Rubber processing and fabrication: what happens

 

Foam rubber is used in the foundations of a broad range of products that are used in day-to-day life. From parts of cars to the desk before you, rubber and foam components are widely used to pad out fixtures and fittings, conceal vibration and suppress noise

Foam rubber processing technology

Using a blowing agent, foam rubber is created by forming gas bubbles in a plastic mixture. The fabrication of foam in this way creates a soft and versatile material that can be constructed into a range of shapes such as sheets and gaskets by cutting or moulding the foam rubber material.

There are a number of ways that foam rubber can be created with two types of foams that are most commonly used – open and closed cell foams. Closed cell foams are created in a way that prevents gas movement in the structure of the material. Highly cross-linked polymers causing smaller gas bubbles allow for less movement and, as a result, create a structure that is more rigid and dense. Open cell foams are more flexible with larger gas bubbles that create a softer appearance, often used for cushioning purposes.

The chemistry of foam production: a quick overview

rubber processing and fabrication

Foam products have individual, distinctive properties that allow them to perform in different ways. The outcome of the foam rubber is dependent on the materials that are used at the design stage. There are three main considerations for the initial ingredients that drastically affect the characteristics of the end foam rubber product, these are:

  • The molecular structure
  • The volume
  • The reaction temperature

Materials used in the production of foam rubber include thermosetting polymers, which are a combination of methyl di-isocyanate, polyurethane and chemical additives, or natural latex, a latex serum which is tapped from the rubber tree. Finding the right material requires rigorous testing to determine the correct balance of ingredients. Amending characteristics such as flexibility, density and thermal tolerance can be achieved by altering the chemical formulation of the start materials such as the blowing agent and surfactants.

The manufacture of foam rubber materials

Rubber processing and fabrication

Depending on the foam rubber material that is being created, the material will need to be manufactured either by hand or by using machinery. The polymerization rates of each material differ from one to the next. Faster systems provide shorter cycle times but require machinery for speed and accuracy. Manufacturing processes such as dispensing, mixing, cutting, curing and more all contribute to the final foam rubber material and the products that they aid in daily life.

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