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What Are the Differences Between Rubber and Plastic Extrusions?

At Universal Polymer & Rubber, we are industry leaders in both rubber and plastic extrusion. Although these types of extrusions share similar qualities, their key distinctions make them well-suited for different applications.

In this blog, we’ll clarify the similarities and differences between rubber and plastic extrusions as well as outline some of the more prevalent uses of each material.

Rubber Extrusions

During the rubber extrusion process, manufacturers build a die in the shape of the required cross section, then force the rubber through the die. The immense pressure under which this takes place makes the rubber soft and pliable, enabling manufacturers to shape into the appropriate form. After shaping the rubber, manufacturers vulcanize it, causing it to harden into the desired shape.

Rubber extrusions are ideal for applications that must account for compression set properties. They work well in very harsh environments, including at high temperatures and in places where the part will be in motion. Depending on the application, and especially to assist in high-temperature environments, silicone can be incorporated into the rubber to improve its performance.

Rubber is very tear-resistant, and its excellent strength capabilities mean that it can last a long time in many applications. The automotive and trucking industries in particular rely on rubber extrusions, as they form essential components such as tarp straps. Concrete pipe layers also use extruded rubber to create high-strength pipe gaskets, and rubber sees many uses as grips and other parts of outdoor power equipment.

Plastic Extrusions

Plastic is extruded somewhat differently from rubber. During plastic extrusion, the plastic is melted and then forced through the die. After the die has shaped the molten plastic into the desired form, it cools into a solid form and is sliced to the appropriate length.

Plastic differs from rubber in that it offers opportunities for recyclability. Rubber will retain its shape even under extreme heat, whereas plastic can be melted and reused after it has fulfilled its intended purpose.

Plastic’s tendency to melt at high temperatures makes it unsuitable for applications in hot environments, but it is useful for other applications that place a higher value on hardness and rigidity. Plastic can take on many different forms; depending on the formula used to build the plastic, it can be as stiff or malleable, light or as sturdy, etc., as needed.

A range of applications use plastic extrusions. For example, many types of window seals and window channels are made from extruded plastic. Plastic also forms the basis of many consumer products, including souvenirs and toys. The medical industry makes heavy use of extruded plastic tubes and tubing.

Rubber and Plastic Extrusions From UP&R

Rubber and plastic extrusions each offer unique advantages for their respective suitable applications. Rubber extrusions are ideal for high-heat applications and those that place the extrusion under significant loads. Plastic extrusions are better if you’re looking for light weight and stiffness. Users should consider the temperature and performance demand requirements of their application when deciding between extrusions.

Whichever extrusion type you aim to choose, Universal Polymer & Rubber can help with your next project. We’ve been making high-quality custom rubber and plastic extrusions since 1970, offering a wide array of polymer solutions to clients around the world.

We manufacture parts to Mil-spec and ASTM standards, and you can find our extrusions at work in the architectural, construction, transportation, automotive, electrical, and industrial markets.

To learn more about the rubber and plastic extrusions that we offer at Universal Polymer & Rubber, contact us or request a quote today.