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Material Breakdown: What is Natural Rubber?

Posted by Joe Hoffman
Material Breakdown: What is Natural Rubber?

The best parts are produced when the most effective material is used to manufacture that part. There are a wide range of rubber compounds available, many of which are man-made substances.

While the vast majority of materials used to make parts are synthetic, natural rubber is still a viable option for several industries. Ready to learn when natural rubber is a better option than the synthetic materials? Let’s break down what natural rubber is made of and when it’s a good solution for your part needs.

How is Natural Rubber Made?

While most types of rubber are made in labs and polymerized to develop compounds with specific properties, natural rubber hails from plants. Rubber starts off as a milky white raw material called latex sap. This rubber latex has been harvested from dandelions and other plants since 1,600 B.C. These days, the Amazonian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) in South America is the most common source for rubber latex.

Modern day natural rubber can be traced back to when Charles Marie de La Condamine introduced samples of the material to French academic circles starting in 1736. Although Mesoamericans figured out how to stabilize their latex production centuries ago, Charles Goodyear is credited with redeveloping the process called vulcanization in 1839.

The general way to make rubber involves taking latex from rubber tree plantations or other sources and adding a few other ingredients. In general, these ingredients include acids, chemicals, and additives to create the material classically associated with car tires, rubber bands, and other parts. Of course, there are so many other parts that can benefits from natural rubber.

The Advantages of Natural Rubber

While it may not have the variety of additives as synthetic rubber, tubber produced from latex still has several notable benefits that make it a good fit for producing parts. These are some of the more notable reasons why businesses often choose this particular rubber for their part production.

Incredible physical durability

If your parts are going to take a beating, natural rubber is potentially a good fit. This material is extremely tough thanks to excellent abrasion and tear resistance, which is a big reason why it’s used for tires, loading dock bumpers, and other parts that need to withstand regular contact with rough surfaces.

Physical durability also extends beyond the ability to take a bunch of hits without breaking down. Naturally-occurring rubber is also extremely resilient and boasts high tensile strength as well. These qualities allow the rubber parts to return to their original state and stay strong when stretched out, even under extreme duress.

Anti-vibration and noise reduction qualities

In addition to the extreme physical durability, natural rubber also has an innate ability to absorb and deaden both vibration and noise. It’s excellent compression set make it a great rubber for producing shock mounts, vibration isolators, and other parts that need to dampen loud or shaking applications.

Another advantage of natural rubber for anti-vibration and noise reduction is its adhesion to metals. Damping equipment won’t work if they stay attached, so this material’s ability to bond to various metal pipes and other surfaces give it long-term viability.

Manufacturing versatility

One of the most convenient aspects of working with natural rubber is that it doesn’t pose too many problems with manufacturing. Natural rubber can be molded, die cut, extruded, and made in just about any way. In addition, this material can be compounded to meet nearly any mechanical requirement, meaning that you won’t run into too many issues when it comes to addressing specific designs for your applications.

When is Natural Rubber the Wrong Choice for Your Parts?

While there are many reasons why businesses can benefit from using natural rubber, the material isn’t always the right solution. There are some situations where natural rubber isn’t a great fit for your needs, or another compound might be an even better option.

Certain substances will create immediate issues for natural rubber. Oils and solvents will break down rubber made with latex, leading to early part failure. This material also isn’t quite as resistant to weather and sunlight as other compounds made for outdoor applications. Finally, any parts that require ample heat resistance will likely need some other type of rubber or plastic, as natural rubber’s range only goes up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is Natural Rubber Used For?

There are several different types of parts that are made from natural rubber. Just about any part that needs to survive regular physical contact is a match for natural rubber, with exceptions for certain environmental challenges. The level of durability, physical characteristics, and ease of manufacturing means that natural rubber is often used to make the following parts and components.

  • Shock mounts
  • Vibration isolators
  • Gaskets
  • Seals
  • Rolls
  • Hose and tubing
  • Tires
  • Bushings
  • Pad assemblies
  • Loading dock bumpers

Invest in a Material That’s a Natural Fit for Your Applications

Natural rubber is an excellent option for many parts, but it’s one of many different compounds available. Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to figure out which rubber or plastic is right for your parts, especially if you have specific performance requirements or environmental challenges. Fortunately, businesses don’t need to figure this out on your own.

Timco Rubber works closely with businesses to help them identify the best, most cost-effective rubber and plastic part solutions for their parts. Our experts review every project with to help you address your specific performance requirements, operating environments, and budget.

Ready to invest in the perfect plastic or rubber parts for your business? Give us a call at 800-969-6242 or contact us online to talk to one of our experts about the parts you need.