Polychloroprene (CR) rubber, widely known as neoprene rubber, was first created during the trying years of World War II. Countries across the globe were all trying to produce a compound similar to rubber to bolster the war effort. Over 80 years have passed, and sheet of neoprene is still used today for its versatile balance of chemical resistance and mechanical properties, rivaled by few other elastomers. This is why most commercial buyers look to purchase neoprene when trying to source a reliable industrial elastomer. CR is cost-effective and offers an all around effective capabilities. It is important to know that a sheet of neoprene is available in a couple of different forms.
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- Solid: This is what is traditionally thought of as a black commercial grade rubber. This form of the rubber is sold in sheets or rolls and in thicknesses from 1/32-inch to laminated versions that could be 4 to 5-inches in thickness. This is the commodity that is then re-fabricated by various industries into shapes or forms that fits needs. For example gaskets can be cut for equipment from this type of rubber
- Neoprene Blend: Since price is always a factor, this compound is mixed with other less expensive rubbers to form a blended sheet. Mixed with reclaimed or styrene butadiene rubber allows for lower price point. But the degree to which manufacturers of neoprene blend the product could mean loss of some of its physical properties and capabilities. Most products on the market is a blended rubber, therefore each product’s specifications must be studied on its own merits.
- 100% Neoprene-Base: A rare commodity, this implies that all of the rubber used in the production of a sheet of neoprene is 100% CR. Though in the production of any elastomer binders, fillers and other agents are used, so the term 100% refers to the “rubber base.”
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- Sponge: This is the cellular version of the rubber. This is the softer variety that is often used as window seals. It can be produced in open or closed cell varieties, and if also offered in gauges from 1/32-inch up to thicker varieties like 2.5-inch thick.
When Chloroprene was first produced, Du Pont, the original manufacturers of neoprene, did not know how to commercialize the product. Yet, because of its laundry list of features, CR was utilized in “fan belts, hoses, seals and gaskets for vehicles” The synthetic rubber was also used as a jacketing for wires and cables and for the soles of work shoes. This combination of features is what makes neoprene rubber a great, general-purpose rubber compound:
- Oil Resistant: This is moderately resistant to animal fats, synthetic grease, petroleum by-products and gasoline. With an affordable price, this rubber a good choice for applications when modest greases and oils are present. Since most commercial applications requiting rubber are not overly exposed to oils, it makes sense to pick a product that is less expensive but still does present some durability.
- Weather Resistant: It is resistant to ozone and oxidation, making it much more weather resistant than natural rubber. This allowed for the use of the product in outdoor applications. Although EPDM’s and some recycled rubber sheets are now far more UV resistant, this feature allows for the use of solid neoprene outdoors when needed.
- Wide Temperature Range: It maintains in structural integrity through a large range of temperatures.
- Chemical Resistant: Chloroprene is resistant to many chemicals including ammonium, Freon and alcohols. Be careful here when using a neoprene blend, since the amount of CR used in the sheet of neoprene will affect the rate of chemical resistance. Of course, the more of it in the blend, the more effective the product when faced with corrosives.
- Excellent Shelf Life: The synthetic material is less prone to aging and degrading compared to natural rubber. There is no question that this product will outlast NR in terms of shelf life and that is why manufacturers of neoprene keep decent stock in their warehouses.
The versatility of CR is augmented by how easy the compound is to work with. Neoprene rubber can be produced as in solid or in a sponge form. It can be combined with other rubbers to make an even more versatile and affordable neoprene blend material. Most commercial grade CR sold is a neoprene blend.
You’ll find chloroprene under the hood of your car or protecting industrial machinery. You may even find it at as pads under the PC used in viewing this article. You may not be looking to purchase neoprene but most OEMs across all industries are and in turn this rubber makes its way into your office or home. Manufacturers of neoprene now sell the product as rubber feet, spaces, seals, gaskets and more. The multitude of neoprene’s features makes it a great general-purpose rubber compound. This durable, wear product will surely be useful for today and the foreseeable future.