Each type of rubber can be thought of as a snowflake. While they all look alike from far away, upon closer inspection you will notice that they are all quite different. One rubber compound may possess a really great level of resistance to extremely high temperatures, but it may not be as durable against physical abrasions as another kind of rubber might be. To distinguish itself from being just another rubber sheet, neoprene offers some great characteristics. Neoprene rubber sheeting can come in a variety of options from thick to thin and from hard to soft. Neoprene sheet suppliers often offer sheet neoprene in the form of sheets, rolls, or mats. In this article, we will explore the many characteristics unique to the neoprene elastomer. Here are a few of the questions associated with sheet neoprene, questions we will provide answers to as you continue reading this article:
• What is sheet neoprene used for?
• Which is better: sheet neoprene or natural rubber?
• Why is sheet neoprene expensive?
What Is Sheet Neoprene Used For?
Sheet neoprene is used in many applications, including automotive seals and gaskets, building construction, and vibration absorption. These are just a few of the countless applications in which industries and societies utilize neoprene materials. But what makes neoprene so special? Why has it been dubbed the “general purpose elastomer?” It all comes down to neoprene’s unique combination of traits—its ability to withstand any condition to either a moderate or an outstanding degree. The following is a list of traits that set neoprene apart from the other elastomers.
Gauges: An industrial neoprene sheet can come in different gauges. American-based neoprene manufacturers measure neoprene gauge according to English units of measurements, whereas European-based neoprene suppliers measure their neoprene’s gauges according to the metric system. A sheet of neoprene’s gauge may come in measurements of, for example, 1” or 2”. These are certainly larger examples of the gauges that neoprene manufacturers offer, and these wider gauges are used for applications such as an elastomeric neoprene bearing pad. Thinner gauges are also common since many applications demand thin, sheet neoprene. For example, a 1/16”-thick sheet of neoprene can be used for making a neoprene table mat or neoprene drum pad. Many neoprene manufacturers, neoprene suppliers, and neoprene distributors also offer custom-cut neoprene products, a service through which customers can order a specific gauge, as well as length, of sheet neoprene.
Different Forms: The neoprene material comes in two different forms: solid and foam. A solid neoprene rubber sheet generally lacks a porous structure, containing no pockets of air that significantly change what the sheet of neoprene best accomplishes. Whereas, foam neoprene is a type of neoprene where the entire structure of the sheet is internally speckled with pockets of nitrogen gas. These chambers of gas make sponge neoprene feel much softer—akin to a supremely durable version of a kitchen sponge. And this is not it. Neoprene foam comes in two types as well: open-cell neoprene foam and closed-cell neoprene foam. While—based on their names—they do not seem significantly different, each type of neoprene sponge has a set of applications for which it is best suited. Open-cell neoprene sponge, as its name suggests, is made of a network of open-cell pockets of nitrogen gas. These cells are “open” in that they connect to each other and that they connect to the exterior of the neoprene sheet. This makes a sheet of open-cell foam neoprene essentially non-waterproof. Even though the neoprene itself is waterproof, the way that open-cell neoprene foam is structured practically renders the sheet—as a whole—permeable to water. In contrast to open-cell neoprene rubber, closed-cell neoprene sponge rubber is composed of pockets of nitrogen gas which do not connect to one another. Furthermore, these internal chambers to not connect to the sheeting neoprene’s surrounding, which makes this form of sponge neoprene completely air- and water-tight. Altogether, we can say that there are three types of neoprene. First, there is solid neoprene. Second, there is an open-cell neoprene sheet. And third, there is a closed cell neoprene sheet. These different forms of neoprene further increase neoprene’s versatility in general, buttressing its status as the general-purpose elastomer.
Durometer: A material’s durometer is the measurement of its hardness—how much compression it can handle before it becomes permanently indented. Neoprene durometer represents a particular sheet of neoprene’s hardness. When it comes to manufacturing neoprene, neoprene manufacturers produce rolls of neoprene of all kinds of durometers, ranging from soft neoprene to hard neoprene. Generally, softer neoprene has a durometer within the range of 40 to 60 Shore A. Whereas, harder neoprene is typically within the range of 60 to 80 Shore A. Similar to the other unique characteristics of neoprene, durometer affects the applications for which a sheet of neoprene is ideal. A basic understanding of durometer will really help you choose the right hardness when you look to buy neoprene.
Oil Resistance: Neoprene oil-resistance is a standard expectation when it comes to neoprene products. Originally, neoprene was developed to be a superior alternative to natural rubber. Without augmentation, natural rubber is relatively vulnerable to harsh oils. Neoprene exhibits a higher level of oil-resistance than natural rubber. While there are synthetic elastomers with higher degrees of oil-resistance than sheet neoprene, neoprene’s oil-resistance is still useful for applications such as automotive sealing and gasketing. Such applications are often exposed to oils, which makes neoprene particularly valuable—especially since neoprene’s compressive strength is irreplaceable in these settings.
Outdoor Life: Neoprene rubber sheeting is ozone-, UV-, and oxygen-resistant. This capability allows the neoprene elastomer to be used in outdoor settings without worry that the neoprene material will quickly degrade. This is one reason for why sheet neoprene materials are so widely used in outdoor construction applications. Moreover, with the right neoprene blend, such as a neoprene-nitrile or a neoprene-EPDM-SBR blend, a neoprene product’s outdoor lifespan may increase even further. At the end of the day, it depends on the specific outdoor conditions within which the neoprene sheet operates.
Which Is Better: Sheet Neoprene or Natural Rubber?
It depends on the application. But, in general, sheet neoprene is better than natural rubber because neoprene materials exhibit most of the qualities that natural rubber does but to a greater degree. The main advantage that natural rubber has over neoprene sheeting is that natural rubber products tend to be less expensive than neoprene products. However, developments in the neoprene manufacturing process, such as introduction of neoprene blends, have made neoprene products much more affordable, further cementing this material as a unique, irreplaceable tool.
Why Is Sheet Neoprene Expensive?
Sheet Neoprene tends to be expensive—especially when compared to natural rubber—because of the process required to produce neoprene. The chemicals used to catalyze the polymerization of chloroprene, the monomer of neoprene, are difficult to extract. And the widespread demand for neoprene further increases the cost of neoprene. But, as we have mentioned, scientists have been refining the neoprene manufacturing process in ways that make this wonderful material more and more accessible to laymen and professionals alike.
In this article, we have discussed some of the properties of neoprene rubber that make it an outstanding elastomer. Again, neoprene is known as the “general-purpose elastomer” for good reason. Its combination of traits is impressive in that—for the most part—other elastomers lack the same variety when it comes to their set of characteristics. Neoprene’s well-roundedness as a material makes it a highly coveted, as well as useful, material in most residential, commercial, and industrial environments. As if this was not enough, neoprene can be augmented during its production process to exhibit even more traits. Neoprene sheet suppliers can change the thicknesses in which their sheet neoprene is made; they can alter neoprene durometer; they can make different types of neoprene; and they can blend it with other elastomers for a more affordable and niche product. Neoprene rubber sheeting’s basic set of qualities—combined with the extensive potential to enhance its abilities—makes sheet neoprene an invaluable material in almost every sphere of life. As much as we can exalt neoprene, it chagrins us to say that words alone can never to this material the justice that it has earned. For a true, deep understanding of neoprene’s power, you should experience first-hand, for yourself. When you apply neoprene to your next project, take a moment to appreciate how much utility it offers you. There really is nothing like neoprene.