Rubber is an extract of rubber plants. It is a kind of natural polymer that can be stretched and shrunk into different shapes. As mentioned earlier, this natural polymer has been used for thousands of years in different fields. It was considered an important raw material for various industries in the 19th century. Over the years, rubber plant uses have increased in number. You will find myriads of things used in daily life that have rubber as a constituent.
Natural rubber is the outcome of the polymerization reaction of a compound called isoprene. It is obtained by slicing the bark of tropical trees. The latex oozing out of the cut tree barks is called latex. For this reason, rubber is also commonly called latex. It also has different names based on the location of the natural sources. The most prevalent of the yields are Amazonian rubber, Indian rubber, and caucho. The leading producers of rubber are Indonesia and Thailand.
Process of Production of Rubber
The production of rubber includes various different steps but mainly comprises Cultivation, Collection, Processing, Vulcanized Rubber, and Transportation. Let’s study each step briefly as given below:
Latex is the main ingredient required for making the rubber. Rubber trees are grown with utmost scrutiny of their needs. An average lifespan of a rubber tree is 32 years but they are productive for about 25 years in total. Such trees require proper rainfall and a particular amount of sunshine (2000 hours/year) every year and a humid atmosphere is preferred for its proper cultivation. An ideal cultivation plan like this is beneficial for the cultivation of rubber trees for commercial purposes.
The collection of Latex is done after tapping the trees. The fluid latex flows through the spiral that is bound with the tree and is collected in the coconut shell. This process continues for about 4 hours and stops as soon as Latex is coagulated in the tapping cut. Coagulation refers to the thickening of the Latex or turning it into partly solid. As soon as Latex coagulation happens, a lot of other particles are also obtained such as Field Coagula that includes Tree laces, Smallholder’s lumps, Cup lumps, and Earth Scrap.
The stage of processing includes collecting the Latex from the coconut shell before it coagulates completely and transferring it to tanks for the process of drying the rubber or mixing it with ammonia for the process of ammoniation. Formic acid is used for cleaning it. Processing steps and coagulation of Latex depends on its type.
During the process of Vulcanization of rubber, it is heated and mixed with different chemicals namely sulphur, bisphenol, or peroxide. Such chemicals are added in order to develop persistence and elasticity so that they can be prevented from decomposing soon. Rubbers that are used in tyres of vehicles have Carbon Black added to strengthen them.
At last, transportation of rubber to different locations takes place. With growing times, the demand for rubber is increasing but the availability of its products is quite dense. Depending on the destination of transportation, different ways are adopted. On average while trading it overseas, the latex is stored in small containers while shipping it. These small containers are stored in a 20-foot long ocean container.
How Rubber is Prepared for Industries?
The rubber items are not directly manufactured from natural extract. It has to go through a process where the tensile strength and hardness are manipulated using different methods. The first process was invented by Charles Goodyear. It was in 1839, he invented the vulcanization process where sulphur reacts with rubber to form vulcanized rubber. This rubber is ideal for producing tyres and other items.
The sulphur molecules bind with the polymer compound present in latex and harden the natural product. The tensile strength increases manifold. It means that this rubber can be used for various purposes and it offers excellent durability. If you check the rubber products list, you will discover how this natural product is transformed to fit such needs.
Application of Rubber in Today’s World
Rubber has been used for 1000 years in different aspects. Its uses have increased with the advancement in its production and processing. In this section, we will discuss the different uses of rubber. It is a natural polymer extracted from the rubber plants cultivated in fields. Since the 19th Century, the application of rubber has increased manifold. In fact, the requirement of producing synthetic rubber has also surfaced for various applications. Read and learn how rubber and its products are used in different domains of life.
Uses of Rubber
The uses of natural rubber are tabulated below for your convenience. Study the uses and understand how this natural polymer is used intelligently to make our lives better.
Rubber can be easily moulded in various shapes and sizes. It can be transformed into anything required and used as a part of the appliances used in domestic and commercial domains.
Rubber is used to manufacture gardening tools, pipes, and hoses. It has less affinity for water and tolerates daily use without any hassle.
Most of the produce is used in manufacturing tyres for different vehicles. The transportation and automobile industry depends on the production and quality of rubbers. Millions of vehicles run on tyres manufactured with vulcanized rubber. Tyres are one of the 5 things made of rubber that are important for the progress of human civilization.
Rubber is an excellent insulator. It does not allow heat or electricity to pass. Hence, it is also used to manufacture and handle covers of different tools and equipment used in industries and households. For instance, the handles of heating equipment used in labs are made of rubber.
Rubber is highly elastic. It can absorb shock exceptionally and protects the objects wrapped with it. The products of rubber in this aspect are mats, shock absorbers for machinery, handles, etc.
As mentioned earlier, rubber has the unique property of repelling water. It means that it allows an excellent grip on watery surfaces. Hence, rubber is used for manufacturing soles of shoes, gloves, and other important equipment for better grip. This is why it is also used for flooring purposes. It offers proper friction to the surface and can avoid accidents.
Protective equipment or features of different tools contain rubber. It protects users from different hazards. Medical professionals use rubber gloves to stop contamination. They also get a good grip on the medical tools they use. This is a brilliant application of rubber that provides protection and grip. It is also used as safety guards and pads in sports gear and protective gear for different industries.
Rubber is also used as an adhesive and cementing element. Rubber is used in the construction industry.
Insulating tapes, gloves, and handles are the things made of rubber used in the electrical industry. Technicians and servicemen use such products for safe operations and services.
Rubber is also used to manufacture insulation blankets used for various industrial purposes.
In cold countries, insulating footwear is required to beat the chilly climate. Rubber perfectly fits into the description of such material to produce insulating footwear. On the other hand, rubber can also withstand heat to a considerable extent. Such rubber items can also be used in hot conditions.
The softer versions are used to manufacture conveyor belts. It is one of the examples of rubber used in the softer version. The other examples are balloons, condoms, cushions, balls, etc.