Rubber products are utilized in so many applications and industries today that it is difficult to identify them all. In fact, custom rubber parts are found in numerous consumer goods (such as home appliances, shoes, sporting goods, and office supplies) as well as for industrial purposes (healthcare, construction, transportation, and aerospace, for example). Since rubber products play such an integral part in items and industries worldwide, it's important for the parts to be manufactured with highly reliable techniques. These are the most common methods used to create custom rubber parts.
1) Injection Molding
Injection molding was initially intended to be a means of molding plastic pieces. In the 1960s, however, the process translated into a method for shaping rubber as well. Injection molding works by exerting extreme pressure onto pre-heated rubber within a mold that has been formed into the desired shape. As the heated rubber is injected into the mold, a press sends the rubber throughout the entire interior of the mold. The result is the precise rubber part that is needed. Widely known as one of the most efficient ways of creating custom rubber products, injection molding is typically used to make high precision products such as sealing membranes, parts for infant bottles, and kitchen goods. Some benefits of injection molding include reduced material waste, shorter cycle times, and lower costs for large projects.
2) Compression Molding
Another popular method for manufacturing custom rubber parts is compression molding. This process is very similar to using a waffle maker — uncured rubber is added to a mold before a combination of pressure and heat is applied. Once the rubber has cured, the custom part is good to go. Compression molding is ideal for low to medium production volumes and a wide range of part sizes. This technique is also frequently employed because of its prototyping ease and brief lead times. Common rubber parts made with the compression molding method are O-rings, seals, and gaskets.
For custom rubber parts that require a variety of lengths or shapes, extrusion is a convenient technique. The rubber compound is pushed through a steel die, as a revolving screw feeds the material along the extruder. The pressure and temperature increase during the movement, ultimately configuring the rubber into a pre-determined shape. This technique is usually meant for products that must maintain lightweight flexibility, such as rubber tubing, mass transit window seals, and hoses. Since custom rubber parts made through extrusion can be formed in continuous lengths, there is more efficiency and minimal waste in the process.
Regardless of the technique used to make them, custom rubber parts can be manufactured for any purpose at all. Be sure to reach out to a company that specializes in the fabrication of these products the next time you need a custom-made part for a project or job.