What materials do our members use?
In general they manufacture products made from two distinct types of material: rubber and polyurethane. On the rubber side we cover all products made from this material, apart from tyres. On the polyurethane side there is a whole range of products that use this material – from soft solid elastomers used for gel pads and print rollers to flexible foam used in upholstery and bedding.Our membership does not aspire to cover all uses of the material. In general we tend to have in membership manufacturers concentrating on products made at the softer end of the spectrum, although this is by no means exclusive. Taken together the two categories of materials falling generally within our scope can be classified as elastomers.
What are the properties of these materials?
Essentially they can bounce; they can stretch; they do not mind being condensed; they absorb shocks; they control fluids and gases; they insulate; they support; they can be hard or soft, permeable or impermeable; they can be coloured, opaque or translucent.
What are the materials made from?
What most of us think of when we hear the word rubber is the natural variety from the green plantations of the Far East, tappers slicing into the bark of trees to allow the sap to flow into collecting cups and that sap being subsequently modified into a usable material by curing or vulcanisation. Today however the raw latex from the rubber tree has been joined by a wide and exciting variety of alternatives created by scientists and technicians and widely used by designers of consumer and industrial products. More than 60% of today’s elastomer production is based on man-made materials, primarily oil-based.
The materials come in a whole range of forms: butadienes, butyls, propylenes, polyurethanes, neoprenes, fluro-silicones, acrylic, hypalon and many other such materials. In fact there are more than 55000 datasheets available for all the different kinds of materials. There is an elastomer for all conditions of temperature, corrosion resistance, electrical application, resilience and shock absorbance.
What are the applications?
Products made of elastomers can be found everywhere. Without them fuels would not flow, machines would not work, homes would be cold and dark, our cars would be draughty and healthcare would be poor. Some particular examples of rubber products made by our members are: plungers in syringes and diaphragms used in medical equipment, anti-vibration and suspension systems in transport, industrial and civil engineering applications, conveyor belting for mining and industrial applications,ducts, seals and hoses used in aerospace and defence industries, expansion joints and protective wraps for corrosion resistance in the offshore and gas industry.
Examples of the products made by our members in which polyurethanes are used are seals and gaskets, high performance adhesives and sealants, sheets, blocks, rods, rollers, tow rope protectors, wheels and tyres suspension bushes.