What is a Rubber Sheet and How is it Made?
When you are driving back home today or walking around the city, take a look around. You might notice a construction site for that new mall or a street sweeper making its way down the bustling roads. These applications are common place for sheet rubber, but the average lay person may never be aware of it. Rubber sheet materialpermeates our everyday lives and its applications are broad and typically tied to the industrial world. However, some knowledge on these rolls of rubber can only help you realize how useful this product is in our everyday lives. Now lets delve into the essentials of what is a rubber sheet and even take a look at how rubber sheet manufacturing is done.
To begin with, it is important to know that there are four broad groups that this product is typically derived from. These groups include: Recycled rubber, reclaimed rubber, synthetic rubber, and natural rubber. Recycled material is primarily made from recycled tire crumb that has been put back together using an adhesive. This is not to be confused with reclaimed material, which is also made from recycled tires and other discarded parts. Reclaimed rubber is de-vulcanized, which goes through vulcanization again to form a sheet rubber. Synthetic material is among the broadest category of rubber sheet material, but is mainly derived from butadiene and styrene, which are by-products of petroleum. These gases can be combined with several different materials to produce sheets that have different chemical and physical properties; creating a material that is ideal for many applications. Lastly, there is natural rubber material which is harvested from the Hevea Brasilinesis tree in areas of South America, Africa, and Asia. Through this process of extraction, sap or latex is taken out of the tree and left to heal in order to produce more rubber. These four different classes provide the basis of different rolls of rubber, and are used in various applications to accommodate the needs of our society.
Part of the appeal offered from these rubber sheets is that they can be combined with several different compounds to change the qualities that each product has to offer. Whether you want something that is going to give you chemical resistance or protection from the outdoors, finding the right blend of compounds is essential for different applications. Here are some of the most popular compounds and the benefits that they can offer. Neoprene is among the most popular because of its broad use and great resistance to chemicals and temperature while SBR offers excellent abrasion resistance and protection against UV and ozone. TPR’s (thermoplastic rubber) combination of properties from both rubber and plastic can be the ideal product for extreme temperatures. EPDM is perfect for outdoor use because it offers superior resistance to UZ and ozone, and Nitrile (NBR) is resistant to fuels and oils, among other chemicals. Silicone allows rubber sheet material to have both resistance to chemicals and temperature. Natural rubber (NR) is typically used in combination with other compounds and recycled rubber offers great durability in any outside area. With endless amount of gauges and blends that this sheet rubber can come in, it is obvious why they are such a common part of our everyday use.
Now that you have been properly introduced to this rather large selection of compounds, we can take a look into how rubber sheet manufacturing is done. There are two prevailing methods of creating sheet or rolls that have proven to be effective in making these products. The first method is referred to as molding, which is the process of forming a compound into a particular shape using a mold. This is typically less expensive method for more sophisticated products. Since smaller footage can be supplied and the products can be made to order, this reduces the overall costs of otherwise expensive “Spec Grade” rubber goods. However, it is not as popular of a method as extrusion. Extrusion is a process where raw material is forced through a stamping tool called a die in order to produce longer piece rolls of rubber. This proves cost-effective when you want to produce more material because of the longer lengths that are formed and more production capabilities. Together, these methods are used appropriately to create rubber sheet material that lines gaskets, form conveyer belts, and even protects laboratory equipment.
The application of sheet rubber is virtually limitless, and with its wide array of uses it becomes obvious why that is. To the unobservant mind, the topic of what is a rubber sheet might still be an anomaly. However, you need no more than to take a trip to the gym, ride around in a car, or merely walk outside to come in contact with these products.
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