes.
Tyres and tubes
Vehicles of all types and sizes use tyres made of rubber. Around half of all the rubber in the world ends up being used for tyres. Rubber is used to manufacture both the hard, black exterior of tyres, as well as the inner tubes and liners.
Rubber is widely used in flooring in a wide variety of environments, including spaces such as commercial kitchens and gyms. Rubber flooring offers a number of benefits – they are padded, slip-resistant, easy to maintain, and long-lasting. It also provides a surface with proper friction, which can help avoid accidents.
Another use of rubber is in seals and padding for automobile parts, including in the padding of brakes and the sealing of windshields and windows. Where rubber absorbs vibrations, it also comes in handy when soundproofing, for instance, against the moving parts in an engine, or as the vehicle travels along the road surface.
Rubber is highly elastic, meaning it can easily absorb shocks and protect the objects contained within it. As a result, it is often used to make shock absorbers for machinery, handles, and mats.
Rubber is a very poor conductor of electricity so it is ideal when an electrical device needs to be insulated, or if a technician needs to work with wiring.
Rubber is also widely used in medical products and applications, including corks for lab flasks and vials, birth-control devices, prosthetics, and other specialised equipment. Rubber gloves are also used to prevent contamination while allowing medics to get a secure grip on their tools and equipment.
Rubber is also used in its natural, fibrous form to produce expandable, tight-fitting clothes such as swimwear and cycling shorts.
Rubber shoes can be used in cold countries to protect the wearer from chilly conditions or to keep water out in the case of Wellington boots.
The airbags used to protect drivers and passengers from injury in the event of a crash or accident are made from rubber. On impact, the rubber bag inflates, protecting the driver or passenger from injuries.
Easy to clean and sterilise, while being flexible and able to withstand heat, rubber is commonly used in baby products such as bottle nipples and pacifiers.
Latex and tubes
The rubber gloves often used in laboratories and healthcare settings are made from rubber.
School and office products
Rubber is used in a wide variety of stationery products found in many schools and offices, including pencil erasers, rubber bands, and rubber finger grips.
Rubber can be moulded to form many products used in sport, including swim caps, scuba gear, playmats, tackle bags, baseballs and shuttlecocks.
At Industrial Rubber, we’ve been manufacturing rubber mouldings since 1975 and gained an unsurpassed reputation worldwide. Get in touch to find out how we can help improve your business manufacturing processes.