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Natural or Synthetic Rubber?

By CRGI on

natural or synthetic rubberWhen sourcing rubber gaskets, parts or fabrications, buyers sometimes have the choice between using natural or synthetic rubber. What are the key differences between these two classes of rubber? In this blog we highlight the differences and discuss situations where using one or the other may be preferable.

Natural or synthetic rubber?  – properties and characteristics

Natural rubber, sometimes called “India rubber”, is an elastomer produced by tapping the latex from rubber trees. The tapped latex is the refined and vulcanized into a commercial rubber which can be employed to produce parts and fabrications.

Natural rubber has unique properties, including high tensile strength and tear resistance, outstanding resistance to fatigue, excellent adhesion (including the ability to adhere to itself) and water resistance, and high resistance to cutting and chipping.

Synthetic rubber is an artificial elastomer consisting of polymers synthesized from petroleum by-products. The production of synthetic rubber greatly accelerated during World War 2, when large quantities of rubber were required to support the war effort.

Many types of synthetic rubber are now available. Some of the most common include styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), EPDM, Nitrile (NBR), and others. Each of these synthetic rubbers exhibits different chemical and mechanical properties.

Natural or synthetic rubber? – uses and applications

Although natural rubber exhibits many excellent mechanical properties, it can be inferior to synthetic rubber in many applications, particularly with regard to thermal stability and compatibility with petroleum products and certain chemicals. For this reason, natural rubber is often not recommended to produce parts or fabrications that will be used in applications involving oils, solvents, and ozone.

Because of its high abrasion resistance, natural rubber is often a good choice for parts and fabrications that will be subjected to wear and tear, as well as shocks and impacts. These include parts and fabrications such as shock mounts, vibration isolators, gaskets and seals, as well as hygienic elastomeric products.

Since synthetic rubbers exhibit greater resistance to strong chemicals and high temperatures, parts and fabrications made from these rubbers are better suited for applications involving strong acids and alkalis and high service temperatures. Many types of synthetic rubber are also flame resistant. Parts and fabrications often made from synthetic rubber include gaskets and seals, insulation, hoses and tubes, and more.

Which rubber should I choose – natural or synthetic rubber?

There is no right answer to this question as the choice very much depends upon your particular application. For any given application, each type of rubber has its own uses based upon its own specific properties.

While natural rubber can outperform synthetic rubber in some applications, natural rubber cannot be tailored to serve a particular application in the same way as synthetic rubber – with a wide variety of synthetic rubbers now available in the marketplace, a suitable synthetic can usually be found to support any given application.

In cases where either natural or synthetic rubber can service an application equally well, the decision of which rubber to use often comes down to cost – natural rubber is often more expensive than standard grade synthetics, so parts and fabrications made from natural rubber may cost more than their synthetic counterparts. Experienced producers of parts and fabrications, such as CRG, can offer guidance on which rubber material is best for your particular application, considering costs and performance.

CRG maintains an extensive inventory of natural and synthetic rubbers. We use these materials to produce parts and fabrications of outstanding quality and reliability. With over 30-years’ experience in servicing our customers’ needs, we can help with material selection and all aspects of production. All parts and fabrications we produce from natural or synthetic rubber are made using the latest equipment in our ISO 9001:2015-registered facility. To find out more about the parts and fabrications we can supply from natural or synthetic rubber, please contact us at crg@canadarubbergroup.com.