If you’ve been in the manufacturing business long enough, you’d know a few critical things. One of those is that rubber is easily among the most versatile materials in the world. Known for its stretchability and the fact that you can use it for so much, rubber has become a mainstay for developers and creators across the world. 

Today, developers are spoilt for choice when it comes to rubber options. And thanks to recent developments in production technology, one material that has become prominent is AEM rubber. This article will dive into what the material is, how it works, and why it is especially prominent among manufacturers. 

What Is AEM Rubber? 

So, before we look into how effective this material is, let’s answer the main question – what is Ethylene acrylic rubber? 

Some call it “AEM,” while others might call it “Vamac rubber.” Whatever it is, Ethylene acrylic rubber is a synthetic rubber material. It is a member of the elastomer family, and it also functions as a versatile rubber option that provides a bunch of benefits across the board. 

Made of both ethylene and acrylic materials, AEM rubber gets the best of both worlds. The material has been retrofitted to work in different industries and in different capacities, ensuring that it easily meets your needs based on what you require. 

As a copolymer, Ethylene acrylic rubber is made of two major monomers that will have to be combined together to form it. These are ethylene and acrylic elements – well, the material’s name pretty much says it all. 

Ethylene: Known to have the chemical representation of C2H4, Ethylene is a hydrocarbon gas. As its structure shows, the gas combines four hydrogen atoms and two carbon atoms. It helps to kickstart the copolymerization process that forms AEM rubber, and without it, the rubber would be impossible to synthesize. 

Acrylic Monomers: The other side of the puzzle are the acrylic monomers. Now, this one is a bit of a complex option – the term covers a group of monomers that are obtained from either methacrylic or acrylic acid. In most cases, you’ll find the monomers having a carbon double bond (C=C), as well as a carboxylic acid group. 

The major acrylic monomers that tend to be combined with Ethylene to make AEM rubber include ethyl acrylate, methyl acrylate, and more. At the end of the day, the particular monomer you use will depend on what you;re looking to achieve. 

When both materials go together through the copolymerization process, you get the formation of the rubber material. Now, it is worth noting that the chemical structure of Ethylene acrylic rubber will have consistent, repeating units of both materials along its polymer chain. All in all, the point of this is that the chemical structure of an Ethylene acrylic rubber will depend on the materials that are a part of it.

Polymer Characteristics Of Ethylene Acrylic Rubber

Now, let’s take a look at the profile for AEM rubber and its characteristics. What makes the material unique, and how does it really perform well in its own regard?

AEM Rubber’s Physical Characteristics 

To begin, let’s examine the physical characteristics that the material holds. These are the characteristics that make AEM rubber useful on the holistic level, and which will easily be seen as soon as you handle the material: 

AEM Rubber Is Hard: 

The moment you touch the material, you can feel its hardness. AEM rubber usually shows a hardness level that moves between “moderately soft” and “slightly hard.” But, if you’re looking for something that’s even harder, then it might be worth changing the material’s internal composition. 

The same can be said about AEM rubber’s tensile strength. It is moderate to high, meaning that you will be able to enjoy impressive levels of durability from it. 

The Material Is Stretchable 

Of course, this shouldn’t surprise you. AEM rubber is an elastomer, and this means that the material is very flexible. Subject it to stress and deform it, and you can rest assured that it will be able to pop right back to its original state.

AEM Rubber’s Impressive Resistance Profile 

One of the major reasons why manufacturers choose rubber materials is the fact that  they exhibit impressive levels of resistance to different factors. And, AEM rubber is no different. With this material, you can get optimal resistance to the following:

  • High Temperatures: You can count on the material to resist heat. This means that if you’re worried about elevated temperatures, AEM rubber is solid for you.
  • Unwanted Chemical Access: From oils to solvents to fuels, AEM rubber does well to hold its own when it comes in contact with chemicals.
  • Weather Elements: AEM rubber does well against weather elements. If you place it outside, you can still rest assured that the AEM weather-resistant material will be able to function and last long too. 
  • Electrical Components: Its ability to insulate against electricity components is one of AEM rubber’s most prominent properties. But, it is important for you to take it easy on this one. 
It Works Well At Low Temperatures

Just as it does in the heat, AEM rubber remains very functional in cold too. It is flexible in low temperatures, and that helps it to function well in cold environments. 

AEM Rubber Packs A Punch

Finally, the durability package for AEM rubber is bolstered by the fact that the material has impressive tear resistance. Combined with its hardness and tensile strength, this material easily remains durable regardless of where you use it. 

The Unique Chemical Properties 

Next, let’s look a little deeper to examine the properties of AEM rubber based on its chemical composition. Characteristics tend to vary, but you can generally find the following 

The Primary Composition: We already covered this section at length, so just for a reminder, Ethylene acrylic rubber is composed of the Ethylene hydrocarbon and acrylic monomers. Most times, Ethylene helps AEM rubber to achieve properties like thermal stability and flexibility. As for the monomers, they provide the polar groups that are part of the primary polymer structure.

Copolymer Structural Breakdown: As a copolymer, AEM shows repeating units of the materials in its build, all along a polymer chain. Of course, the particular arrangement of the units will play a role in determining the overall characteristics of the polymer. 

Thermal Stability: One of the most prominent properties of AEM rubber is thermal stability. The material essentially withstands high temperatures while not showing any signs of degradation, making it a properly temperature-resistant material.

Crosslinking: Now, this one generally depends on the AEM rubber formulation and what you want to use it for. But, you can find some AEM rubber formulations that are built with crosslinking in mind. This process allows you to create different covalent bonds in the polymer chain, thus improving the material’s overall properties.  

It Accepts Additives: you can also formulate AEM rubber with different additives to help improve some of its properties. Besides the fact that you can optimize its formulation, adding things like fillers and reinforcing agents can help to improve several of its properties.

With all of this being said, remember that it is possible for you to customize your AEM rubber material as you’d like while formulating it. Essentially, this will involve having a specific mix of Ethylene and the acrylic monomers that can meet your specific needs. So, before you go ahead, speak with an expert at Legenday for some guidance. 

The Compound Formulation And Processing Of AEM Rubber

With a proper understanding of what Vamac rubber is and what makes it especially unique, let’s move into the general process of making it. Here, you have a bunch of significant steps that need to be followed – and while formulations and processes can vary between different manufacturers, the general workflow tends look like this: 

Choose Your Monomers

For this step, there is a bit of a decision to be made. 

As we said, Ethylene is one of the most important components in Ethylene acrylic rubber. And, choosing it is pretty much a no-brainer. That said, you also need to be careful with the acrylic monomer you choose. 

Generally, you have some of the following options: 

  • Ethyl acrylate 
  • Methyl acrylate
  • Butyl acrylate 

Etc. 

Your choice here will depend on what you want the rubber to look like and how you want it to work. So, be very careful here. 

Once you make your choice, you’ll need to purify both materials carefully to take out any possible impurities that might mess with the preparation process. Once again, this is a major step that needs to be done carefully. 

Move To Polymerization

With your materials ready, the polymerization process comes next. Introduce both materials into a polymerization reactor, and you can add catalysts to speed up the process. Remember to control factors like pressure and temperature as the polymerization process goes on, so you can achieve the right molecular weight and material structure. 

Form Your Copolymer & Optimize It 

If done right, the polymerization process will lead to the development of the Ethylene acrylic rubber copolymer – complete with its repeating units. But, you also need to be sure that the copolymer is up to your standards. To do this, you can try two approaches. 

The first is to adjust the ratio of ethylene to acrylic monomers in order to shift the properties of the rubber. You can do this by adding modifiers and additives to the material to strike a proper balance. 

Or, you could add crosslinking agents into the rubber mix to help adjust its properties and bring them to a more desirable level. 

Complete The Polymerization & Stabilize Your Material

Once you have what you need, you can quench the polymerization process. If the need requires, you could also add some stabilizers to prevent any material degradation during the whole storage and processing steps.  

As soon as you’re satisfied with what you have, you can recover the rubber from the reactor and process it into what you want – a pellet, a rubber sheet, etc. 

Conduct Your Final Checks And Ship It Out 

You can handle the final quality control processes to ensure that your rubber meets your specific property requirements and standards, then package and distribute it to the end users or other manufacturers who would use it in their products. 

For manufacturing to go well, it is important to note a few things: 

  • Keep a clean and tidy environment to avoid impurity access
  • You also need to properly prepare your monomers – once again, to take out any impurities
  • Accurately select the monomers in your mix to ensure that formulations are perfect
  • If you’re unsure, seek professional help to ensure that you get things right 

What Is AEM Rubber Typically Used For?

Next, let’s take a quick overview of AEM rubber and the functions that you can enjoy from it. Overall, the material has proven to be very flexible across the board. And, some of its major functionalities include the following: 

Consumer Materials: To begin, AEM rubber works in some of the everyday things we see – sporting goods, kitchen utensils, etc. Since it is flexible and weather-resistant, this pretty much works. 

Building Components: When making construction materials, Vamac rubber also does quite well. Many of these materials take harsh impact, and the rubber’s strength will come in handy. 

Insulation For Electrical Components: It should go without saying that AEM rubber’s electrical insulation properties work here. You can add it to wires to bolster their insulation, as well as other electrical components.

Making Tubes & Hoses: With its chemical resistance and ability to repel weathering elements, AEM rubber can also be used in making flexible tubes and hoses. 

Use In Vibration Absorbers: These days, many machines use vibration damping mounts. AEM rubber functions as a component of these, providing proper durability to ensure that these machines can work as long as possible. 

Equipment Wheels: In the industrial space, we see AEM rubber being used to make wheels and rollers that help in moving and transporting equipment from one place to the other. 

Use In Car Manufacturing: Like many other rubber variants, AEM rubber is also a solid option for car manufacturers. The material helps in developing components like gaskets and seals, as well as several other components that will require resistance to heat, chemicals, and environmental factors. 

AEM Rubber vs Other Rubber Types

Like we said at the very beginning, rubber is a variant material. And at the end of the day, there are just so many of them to keep track of. So, we decided to help provide a bit of a comparison track to help you understand how Vamac rubber stacks up against some of its compared counterparts. 

AEM Rubber vs Nitrile Rubber (NBR)

Nitrile rubber is one of the rubber variants that share a lot of similarities to AEM rubber. Both are elastomers, so they tend to come up a lot in the same composition. But, how do you distinguish between them?

 

Metric Ethylene Acrylic Rubber  Nitrile Rubber  Who Wins?
Material Composition  Mostly comes with ethylene and an acrylic monomer. You have options for the latter  A combination of butadiene and acrylonitrile Stalemate. Both their compositions give them unique properties
Temperature Resistance  Relatively good  Moderate, although a higher content of acrylonitrile can affect this metric overall  In natural forms, Ethylene acrylic rubber 
Fuel & Oil Resistance  Solid resistance to oil and fuel  Excellent resistance levels, especially when used in automotives Nitrile rubber 
Flexibility At Low Temperatures  Maintains this metric rather well, especially in cold environments  Moderate levels, although extremely low temperatures will eventually affect its build  Ethylene acrylic rubber 
Most Appropriate Functionalities  Automotive seals and other functions where you need optimal heat resistance to heat and oils  Gasket and o-ring making – as well as uses where you require excellent oil resistance  Stalemate. Both are useful in their own right 
Cost  Can vary based on your production methods  Can vary based on your production methods  Stalemate. Many factors will influence your overall cost profile at the end of the day.

 

Overall, you need to be very careful when making a choice here. You need to consider the specific requirements of the material you’re working with, as well as how its formulation will impact your overall mix. You can reach out to material engineers at Legenday if you need any help – we’ll be more than happy to help you out. 

AEM Rubber vs  Fluoroelastomers (FKM)

Next up, we have Fluoroelastomers. Like AEM rubber, FKM is a synthetic elastomer that has its own set of properties and characteristics. And while it might be possible to use them interchangeably for each other, you also need to be sure you’re working with the right material

Here is a breakdown that can help you better understand the lines of distinction between them. 

What Is Their Composition? 

As we know, AEM rubber combines ethylene and an acrylic monomer. Your choice of the latter will depend on the properties you’re looking to optimize. 

On the flip side, FKM mostly operates as a family of rubber elastomers that are man-made. These elastomers mostly come with a major component of fluorine. 

How They Act In The Heat 

On this front, both options are quite deadlocked. They are both solid on the heat resistance front, allowing you to enjoy easy operation at elevated temperatures. But, if you really need to draw a line, then FKM might actually be better. This is especially true for classifications like Viton, which are especially stable in heat. 

Resistance To Oil, Chemicals & Fuels

Once again, FKM wins in this regard. AEM rubber does well to resist fuels and oils like we said, but FKM is another option that just does this better. With a broader range, you can get so much more value from this material. 

You’ll notice that the same thing happens when you look at chemical resistance. AEM rubber does well in this regard, but FKM rubber is just much better overall. 

Operating In The Cold 

Flexibility at low temperatures is something that AEM rubber achieves incredibly well. This can’t necessarily be said about FKM rubber, which usually sees its flexibility reduced when the temperatures are extremely low.  

How Expensive Are They? 

Like the first comparison, you’ll find that cost profiles for both materials usually vary. However, in its natural form, AEM rubber is actually less expensive than FKM rubber. So, if you’re looking for a rubber option that still packs a punch while being relatively cost-effective, AEM rubber is an easy solid option. 

As it was in the first comparison, you need to be very tactful when discussing these comparisons. A lot of factors go into determining which of these materials is better – including and especially their composition. Understanding these factors will help you to make the right choice overall.

Important Tips For Working With AEM Rubber

If you’re impressed by AEM rubber, you’re not the only one. The material is currently one of the most popular rubber variants at the moment, and its profile only continues to rise. That said, it is important to also keep an eye out for a few things as you make use of the material. Here’s a quick breakdown: 

  • Store It Well: Your rubber should be kept in a cool dry place where heat won’t be able to build up on it. 
  • Ask For Direction: Always follow guidelines when preparing and mixing the rubber compounds. Measurements should be accurate, so you don’t end up with a substandard material. 
  • Watch Out For Impurities: One of the biggest challenges you will face are contaminants. Be sure that your processing tools, molds, and even raw materials are entirely free of any impurities that might damage your formulation. 
  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Overcure: When the curing process starts, you want to make sure you don’t go overboard. Doing this will reduce the rubber’s flexibility and lead to other undesirable characteristics. 
  • Stay Safe: Whatever you do with AEM rubber, ensure that everyone involved follows proper safety precautions. 

Conclusion

AEM rubber’s impressive status as a manufacturing material can’t be overstated. With its solid physical and chemical properties, it’s no wonder that manufacturers love it so much. That said, it is also important to keep an eye on your formulations to make sure that the rubber meets your particular needs overally. 

If you would like any additional help with this material, feel free to reach out to us at Legenday. We’ll be more than happy to help you out.

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