Custom-cut neoprene is not hard to come by. Neoprene suppliers, as well as DIY enthusiasts, fabricate custom neoprene products, such as gaskets and seals, using a few methods: hand-cutting neoprene, die-cutting neoprene, waterjet-cutting neoprene, and laser-cutting neoprene. Each of these methods of cutting neoprene has its own advantages and disadvantages. While our other articles discuss these methods, this guide goes more in-depth into the pros and cons of each one:
• Can I cut neoprene with scissors?
• What is die cut neoprene rubber?
• Can you cut neoprene foam with a laser?
• Can you cut neoprene with water?
• How do you cut a neoprene rubber gasket?
1. Can I Cut Neoprene with Scissors?
You can cut neoprene with scissors, depending on the thickness of the neoprene material, the quality of the scissors, and the level of precision your project requires. Cutting neoprene with scissors is an example of hand-cutting neoprene. Hand-cutting neoprene is the best option for customizing your neoprene product when the custom size that you need has a lot of room for error. That is, because hand-cutting neoprene does not involve a machine’s precision, there is a larger margin of error that you can expect when you hand-cut neoprene. This method will leave tolerances of 1/16” on most cut parts that are 1/2”-thick and below. And it will leave tolerances of up to 1/4” on rubber materials 1”-thick or thicker. Nonetheless, hand-cutting neoprene is a very effective method in cutting parts that are square or rectangular in shape are too large for die cut machines. Since no expensive equipment is required, the times it typically takes to cut neoprene are faster. Another advantage of hand-cutting neoprene is that a client can cut her neoprene sheets without having to invest in heavy machinery or hire professional help.
2. What is Die Cut Neoprene Rubber?
Die cut neoprene rubber is neoprene that has been cut using a metal mold. The process begins when the desired product’s shape is made into a metal die, which is essentially a strip of metal bent into a certain shape. Think about how a cookie-cutter works. This metal die is pressed through a malleable material, stamping out the shape. Die-cutting neoprene has a smaller margin of error than does hand-cutting neoprene. But, die-cutting neoprene is still more imprecise than waterjet-cutting or laser-cutting neoprene. If your project cannot stand a deviation of 1/16” or more, we recommend that you consider waterjet- or laser-cutting as your main option. Keep in mind that die cutting cannot be performed on just any material of any thickness. This method of cutting is limited to thinner sheets of rubber. Generally, sheets thicker than 3/8” cannot be die cut. The overall dimensions of the rubber object must also be relatively small—less than 24” on any one side.
3. Can You Cut Neoprene Foam with a Laser?
You can cut neoprene foam with a laser cutter, a machine which fires a high-powered laser through the material, outlining the shape of the product you intend to create. Solid neoprene products, such as neoprene seals and gaskets, can be cut using a laser cutter, too. The gasket’s shape is inputted into a computer that is connected to the laser-cutting machine. Then, using the data inputted into the computer, a high-powered laser beam maneuvers over the material, cutting extremely precise lines. This technique consumes a large amount of energy and is used when something like a neoprene rubber gasket needs to be cut but cannot tolerate error. Because of its relative costliness, laser-cutting neoprene is perhaps neoprene suppliers’ least favorite procedure for cutting rubber and is, therefore, used infrequently.
4. Can You Cut Neoprene with Water?
You can definitely cut neoprene with water: Custom neoprene can be produced using the power of a waterjet. This process begins similar to laser cutting—a virtual representation of the desired outcome is first inputted into a computer. The computer then sprays a high-pressured stream of water at the material with such force that the stream of water immediately penetrates the material. For tougher materials, an abrasive can be added into the water, which can help cut the material more cleanly. Waterjet cutting is regarded as an eco-friendly cutting process since it does not require as much energy as laser cutting does. Unlike laser cutting, there is no measure of heat that is used to cut the material. And because this method is controlled by a computer, the margin of error is miniscule. There are large programming fees and high cutting costs associated with this waterjet-cutting neoprene, but the quality of the cut is unmatched.
Review Question: How Do You Cut a Neoprene Rubber Gasket?
To cut a neoprene gasket, use die-cutting, laser-cutting, or waterjet-cutting methods since gaskets are sensitive to deviations in their form and since those three methods generally produce results that have little to no errors, especially when compared to hand-cutting methods. Hand-cutting neoprene stands out as a process which is prone to errors. Fabricating a neoprene rubber gasket seal requires one’s absolute adherence to proper methodology since these applications can be so sensitive to even the smallest variances in a product’s form. Using this guide, we hope that you can now make well-informed decisions when you engage in a project that involves neoprene. It is a great material with a lot of potential—definitely worthy of your time.