Rubber’s role as a flexible and versatile operating material can’t possibly be overstated. Today, pretty much every industry you think about makes use of the material in some way or the other. And as its profile has grown, so have its use cases.
But, for everyone looking to make use of rubber in one way or the other, it is important for you to understand what you’re working with and how it will be able to affect the outcome of your manufacturing process. And, just like many materials, rubber comes in different forms.
In this article, we’ll take a thorough look at NR rubber – one of the most popular and most flexible varieties of rubber material.
Understanding NR Rubber
If you check around different manufacturing plants and operations today, you’ll notice a major trend toward natural products and processes. To a considerable degree, this is why NR rubber has become so popular.
The “NR” in “NR rubber” is actually a bit of a tautology. It stands for “Natural Rubber – a type of rubber or elastomer that is gotten from trees. You see, trees produce a material called sap. And, that sap ends up producing the rubber that is used in different functions. So, when someone asks, “What is a natural rubber?” it’s pretty simple – this is a rubber that is gotten as a by-product of trees!
NR rubber is a polymer that comes from isoprene units that are properly linked in order to form lengthy chemical chains. It is a significant variant of rubber, and it is especially prominent because of its impressive NR properties and the fact that it is entirely renewable. We’ll look into these NR properties in a later section, as well as what you can stand to gain from using this material as part of your industrial process.
Chemical Composition and Properties
Considering that it is one of the different forms of rubber available, you might want to understand what makes up this material – as well as the natural rubber properties.
Mostly, natural rubber is composed of different units of isoprene – a monomer. At its base level, isoprene has a chemical formula that looks like this:
But, when you gather a bunch of these isoprene units and allow them to develop into polymers, they also form lengthy chains that eventually build into the structure that becomes the rubber natural form.
As such, you have the following basic chemical structure for a natural rubber material:
The formula above represents a repetition of the isoprene polymer chain, where “n” stands for just how much polymerization is allowed in the process. Or, if you will, “n” could represent the number of isoprene units that are linked to eventually form the structure of the NR organic rubber polymer.
As part of its formulation, the polymer natural rubber is forced to go through vulcanization. This process makes it easier to introduce several additional chemical components to the material – accelerators, sulfurs, and much more. And, thanks to the cross-linking function, natural rubber’s properties are significantly heightened.
In general, you have some of the following chemical properties that are unique to the natural rubber material:
The Structure Of The Polymer:
To begin with, you want to take a good look at the polymer natural rubber and its properties. Thanks to the presence of isoprene units, natural rubber is comprised of the following structure:
Interestingly, this structure is also what makes the material so strong and elastic.
The Presence Of Unsaturation
Every isoprene unit present in natural rubber comes with a double bond. This structure leads to an unsaturation effect that lies within the structure of the polymer. And, it is unsaturation that makes things like vulcanization and cross-linking happen, thus enhancing the natural rubber properties.
How It Reacts To Ozone & Oxygen
Among the natural rubber properties, you also have an interesting effect whenever the material comes in contact with ozone (O3) and oxygen (O). As part of the properties of natural rubber, the material is very sensitive to both elements, and they can cause it to crack and degrade over time.
To counteract this, you might need to add antioxidants to the formulation of the rubber.
The Solubility Rating
Song the properties of natural rubber, you might also notice that it doesn’t dissolve in water. But, the material can also swell and soak up organic solvents. Just as well, the rubber material properties show that it exhibits impressive solubility when it comes in contact with specific hydrocarbons.
Dealing With Temperature Changes
Next on the chemical properties of rubber NR, you’d find that the material does;t have a high glass transition volume. As a result, it maintains its flexibility when exposed to low temperatures.
That said, you also want to keep an eye on the NR rubber as it easily becomes tacky and soft when you add high temperatures to its environment.
How It Reacts With Metals
You can find that among the chemical properties of rubber NR, it easily reacts with specific metals. This leads to a degradation of its material and causes it to be less efficient in specific scenarios.
But, you can also counteract this effect with inhibitors, so it shouldn’t be so bad.
The Biodegradable Factor
You also get a lot of biodegradability from NR rubber. This means that the material does well for the environment, and it is a major point in its favor when you compare it to synthetic rubber variants.
Concerns Over Allergies
That said, you also want to be careful with the NR rubber material. Since it is gotten from latex sap, you might find that some of its properties can cause allergies for some individuals. So, if you don’t want this to be a major issue, you might have to consider some of its alternatives instead.
A Wall Against Chemicals
NR rubber will also do well to stand against any chemical entry – whether it’s an acid or a base. This isn’t all-encompassing, but the material does its best regardless.
Major Physical & Material Properties
So, we have a good understanding of what natural rubber is and how its constituents form. Now, let’s look at the physical properties of rubber NR and how the material stacks up against several notable factors:
The Physical Properties Of NR Rubber
First, let’s look at some of the first things you’ll notice when you get a hold of this material:
Appearance & Density:
In most cases, you’d find this material being bright-colored. Just as well, it is of relatively low density – meaning that it is pretty light to hold.
NR Rubber Is Flexible
The NR rubber material exhibits a considerable amount of flexibility. You can deform it as much as you like, and you can rest assured that it will retain its original shape.
The flexibility is combined with a pretty low compression set. With this combo, you can rest assured that NR rubber will be able to return to its original form once you stretch it.
Tensile Strength Rating
Next, let’s move on to the tensile strength of rubber NR. The material exhibits a relatively solid tensile strength level, and this means that it can be stretched without breaking its material. That said, it is important to note that the tensile strength of rubber NR will also be based on how much crosslinking is achieved when you put the material through the vulcanization process.
The Resistance Factors
Next, let’s look at how well the physical properties of rubber NR can stand when you put the against some of the most significant forces:
- Tear Resistance: Definitely, NR rubber resists cracks and tears. You can subject it to a considerable amount of mechanical stress and still rest assured that it will resist any fractures.
- Abrasion Resistance: If you have applications that require the material to come in contact with surfaces that can lead to wear, NR rubber easily holds its own.
- Water Resistance: As you would imagine, NR rubber doesn’t soak up water. The material remains stable in soluble instances, and this contributes to its overall stability to a considerable degree.
NR Rubber’s Material Properties
Now, for those properties that might not necessarily be visible until you run them through a test:
How It Responds to Vulcanization
To kick off the rubber material properties, we see vulcanization. This is one of the major steps you’d need to take when making NR rubber. This process allows you to improve on the tensile strength of rubber NR and some of the material’s other physical properties, so it is very important.
Stability With Temperature
The thermal stability of NR rubber is quite impressive. But, the rubber temperature range doesn’t get so high – so, if you expose it to overly high temperatures, you might find that it gets tacky and soft.
Viscosity + Elasticity
One of the most underrated properties of NR rubber is that the material exhibits viscoelastic behavior. As a result, it combines the properties of both elastic and viscous materials into one singular body.
The Process Of Producing NR Rubber
Natural rubber is an incredibly complex material that goes through a very long process to be made. However, as you would imagine, that process is eventually worth it. So, let’s take a quick look into this intricate step and how it operates:
Harvesting The Trees Themselves
The first thing you need to do is get the latex from the rubber trees themselves. Essentially, you tap the bark of the tree, move the latex material and place it into a small cup. In most instances, tapping is done in the morning. This is because mornings are when latex flows better and it is much easier to get the sap directly.
Preserve & Move The Sap
Next, you add preservatives to the latex to ensure that it remains solid and durable. Then, you transport the material from the plantation to the processing location.
Process The Latex
Now that you have your latex where you need it, you can begin processing it. This step is done through centrifugation, which helps to properly separate the solid particles from the impurities. When done right, you’ll be left with a pure natural rubber material.
Treat Your Rubber
Most manufacturing plants make use of ammonia to treat their natural rubber latex. The material helps to prevent any additional coagulation and ensures that the latex is properly stable as you move towards additional processing.
From there, you can add either formic or sulfuric acid to the latex. This causes the material to coagulate, forming the rubber mass.
Form Your Rubber & Dry It
After the coagulation process, you roll the rubber into sheets. From there, you dry it – either through traditional air-drying or smoking, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
You Might Need To Vulcanize
This isn’t necessarily a compulsory step, but some manufacturers choose to vulcanize their rubber. In this process, you add heat to the rubber in the hopes of making it even stronger and bolstering its mechanical properties.
Set It Up & Ship It Out
Finally, you bale the dried rubber sheets and pack them into the right containers as you send them out to the final consumers.
Is NR Rubber Sustainable
Environmental sustainability is a major talking point for many manufacturers in today’s age. In the process of creating materials, the goal for everyone is to make sure that their steps are good for the environment, and that there is a minimal release of harmful substances.
So, how does this material help with environmental sustainability?
As a natural rubber, this material is pretty renewable. It is gotten from the sap of trees, which eventually replenish themselves. Besides that, the latex material itself can be harvested without doing any further damage to the trees.
Speaking of the trees, we should mention that they contribute to the process of carbon sequestration since they soak in a considerable amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And, for producers who manufacture NR rubber on a large scale, the expansion of their operations leads to a net positive for the environment since rubber trees contribute to biodiversity and the conservation of the natural environment.
The only major setback here will be the use of agrochemicals. Pesticides, fertilizers, and more that are used in rubber plantations tend to have some impact on the environment, and it will be important to implement sustainable rubber production practices to ensure that these impacts can be reduced as much as possible.
What Can You Do With NR Rubber?
The use of natural rubber has spread significantly over the years. Thanks to the material’s impressive mix of properties, you can easily find it being applied in several industries – including and especially the following:
Padding & Optimizing Vehicles
In the automotive industry, NR rubber is used as a major component in making tires. The material is very elastic, and the fact that it resists abrasion and grips well means that your tires will be able to get a proper grip on the ground.
Just as well, the material is a prominent part of making hoses and belts. Both components he;p to improve the functionality of engines, and they are key in enhancing the functionality of your vehicle.
Use In Manufacturing Industries
The next most significant function of NR rubber is to serve in industries. Here, the material’s abrasion resistance helps it to serve as a major component in building conveyor belts. It also helps to create gaskets and seals for machinery thanks to its ability to seal and its general; resilience.
Moving on, NR rubber’s ability to soak in pressure means that the material works very well for creating isolators that help to absorb vibrations. This is especially important when making things like electronics and other products that will need to operate with a considerable degree of vibration and impact.
Making What We Use Everyday
The consumer goods industry is heavily dependent on natural rubber. You can see the material being used to make shoes, gloves, and a whole bunch of other goods that are used on a daily basis.
If you expand further, you’ll see NR rubber being used to make things like sportswear, balls, toys, and everyday rubber bands.
Hospital & Medical Applications
Seals, catheters, and a lot of other medical devices make use of NR rubber as part of their manufacturing. And in the surgical space, natural rubber also helps in making tubes, rubber bands, and more. Remember that the material is flexible and biocompatible, so it works well with the human system.
Building Houses & Structures
Every construction project requires a significant amount of work and care. And when it comes to NR rubber, the material’s functionality expands to things like making adhesives, sealants, and vibration dampeners.
Use In The Agriculture Landscape
You can find NR rubber being used to make things like production parts for agricultural machines and harvesting tools. The material also works for irrigation systems, where it improves the efficiency of the operation.
Should You Really Use NR Rubber?
So if you’re a product manufacturer of any kind, one of the biggest questions you’d have is how to choose the right materials for your operations. With the many natural rubber properties we’ve pointed out already, should you really make use of this material?
Let’s take a look at where it shines and where it might fall short:
The Merits Of NR Rubber
First, what are the things that NR rubber has going for it?
It’s A Flexible Material
To begin, we should note that NR rubber is a very flexible material – of course, this isn’t much of a surprise since it is a rubber variant. You can deform the material time and again, and it’ll still return to the shape it held at the start.
Strength On All Sides
With the tensile strength of rubber NR being especially high, you can count on the material’s ability to withstand significant stretching forces and still not break.
The Eco-Friendly Benefit
Unlike most synthetic rubber variants, NR rubber is very biodegradable. As a result, even when it;s not in use, it doesn’t constitute a hazard to the environment.
Sticking With Other Materials
The overall adhesion forces in NR rubber are noteworthy too. It seamlessly bonds with different substrates, and it also works in making things like sealants and adhesives.
A Slow Accumulation Of Heat
There is a considerably slow buildup of heat in NR rubber. This factor contributes to the material’s overall stability, especially in areas where you need effective heat dissipation.
The Broad Resistance Range
Whether it’s resisting abrasion or high temperatures and tearing, NR rubber is quite effective across the board.
Where NR Rubber Falls Short
With that in mind, you might also want to note a few other areas where the material might not do so well. These include the following:
It’s Sensitive To The Environment
Factors like oxygen and UV rays tend to have effects on NR rubber. If the material is exposed to these factors over time, there’s a considerable chance that it degrades or loses its form.
Temperature Range Doesn’t Equal Resistance
Sure, the NR rubber temperature range is pretty broad. But, when the material gets exposed to very low temperatures, it usually gets brittle. At the same time, the material can also become soft when you expose it to high temperatures.
Worries About Allergies
The latex material that forms a major part of NR rubber can cause some allergy issues. So, if you have an application where allergic reactions are a concern, then you might want to reevaluate your choice to use natural rubber.
Processability Isn’t So High
For specific manufacturing processes, you might find that further processing NR rubber is a bit of a challenge. This is one major area where it doesn’t stack up so great against synthetic rubbers, which are easily processed.
In Time, It Can Shrink
If you want to add vulcanization to the process of making NR rubber, then you might find that the material will shrink. As you can imagine, this will weigh on the final dimensions of any product you mold with the material.
As manufacturing processes switch to more natural materials, it should come as no surprise that NR rubber is becoming a more prominent option for most developers.
If you’d like to learn more about it or get your hands on this product, feel free to reach out to us at Legenday.