“Rubbertown” is a complex in Louisville, Kentucky, that found its roots in 1918 with the construction of an oil refinery by Standard Oil of Kentucky. At that time, no one knew the extent to which this complex would grow, nor did anyone predict the upward effect it would have on the trajectory of the rubber industry. Today, a neoprene rubber roll or neoprene rubber strip is readily available thanks to the many neoprene manufacturers, neoprene wholesalers, and neoprene distributors that sustain the neoprene-material industry. However, it was not always this way. This synthetic elastomer’s true mass-production and manufacturing boom started with Rubbertown during World War II. You may have wondered: Where did neoprene come from? How did neoprene become popular? How is neoprene made? This article aims to contextualize the growth of neoprene, giving you a historical understanding this material through a series of questions.
How Did Neoprene Become Popular?
Neoprene became popular, in many ways, due to World War II. In 1941, the DuPont Company was contracted by the American government to build a neoprene plant. DuPont’s manufacturing plant on the Ohio River has been producing neoprene since September of 1942. When the United States entered into World War II the following December, the federal government purchased the plant but allowed DuPont to continue managing it. Bulk neoprene was a necessity during the war after supplies of natural rubber were severed by Japan, an Axis power during this time. Thus, the DuPont neoprene plant suddenly became an irreplaceable part of the American wartime effort. During the war, Rubbertown continued to expand, and its activity increased dramatically as a result.
How Is Neoprene Made?
Neoprene is made through an intricate production process in which a molecule called chloroprene is polymerized. But, the way this process is conducted has changed over time. After World War II, even when the war ended, the demand for neoprene and other rubber products continued relentlessly. For example, the automotive industry was forever changed by the mass production of neoprene. Today, some of the more popular uses of neoprene include neoprene-rubber gasket material, neoprene stripping, and industrial applications like plumbing or a neoprene pad (vibration isolation). A neoprene rubber roll can be cut and shaped to fit many different needs; those we just mentioned are just some possibilities. A neoprene rubber strip is ideal for weather and sealant applications either indoors or outdoors. However, as neoprene gained traction in the elastomer world, disaster struck. In 1965, a series of explosions and fires devastated Rubbertown, killing eleven people. The accidents were attributed to poor production practices. In response, DuPont developed new technologies for neoprene production that greatly reduced these risks without jeopardizing the final product. If not for the DuPont Company and the many changes in production and manufacturing, neoprene might not have been so popular and easy-to-obtain in today’s economic industries.
Review: Where Did Neoprene Come From?
Historically, neoprene came from the DuPont Company and its contributions toward the growth of Rubbertown. A neoprene rubber roll or neoprene rubber strip was not always so readily available and widely manufactured. These inventions come from a long history of setbacks and developments in the neoprene industry. DuPont played the biggest role in the expansion and use of neoprene by entering Rubbertown and allowing the elastomer to cement its manufacturing roots there. After reading this article, we hope you can see that neoprene’s history is just as fascinating as the material itself.
“Rubbertown”: The Birthplace of Neoprene Manufacturing