You may identify neoprene rubber as the elastomeric material that wetsuits and laptop sleeves are made of. That kind of neoprene material is soft to the touch and exhibits a superior degree of flexibility and elasticity. However, neoprene rubber can also be used for heavy construction applications. One primary example of such an application is in bridge construction. A neoprene bearing pad is a thick and durable version of the elastomer that is used in numerous construction applications. Thick neoprene padding is employed in such applications to endure the pressure of heavy weights and resist outdoor variables such as oils and ozone.
Many people do not realize this, but the many bridges across the country that you may drive your car across are constructed with the assistance of durable neoprene components. Pads of neoprene have been and are still commonly used in concrete bridges to prevent damage from bridge activities and movements. A good solid neoprene block can provide the perfect protective barrier that is required in important construction jobs.
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How A Neoprene Bearing Pad Handles Heavy Loads
Although they are both derived from the base compound polychloroprene, the neoprene in wetsuits is not the same form present in a neoprene bearing pad. Wetsuits, laptop sleeves and mouse pads are made of cellular neoprene, a form of neoprene that is the result of the introduction of a foaming agent into its creation process. The type of neoprene pads for bridges are made of dense sheet rubber and do not use a foaming agent in the production process. In contrast to the softer and more foamy looking cellular rubber, the material of a neoprene bearing pad is solid and firm to the touch, offering little flexibility for the sake of enhanced durability.
What exactly is a bridge bearing pad? Conjure the best image of a concrete bridge in your head. You should see concrete piers holding up the bridge deck. A bridge bearing is located where the piers connect to the subsurface of the bridge deck. This device is meant to transfer any loads and movements from the deck into the foundation. It is a safety mechanism that gives bridges the ability to flex with movements instead of being damaged by them. A neoprene bearing pad is uniquely qualified for this task simply by virtue of its physical features.
There are three types of bearings: elastomeric, plane sliding and multiple roller bearings. A neoprene bearing pad falls directly into the elastomeric category; that is, they utilize the inherent elasticity of rubber. Despite the limited flexibility of a thick and solid neoprene block, the fact that it is a rubber material gives the pad a better level of elasticity for the purposes of shock absorption. Elasticity is a trait common to rubbers, although each specific type has its own level of it. Elastomeric bearings are also a more economical choice when compared to the other types of bearings .
Neoprene padding offers two important physical functions that can help to prevent damage to bridges:
- Absorbs shock: The shock absorbing property of durable neoprene material dissipates any loads and impacts that may damage the structural integrity of the bridge deck and supports. Using neoprene pads for bridges also promotes the absorption of movements caused by thermal expansion and contraction of the materials in the beams or bridges. This feature of a neoprene bearing pad helps in the proper and stable functioning of a bridge.
- Promotes movement: The inherent elasticity of neoprene allows for lateral and longitudinal movement of the bridge. The elastic nature of neoprene allows the beam to rotate slightly from impact, only to rebound unaffected. Even the most durable neoprene material has a small amount of elasticity, just enough to make a difference. This feature makes neoprene, and rubber in general, a popular material to use in these types of construction projects.
A neoprene bearing pad is a cost effective and useful plate for use on precast, pre-stressed concrete or metal beams in bridges. Neoprene pads for bridges allow effortless and consistent transmission of mass from the beam down. This permits sideways shift of the beam caused by natural thermal energy. Neoprene padding is easier to install than plane sliding and multiple roller bearings. Neoprene rubber’s resistance to ozone, UV rays, certain chemicals, and weathering ensures that the elastomer won’t degrade from outdoor use. The operable temperature range of neoprene is also very wide, which ensures consistent performance. It is truly amazing what a neoprene block can do! Next time you are on a bridge, just know that the chances are good that you are being supported through the aid of a neoprene bearing pad.