Rubber Materials, Manufacturing Errors & a Company’s Bottom Line

Machinery failure can be costly to a manufacturer. Not only do repair costs add up rapidly, but the associated lost personnel and production time can really cut into a company’s bottom line. Even seemingly minor errors can have far-reaching consequences.

The four most common rubber manufacturing processes are extrusion, latex dipping, molding and calendaring. Understanding which production processes work best for a particular product line translates to production that is more effective. For each of these manufacturing processes, reliable rubber products and seals are essential.

Extrusion

Extrusion involves feeding unvulcanized rubber compound into an extruder, and then on to a dye, which shapes the rubber through the opening of the extruder. The resulting product must be vulcanized, and should have a “cure package” blended in before vulcanization begins. Extrusion is a low-cost production process excellent for profiles, tubing, cord and gaskets.

Latex Dipping

Latex dipping is just what it sounds like — immersing thin-walled molds into latex compounds. For thicker products, molds can be dipped multiple times. Vulcanization takes place after latex dipping is complete, and other post treatments may be needed. Products commonly produced by laser dipping include gloves, grips, bladders, tubing and balloons.

Molding

There are three major types of rubber molding processes: compression molding, transfer molding and injection molding.

  • Compression molding is the least expensive molding process. A blank piece of rubber is placed in a mold cavity and shaped by compression and heating. Products that require high viscosity and poor flow benefit from compression molding. Common products include seals, o-rings, silicone wristbands and electrical insulators.
  • Transfer molding also starts with a blank piece of rubber, but in transfer molding pre-heating occurs in the rubber, which is placed into several cavities. This reduces curing time and allows for more efficient filling of mold cavities. However, this process is more expensive than compression molding.
  • Injection molding includes separate press units and injection units, which eliminates the need for blanks. With injection molding there are no blanks required and processes can be automated. However, injection molding is the most expensive molding method.

Calendaring

Calendaring involves forcing softened materials into counter-rotating rollers that compact the material into varying thicknesses. This process also requires rubber to be vulcanized afterward and is best suited for producing thin sheets or rubber films. Calendaring allows for greater variation of the width and thickness of produced parts; however, it is also the most expensive method of rubber manufacturing.

Costs of Manufacturing Errors

Even small mistakes in manufacturing can add up to huge hits to a company’s bottom line. The Mars Orbiter, which cost more than $327 million, was destroyed simply because of the failure to make a proper conversion between units of measurement.

Space exploration is not the only victim of unplanned downtime related to manufacturing errors. A 2017 study from Vanson Bourne reported that 23 percent of manufacturing downtime was due to human error. The study also reported that 45 percent of manufacturers admitted that they were not sufficiently proactive in preventing errors that resulted in downtime.

Inventory is a particularly common source of unplanned manufacturing downtime. Many companies fail to keep enough inventory, while others fail to get rid of obsolete inventory. In both cases, companies needlessly lose money.

Efficiency, Reliability and Reducing Manufacturing Costs

Manufacturing is especially prone to unplanned downtime. Precision in the production process and reliable materials are essential in minimizing downtime. Extrusion, latex dipping, molding and calendaring are the four most common rubber production methods. Each method requires reliable rubber materials to achieve maximum effectiveness. Because rubber is so widely used in manufacturing, reliable rubber products are especially important in minimizing manufacturing downtime.

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