How Vulcanization of Rubber Works

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 3/27/2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

Vulcanization of rubber

Vulcanization of rubber is a process designed to improve the elasticity of rubber and strength via the presence of sulfur and heating, which changes the structure of the rubber molecules.

Car tires, the hoses that firefighters use, and rubber bands.

These are just a small sampling of the wide range of products that are made with vulcanized rubber.

Let’s take a closer look at these transformative processes.

Vulcanized Rubber 101

What does vulcanization do?

Vulcanization is a process that involves the use of chemicals to change natural rubber into a stronger, more durable substance.

What is vulcanization?

Vulcanization is the process of treating rubber or plastic with chemicals so that it becomes stronger, more stable or has more elasticity.

In its natural state, rubber is somewhat elastic and not as strong as it could be.

Vulcanization developed as a way to strengthen it.

During the process, sulfur and other additives – “accelerators” – are introduced in order to create a way to bridge, or connect the polymer chains that already exist in the rubber.

Once the rubber has been vulcanized, it can be used commercially due to its durability, strength, and its non-stick properties.

There are two processes by which vulcanized rubber is generated.


3 steps to manufacturing vulcanized rubber

1. Pressure Vulcanization

This process is the most typical process of vulcanization and involves heating the rubber with the use of sulfur and pressure at 150 degrees C.

Other chemicals and agents can be used throughout the process, such as fillers to increase strength and resistance to wear and tear, or carbon black that acts as a reinforcer.

2. Free Vulcanization

Free vulcanization means that the rubber is vulcanized by passing extremely hot steam throughout the rubbers.

It takes about eight hours for vulcanization to be completed, however, certain chemical activators can be introduced to the process to speed up the time.

A specialized vulcanizing process

Each process for vulcanization is detailed and very thorough, meaning you need to know what you are doing to avoid danger or ruining the end result.

Pigments can also be added to create colored vulcanized rubber, and chemicals can be added to protect the color and durability.

What is vulcanized rubber used for?

Vulcanized rubber is used to make a variety of items, including the soles of shoes, hoses, hockey pucks, bowling balls, toys, tires, bouncing balls, and much more. Most of the rubber products manufactured are vulcanized.

Benefits of rubber vulcanization

There are many positives that can come from the vulcanization of rubber.

It’s 10 times more stronger and more durable than natural rubber and as a result, can be used for many more purposes than natural rubber.

Here’s a sampling of the products that are made with vulcanized rubber.

  • Shoe soles
  • Hockey pucks
  • Bowling balls
  • Motor mounts
  • Suction cups
  • Rubber Seals
  • Rubber O-rings
  • Hydraulic Hoses, used in such as cranes or forklifts
  • Air Hoses, such as the air hose you use to supply air to your nail gun or impact wrench
  • Shaped Hoses, such as those used in the automotive industry for radiators and brake lines

With the vulcanization process, we have access to many more products, luxuries, and abilities than we would have otherwise.

Trust the experts

If you’d like to increase your rubber vulcanization manufacturing productivity or make your vulcanization process more streamlined, give us a call and find out what we can do for you.

Do you have a rubber vulcanization manufacturing process that needs to be updated?

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Author: Jeffrey Lippincott

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