For many of us rubber has become a trivial material, while others cannot imagine life without it, as it is useful for them in various daily activities. From a simple jar-wrapping rubber band to the well known tires, without which the movement of our vehicles would not be possible, rubber averted itself on the world market contributing to the development of mankind.
Nowadays, rubber is used to produce profiled gaskets, channelled gaskets, bellows cameras, rubber sleeves, electro-insulating gaskets and other types of elements and rubber items which are fabricated by the process of forming (extrusion) or vulcanization in mould.
We do not know how many of us wondered: where does rubber come from? Or how is it produced? Nothing more simple could say the connoisseurs, but for the unknowing it should be noted that this absolutely vital material, is used since ancient times. Of course, first was natural rubber, which began to be utilised in various activity fields due to its elastic properties and strength. Natural rubber is obtained by extracting a whitish liquid substance, called latex, from tropical trees like Hevea brasiliensis (rubber tree), Ficus elastica, or from the juice of plants growing in the temperate zone.
- A first mentioned moment of the use of rubber is known as the year 1500 when the Aborigines observed that they can do bouncing balls from the coagulated juice extracted from certain trees and plants. They called this material "rubber", which in their language means "weeping tree".
In the same period, Christopher Columbus, on his journey to America, saw the wonderful rubber balls and brought them to Europe.
- Later, in 1770, an English chemist named Joseph Priestley, gives rubber one of its first uses: the eraser. He figured that he could erase pencil marks with this material. Who would have thought that, by chance, we would nowadays get to use this useful object when we make spelling mistakes or when we want to rectify something in writing!
- A milestone in the history of rubber was around the year 1835, when a young man named Charles Goodyear showed a special interest to rubber, and the results were immediate. He discovered the vulcanization process, which consists in treating rubber with sulfur. By the vulcanization of rubber, its properties are improved: it increases in elasticity and becomes more resistant to mechanical agents, to abrasion, to chemical agents and water, it does not let gas pass through it and gains good electrical insulating qualities.
- Early twentieth century brings news and changes because in the year 1909, Fritz Hofmann receives the patent for obtaining synthetic rubber. This rubber is a compound with properties similar to those of natural rubber, but superior rubbers are obtained, with special applications in certain industrial and civil fields.
Car tire manufacturing industry is based on petroleum resources, the main material used to manufacture tires, isoprene, is traditionally produced from petroleum. Note that for a single tire manufacture about 26 liters of oil (petroleum) are needed.
- In 1928 S. Lebedev proposed the method of producing butadiene synthetic rubber from alcohol, it having good insulating qualities, good water resistance and outstanding abrasion behavior.
- Butadiene-acrylonitrile rubber is obtained by copolymerization in emulsion of butadiene with acrylonitrile. Because it is characterized by a very high resistance to oils, fats, petroleum and aliphatic organic solvents are used to manufacture rubber seals (gaskets, hoses, tubes, membranes, etc.) resistant to these environments.
- In 1942 the U.S. succeeds in producing silicone rubber and fluorinated rubber in 1948. Silicone rubber is used to manufacture rubber gaskets such as sleeves, profiled seals, electrical seals, etc., with utilizations in the protection of cables and electrical insulators, in the food and pharmaceutical industries, the fabrication of machinery, auto industries, etc.
Synthetic rubber vulcanization is identical to that of natural rubber, which makes the product as widely used and searched as is natural rubber.
Obtaining synthetic rubbers created the unlimited opportunity to increase production capacity and lead to the obtaining of a sort of superior to natural rubbers, with special applications in certain areas.
Being a multipurpose material, rubber is and will be ongoing development and continuous use. For instance, the new trends in obtaining rubber involve the use of plants, more precisely, through a process of fermentation of sugars extracted from plants, which is made using genetically modified strains of bacteria able to convert complex carbohydrates in a product called BioIsoprene ™. Therefore, a part of the employees of a rubber factory could be the "teams" of genetically modified bacteria. But we do not know how the work will be regulated, if we apply the same code work in humans, but we know that these bacteria are the future of rubber industry.
The new rubber product, obtained naturally, will have numerous applications in different industries, it being able to successfully replace synthetic rubber made from petroleum.
Who knows, maybe soon, in the near future, we will hear of products such as grooved seals, gaskets profile, bellows, sleeves and tires etc., that are made from this ecological material, benefic to the environment in which we live.
by Anamaria Dămoc, Cristinel Mazilu - marketing consultants Procesuality Consulting Group