The practical versatility of natural gum rubber makes it a great product for a wide variety of different applications. Natural rubber products can be found almost everywhere. The rubber in pencil erasers, tires, and outdoor playground tiles are some forms that natural gum rubber can assume. What makes this type of rubber “natural” is that it is not synthesized by scientists in a laboratory. The rubber is natural because it is collected in its natural state as sap from the Hevea brasiliensis tree. The sap is collected and then processed into the natural rubber material that goes on to be used in products around the world. This natural rubber can be formed into solid gum rubber sheets, which undergo a series of steps, from mastication to vulcanization to calendering before it becomes a nice, neat roll.
History provides an insight as to how natural gum rubber was used for a variety of purposes. The original inhabitants of the Americas, like the Aztecs and Mayans, knew about rubber long before the Europeans did. In some of their earliest encounters with the tribes of Mexico, the Spanish noted that they used a ball that was elastic and bounced for their games. The first application the Europeans, specifically the English, used natural rubber material to erase pencil marks, hence the popular term “rubber”. The Portuguese used the flexible rubber material to help better seal their wine shipments, replacing the problematic leather they had used before. By the 1800s, with the advancement of science and the rise of industrialization, natural gum rubber was beginning to be used more and more in a wide variety of diverse applications. Natural rubber products were everywhere in Europe and America around this time, being used as everything from waterproof footwear to tires to the inside fillings for tennis balls (http://www.iisrp.com/WebPolymers/00Rubber_Intro.pdf).
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Versatility of Natural Gum Rubber
The trend continues today. Gum rubber sheets are used for increasingly complex industrial needs that reflect the demands of the 21st century world. Take a look at some of the common, and not-so-common, uses for the multifaceted natural rubber material:
- Gaskets, seals and O-rings: Due to their excellent compressibility and rebound characteristics, gum rubber sheets are used as gasket and seal materials in mechanical systems. The flexible rubber material ensures a tight fit between components and can withstand dynamic applications since it is also resistant to abrasion.
- Conveyor belts: Gum rubber sheets boast a high degree of surface friction, rivaled only by the synthetic rubber silicone. Shoe soles are one of the more familiar products that take advantage of the grip offered by the flexible rubber material. The rubber is also found in the form of conveyor belts for industrial machinery. Great surface friction and a resistance to abrasions suit natural gum rubber for the job.
- Vibration-deadening pads: The shock-absorption trait of natural rubber material is exploited in flooring tiles and asphalt roads. When in the form of a sheet, natural gum rubber is used as a mounting pad for machinery to dampen noise and vibrations. In less common cases, thick sheets of rubber are used as bridge bearing pads, which absorb the shocks and vibrations resulting from activity on a bridge.
- Squeegee applications: Squeegees are some of the most commonplace natural rubber products available. When moisture or excessive water is present, gum rubber is one of the best elastomers to consider. It has excellent water swell resistance and will not log water, making it appropriate for squeegee equipment. The flexible rubber material also allows squeegee tools to conform to surfaces to control liquids on surfaces like ceramic tile or glass windows.
- Shotblasting cabinet lining: A shotblasting machine is basically an enclosure that is used to harden and smooth out a hard material such as metal. Metal pellets are propelled at the material with great force utilizing kinetic energy to remove a material’s irregularities. Gum rubber sheets are used to line the enclosure to protect the machine from blasting itself. The rubber is an ideal material to use since it is resistant to abrasions and will rebound from applied force.
This barely scratches the surface of the numerous uses for an unassuming natural gum rubber. Versatility has been the key to this elastomer’s success. It’s low compression set, high tensile strength, flexibility, and resilience against abrasions and water make it a sort of everyman’s rubber. These qualities are the reason why natural rubber products have been in use since the times of the early Mesoamerican tribes and up until the sophisticated industrial world today. If you have any questions about gum rubber sheets or natural rubber products, please visit our website. In addition, please feel free to call one of our rubber specialists so that they may better assist you with your needs.