Selecting the right material for your rubber part can mean the difference between the perfect form, fit, and functionality and having to go back to the drawing board while the production gets delayed.
Here at RPM, we have multiple raw materials and rubber compounds to choose from, but one of the biggest questions we get asked is, “Which is better? Natural rubber or synthetic rubber?”
As you might expect, there isn’t a simple, straightforward, one-sized fits all answer to that question, instead, it depends on a number of factors.
In this article, we’ll dive into the high-level differences between synthetic and natural rubber.
99% of natural rubber is produced from a softwood tree native to Brazil. Most know this tree as “the rubber tree.”
Latex, a milky liquid, is produced from the tree through a process known as “rubber tapping.” A spout is tapped into the tree trunk, and latex slowly seeps out into a bucket.
This latex goes through a refinement process to remove the isoprene polymers that make up natural rubber. Then, this isoprene is typically vulcanized - heated in the presence of sulfur to improve its resilience, elasticity, and durability.
Natural rubber’s benefits include…
However, the pros come with some cons, as natural rubber doesn’t hold up as well as synthetic when exposed to light, UV rays and heat. It’s also more difficult to produce than synthetic rubber. For these reasons, natural rubber is best used to solve vibration-related problems.
Synthetic rubber is an elastomer that has been artificially produced. It’s made in chemical plants by turning monomers into polymers. Monomers are byproducts of petroleum (gasoline) the production process, meaning that most synthetic rubber is made through gas and oil production.
From a material standpoint, synthetic rubber is easier and more economical to produce. It’s also more malleable and shapeable, meaning you can use it for more applications.
There are many different varieties of synthetic rubber. Each variety has its pros and cons. Below are the most popular ones that we typically use at RPM.
Do you need more information on the technical properties of synthetic or natural rubber?
Download our Technical Information and Reference guide. Inside you’ll find more information about:
- Tolerance Tables
- Materials and Durometers
- Fluid Compatibility
- Comparison of Properties
- Temperature Range
Classification System for Elastomeric Materials