Founded in 1933, Fournier Rubber & Supply Company has since established itself as an industry-leading supplier of gaskets and rubber and plastic products. We offer high-quality industrial rubber products from reputable manufacturers and, for highly specialized or unique applications, custom manufacturing capabilities for custom-tailored gaskets and hose assemblies. Equipped with over 80 years of experience handling rubber materials, our team is well-aware of the unique characteristics demonstrated by each of the different types of rubbers.
Rubber is an elastic material that can be produced naturally from various plant sources or synthetically through a variety of chemical processes. It has been in use for thousands of years, during which time it has been produced in numerous variations with distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different applications.
It serves as an essential raw material in the production of everything from automobile tires to surgical gloves. However, successfully producing these components necessitates choosing the right type of rubber for the given part design and application environment. For this reason, we’ve provided an overview of some of the most commonly available rubber types, outlining what they are, their key properties, and their typical uses.
Basic Properties of Rubber
As indicated above, rubber comes in several variations, each of which has unique properties. However, most—if not all—rubbers also share a few common characteristics, such as:
- Elasticity: The molecular structure of rubber materials allows them to return to their normal shape after being compressed or stretched. This characteristic is apparent in rubber bands. Stretching or compressing a rubber band temporarily pulls or pushes the individual molecules out of alignment with each other. As the molecules are attached to one another, they return to their original position once the stretching or compressing force is removed.
- Thermal contraction: While most materials expand when heated, rubber contracts. This unusual phenomenon results from how the rubber molecules respond to heat. When heat is applied, the already-tangled molecules become more tangled and twisted. When heat is removed, the molecules return to their resting state and the rubber regains its original shape.
- Durability: Most rubbers are highly durable, resisting damage and degradation from abrasive and tearing forces, impact, low temperatures, and water. They also exhibit a relatively slow heat buildup rate.
Types of Rubber
Each type of rubber material—whether natural or rubber—demonstrates distinct properties that make it suitable for certain applications. Some of the most common types of rubber and their properties include:
Natural rubber—also known as India or gum rubber—is derived from the milky liquid (i.e., latex) present in the Hevea brasiliensis tree. Some of the material’s key characteristics are high tear and tensile strength, resilience, and resistance to abrasion, friction, extreme temperatures, and water swell. Typical uses include adhesives, flooring and roofing, gloves, insulation, and tires.
Neoprene rubber—also called chloroprene—is one of the oldest types of synthetic rubber. Compared with natural rubber and other synthetic rubbers, it exhibits an exceptionally low susceptibility to burning, corrosion, and degradation. This quality makes it the perfect base material for adhesives and corrosion-resistant coatings. Its ability to maintain good mechanical properties over a wide temperature range also suits it for use in high-pressure gaskets, belts, and window and door seals.
Silicone rubber—also referred to as polysiloxane—is known for its malleability, biocompatibility, and resistance to extreme temperatures, fire, ozone, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is available in both solid and liquid forms in a variety of colors. Its chemically inert nature makes it ideal for use in parts and products that demand biocompatibility (such as gloves, respiratory masks, implants, and other medical products) and chemical resistance (such as baby care items, cosmetic applicators, and food containers and instruments).
Nitrile rubber—also known as Buna-N rubber or nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR)—demonstrates several desirable mechanical and chemical properties, such as resistance to compression set, heat, oil and gas, and wear. These traits make it suitable for use in automotive gaskets and seals, O-rings, and engine hoses. It is also used in medical products (e.g., surgical gloves) since it lacks the allergenic proteins of latex-based rubbers and maintains its structural integrity better than silicone rubber.
Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber is a synthetic rubber that exhibits excellent durability, resisting damage and degradation from extreme temperatures and weather conditions. These qualities make it suitable for use in outdoor parts and products, such as roofing sealants, hoses, and seals. Its superior noise and thermal insulation properties also suit it for use in automobile systems.
Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR)
Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is a copolymer of styrene and butadiene characterized by its superior hardness and durability. It demonstrates better abrasion, alcohol, compression set, and water swell resistance than some of the more expensive synthetic rubbers, which makes it ideal for use in seals integrated into hydraulic brake systems. Other common uses include cutting boards, gaskets, and shoe soles.
Butyl rubber—also known as isobutylene isoprene—offers one of the highest levels of gas impermeability. This quality, combined with the material’s excellent flexibility, makes it suitable for the manufacture of airtight components, such as inner tubes, sport balls, and sealants. As a liquid compound, it is also often used as an additive in diesel and petroleum fuels and chewing gums.
Fluorosilicone rubber—also called FVMQ—is highly resistant to extreme temperatures (-100–350 degrees Fahrenheit), transmission fluids, petroleum oils and fuels, synthetic lubricants, fire, and ozone. These properties make it an ideal material for aircraft fuel systems and other highly specialized industrial applications.
Contact the Rubber Experts at Fournier Rubber Today
The above guide serves as an overview of the different types of rubber and their properties to help customers determine which material is best-suited for their applications. If you have additional general questions about rubber material or specific questions about a particular rubber material, turn to the experts at Fournier Rubber.
At Fournier Rubber & Supply Company, we’ve worked with both natural and synthetic rubber for over eight decades. By leveraging the knowledge gained for this experience, we can identify or custom manufacture rubber gaskets, hose assemblies, and other products for a wide range of customer needs. To learn more about rubber or our rubber products and services, check out our About Us page or contact us today.