Rubber is available in both natural and synthetic variations. While both types demonstrate unique material characteristics that make them suitable for use in different applications, synthetic rubbers offer several advantages over natural rubbers that make them ideally suited for use in manufacturing operations. The following blog post provides a comparison between natural and synthetic rubbers, evaluating their distinct characteristics and applications.

An Overview of Natural Rubber and Synthetic Rubber Production

Natural rubber is an elastomeric polymer material that was adopted for commercial use in the early 1900s. It is most commonly derived from a Brazilian plant known as Hevea brasiliensis, but may also be made from other plants such as rubber fig, common dandelion, and Panama rubber tree. All of these plants contain the latex—a milky colloid—a key component in the commercial manufacture of natural rubber.

Later in the 20th century, chemical manufacturers began producing artificially created rubbers—i.e., synthetic rubbers—by polymerizing monomers into polymers. This process is used to create synthetic rubbers with varying mechanical and chemical characteristics to suit different applications. Some of the most common types available today include EPDM, nitrile, and silicone rubber.

Natural Rubber Properties

Natural rubber demonstrates high elasticity, resilience, and tensile strength, Additionally, it resists wear damage (e.g., chipping, cutting, and tearing), offers good dynamic performance properties, and has low damping levels. Due to the above characteristics, among others, it is often used for tire production.

Synthetic Rubber Properties

In general, synthetic rubber exhibits greater durability and longevity than natural rubber. These qualities largely stem from the material’s resistance to damage and degradation from chemicals, high and low temperature, ozone, sunlight, and weathering. Other key properties include superior flexibility at low temperatures and suitability as an electrical insulator.

It also is much easier and cheaper to produce in different variations, which makes it ideal for use in applications with highly specific or unique requirements. Custom formulations can be created to enhance or add specific material properties, such as flame resistance.

Natural Rubber vs. Synthetic Rubber

Advantages of Synthetic Rubber

Compared to natural rubbers, synthetic rubbers offer many advantages, such as better resistance to aging and weathering and suitability for use in environments exposed to chemicals, oils and greases, oxidizing compounds, high temperatures, and other extreme conditions. Each type of synthetic rubber also carries its own benefits. For example:

  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber offers resistance against chemicals, heat, ozone/weathering, and other aging conditions. It can also be combined with other compounds to increase its strength and electrical resistance to accommodate the production of durable rubber products such as car bumpers, rub strips, or tarp strings.
  • Nitrile rubber is characterized by a high compression set and excellent resistance to oils and fuels. It is often used in industrial blankets, diaphragms, packaging, and seals.
  • Silicone rubber is one of the most commonly employed types of synthetic rubber. It exhibits superior resistance to ozone, sunlight, and high temperatures, as well as other mechanical and chemical properties that make it suitable for use in industrial applications. It can be extruded and molded into a wide range of shapes and sizes to produce a variety of parts and products, such as cords, strips, and tubes.

Contact the Rubber Experts at Universal Polymer Today

Founded in 1971, the experts at Universal Polymer are well-versed in the manufacturing advantages of synthetic rubber. Equipped with nearly five decades of industry experience and 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space, we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to meet virtually any polymer part or product need. For additional information on what we do, visit our About Us page or contact us today.

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