When it comes to manufacturing and product design, all materials are created equal, right?
Plastic, rubber, synthetics—they’re all the same, and it really doesn’t matter which you use, yes?
No. The production materials you use impact your entire production line, from concept to finished product. Your business will find financial and conceptual benefit if you switch to more sustainable manufacturing solutions.
What’s the difference between rubber and plastic, and why should you choose rubber compounding for your production needs?
Traditional Plastic Production
Many manufacturers default to plastic because it’s easy to source. Most plastics are synthetic polymers derived from petroleum. Heavy crude oil is broken down and separated, combined with hydrocarbons and other chemicals, and finalized to create the plastic products we’re familiar with today.
Global plastic production from 1950 to 2019 churned out more than 359 million metric tons. The market value of all of that plastic is projected to reach $721 billion by the year 2025.
Most plastics are not elastic at room temperature due to their high glass transition temperatures (Tg). Tg is the glassy-elastic transformation threshold temperature. Below it, polymer chains are frozen and cannot mobilize, which makes a plastic rigid. An example is a polystyrene, whose Tg is about 90C. it is a rigid plastic at room temperature. If the temperature is above the Tg, polymer chains are unfrozen and are mobile, which rends the plastic soft and elastic. An example is polyethylene, whose Tg is about -125C. it is therefore an elastic material at room temperature.
Most rubbers have very low Tg, in the range of -50 to -100C. They are elastic at room temperature.
Of course, it is insufficient, just to select plastic or rubber for your application based on its Tg, there are other factors one needs to consider. Such as physical and chemical properties under service conditions. For plastics without being crosslinked, or vulcanized, or 3D networked, even they are elastic at room temperature, they will have very poor elastic retention, or long-term elasticity, under most service conditions. This makes plastics not suitable for applications where elastic retention is needed.
Natural Rubber Production
Natural latex rubber compounds, like the ones we use at Airboss Rubber Solutions, are sustainable alternatives to plastics. Natural latex rubber is pulled straight from nature’s more than 2,500 different rubber-producing plants.
The long-chain polymers that form natural latex (elastomers) stretch, flex, and give rubber its unique properties.
Unlike its plastic counterparts, latex rubber is renewable and sustainable. Latex rubber compounding—the process of adding specific chemicals and additives—allows for complex customization for a diverse range of applications.
Natural Rubber Use in Modern Manufacturing
Some manufacturers are quick to dismiss rubber as just another throwaway polymer, but smart manufacturing leaders understand its potential. In 2019, nearly 14 million metric tons of natural rubber was consumed worldwide. The unique properties inherent to rubber variants make it an ideal solution for all kinds of manufacturing applications.
Airboss compounds and creates customized rubber solutions for the following sectors:
Tire and Track
AirBoss is the preferred supplier to the majority of North America’s largest tire and track manufacturers. Our compounds have been proven to extend retreaded tire life.
Military and defense
Airboss Defense Group is an Airboss subsidiary that supplies military and defense assets with high-quality rubber compounds and products. This includes threat response and medical purposes.
Airboss is the rubber manufacturing leader of customized compounds and highly specialized sector applications. Products like our FlexAir PAPR system are used worldwide by frontline workers as reliable solutions to modern medical challenges.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of modern natural rubber applications. Natural rubber production reached more than 12.5 million metric tons in 2020.
Our compounds are used by major OEM’s to absorb noise, vibration, and harshness. We also develop various under-the-hood components, door seals, and weather stripping. We rigorously test our formulas to ensure they exceed standards for quality, consistency, and performance.
Energy and Oil
Our clean, consistent compounds perform well under extreme heat and pressure, and we work closely with customers to create custom compounds that serve their needs.
Building and construction
We’ve created advanced compounding formulas for waterworks, conduit sealing, and elastomeric bridge bearings. All AirBoss recipes comply with AWWA, UL, NSF, ASTM, CSA, and ASSHTO specifications.
Airboss products fuel the mining industry. Our abrasion-resistant compounds for truck liners and conveyor belts provide industry-leading dispersion and reliability.
Airboss’s on-site quality testing labs and highly automated equipment are powered by our staff of experienced chemists and compounding technicians. These high production standards, and the quality of our products, make our compounds ideal for the aerospace industry.
Airboss offers an inventory of hose, waterworks, and conduit seal recipes. Our formulas often prove superior to plastic and metal alternatives and comply with NSF Standard 61 for drinking water system components.
Choose a Sustainable Rubber Alternative
Customers are savvier than ever about sustainable business practices. The first reason to choose natural rubber compounds over their plastic counterparts is a simple one—your customers will notice.
Sustainable manufacturing goes a long way in the eyes of your clients. More than 75% of millennials focus on environmental issues, so your company will shine in the eyes of those who value environmental consciousness.
Simply put, sustainable natural rubber manufacturing is cleaner and safer than most plastic alternatives. Sustainable, renewable manufacturing is also less taxing on your production costs and makes it a no-brainer as far as ROI is concerned.
Not entirely sold on natural rubber compounds? Contact Airboss today to discuss how our customized rubber compounds are just what you’ve been looking for.