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What Makes Natural Rubber Latex Products Unique?

By Brittney Hoover 7 years ago 57167 Views No comments

Products made from natural rubber latex have many unique properties that make them desirable for a variety of applications. Excellent stretch and recovery is one of the main reasons people use natural rubber latex in their applications. The facts that natural rubber latex is biodegradable and considered eco-friendly are other reasons people choose this material. Natural rubber latex products are considered biodegradable because the liquid latex used to manufacture the products is naturally extracted from the Hevea Brasiliensis, or “The Rubber Tree”.

Many people do not realize that natural rubber latex is a sustainable renewable resource due to the extracted liquid latex sap being tapped from a tree that does not get damaged. Through the process of tapping, the renewable source of latex flows. In its natural state the latex sap has many limitations; it is highly affected by temperature, acting soft and sticky in the heat and brittle in the cold. In its natural state it is also easily degraded. With vulcanization, the latex turns into a product that can now be used and will remain firm and flexible in a wide temperature range. At The Hygenic Corporation, we utilize the latex from the rubber tree to create all of our natural rubber products.

The rubber tree and its latex producing capabilities were originally discovered by the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec who used latex to waterproof clothes. The tree itself is native to rainforests in the Amazon region of South America, including Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. However, the trees are also grown in Southeast Asia and Western Africa now due to being cloned from the native regions. At The Hygenic Corporation we source our liquid latex from Malaysia and Thailand for all of our natural rubber products; which is strategically located near our ISO 9001:2008 certified Malaysia manufacturing plant.

When a rubber tree reaches the age of 6-7 years old, tapping and harvesting the sap can begin. When tapping, the cambium of the tree, the layer just below the surface bark, must be avoided because it is responsible for making the tree grow, and for producing wood and bark. If the cambium were cut into, tapping would need to stop. To achieve the optimal amount of sap, tapping must be done during daybreak, early in the morning; doing it after this time can result in only 1/3 of the possible sap being tapped. Once all the bark from the available portion of the tree is gone, the latex harvesters must wait 7 years for it to re-grow before they can continue the tapping cycle. In general, tapping on one tree should only last around 28 years. Overall, the trees will remain unharmed as long as the tapping is done properly, which is why this is considered a sustainable process that produces a natural resource.

The finished products produced from natural rubber latex exhibit the properties that are typically associated with very stretchy rubber – they have excellent elongation, tear resistance and recovery. This “stretchy” property is one of the reasons why natural rubber latex tubing is commonly cut into bands for the orthodontic industry or used in slingshot designs. You can also find natural rubber latex tubing in a variety of other applications, such as fitness or materials transfer. The unique stretch and recovery properties of natural rubber latex sheeting have also proven useful in a variety of industries; it is often used as dental dam by dentists and has even been used in bakery applications to keep tacky dough from sticking to cutters.

If you think your product design needs a stretchy material that can repeatedly return to its original shape and size after being stretched or compressed, you’ll likely start your material research with natural rubber latex or something similar. There are very few material alternatives that are able to closely mimic the properties of natural rubber latex, and there are no perfect substitutes for this amazing natural material.

The Hygenic Corporation uses natural rubber latex to produce all of their natural rubber products for a variety of industries. They also compound and produce many products from synthetic polyisoprene (rubber) and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), which have been formulated to mimic the properties of natural rubber latex but without the latex proteins.

View all Hygenic elastomeric products now.

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Understanding the Limitations of Natural Rubber in Product Design

How to Measure Rubber Tubing

The Differences Between “Latex” and “Natural Rubber”