Rubber molding enables the production of a wide range of rubber products with customized properties and precise shapes. It plays a vital role in producing seals, gaskets, O-rings, or complicated products for various applications.
Rubber molded parts have good performance, such as flexibility, resilience, and chemical resistance, contributing to the reliable functioning of machinery and equipment. Moreover, rubber molding is cost-effective for different automotive, aerospace, medical, and electrical products.
Let’s learn rubber molding types, associated complications, available rubber choices and considerations to make informed decisions.
What is Rubber Molding?
Rubber molding is a shaping process. It involves shaping raw rubber materials into a desired form using a mold (typically made of metal) and applying heat and pressure to cure the rubber, resulting in a solid and durable product.
The rubber materials are mixed with various additives, such as curing agents, accelerators, and fillers, to achieve specific properties.
Rubber molding offers the advantages of high production efficiency, repeatability, and the ability to produce complex shapes.
What is the Process of Rubber Molding?
Rubber molding involves multiple procedures to shape raw rubber materials into a finished product. The method of molding used, such as compression, injection, transfer, etc., might affect the rubber molding process.
Although each technique has its own specifications and parameters, they all adhere to the general guidelines listed below:
The production of raw rubber or elastomeric materials, for instance, involves mixing natural rubber or synthetic rubber compounds with additives, including curing agents, accelerators, and fillers. The rubber compound is a typical name for this mixture.
A mold is usually made from metal. The mold has a hollow hole corresponding to the intended final product shape. Additionally, it could have other features like vents or ejector pins.
Loading the Mold
The mold cavity is filled with the rubber compound. It may be carried out manually or automatically, depending on the manufacturing configuration.
Heating and Pressurizing
The molding process involves the application of pressure and heat. Heat softens the rubber compound and makes it flow into the mold easier. The pressure ensures homogeneity and gets rid of any cavities or air pockets.
During the molding process, the rubber is cured or vulcanized. In order to give the rubber its desired features, such as elasticity, strength, and durability, this involves chemically cross-linking the rubber molecules. Thermoplastic (re-meltable) elastomers don’t need this process.
The mold opens after rubber solidification. Any excess material or flash is trimmed off, leaving a clean and finished part.
Additional post-processing steps may be performed depending on the product’s specific requirements. This can include surface treatments, painting, marking, or any other finishing processes needed to achieve the desired appearance and functionality.
What are Rubber Molding Techniques?
Rubber is shaped using different techniques depending on different factors.
The primary rubber molding techniques have been described here:
Injection molding includes injecting molten polymer materials into closed molds at high pressure. The influence of injection molding can be observed in various sectors like aerospace, medical, and automotive industries, where its molded products find their purpose and bring innovation to life.
Pros of Rubber Injection Molding
- It is possible to attain complex shapes.
- Eliminate pre-forms and associated labor.
- Experience rapid cavity filling due to lower viscosity.
- Benefit from the material already being in the curing stage through added heat during screw charging and injection shear.
- Reduced cycle time for quicker production.
- Achieve flashless tooling, eliminating flash issues.
- Utilize an economical process for high volumes of medium to high precision components.
- Produce overmolded components with ease.
- Minimize material waste for a sustainable manufacturing approach.
Cons of Rubber Injection Molding
- The tooling cost of the mold is high.
- It may not be the most suitable option for smaller production quantities.
Compression molding transforms the rubber compound into “pre-forms” to get the required shape. These pre-forms play a crucial role by providing ample material supply to ensure complete cavity fill.
After placing the pre-forms, the mold is closed, heated, and pressed to shape the material. Overflow grooves collect extra material as the cavity fills.
Next, the rubber product is removed from mold. Compression molding works for medium hard materials. It is often the preferred choice for low-volume production scenarios.
Pros of Rubber Compression Molding
- Low tooling costs.
- It is a cost-efficient process for less complex shape products.
- The simplicity of the design and absence of complex sprue networks make mold cleaning, repairs, and polishing easy and cost-effective.
- Shorter setup times make it suitable for low-volume productions.
- The absence of a gate in the mold eliminates gate vestiges on the final product, enhancing its aesthetics and reducing finishing costs.
- This process minimizes material waste.
Cons of Rubber Compression Molding
- Need pre-forms of specific weight/size.
- Not suitable for materials that have low flow characteristics.
In this process, we prepare secondary raw materials and transform them into pre-forms. However, these pre-forms find their place within a special container called a “pot,” nestled between the top plate and a plunger.
As the pre-forms settle into the pot, the mold halves come together. The plunger applies pressure, compressing the material and facilitating its smooth transfer through sprues. From there, it flows into the cavity, molding itself into the desired shape.
Pros of Rubber Transfer Molding
- A single pre-form can fill multiple cavities.
- More control on dimensional accuracy.
- Advantages for medium to high precision components.
- Also suitable for overmolding.
Cons of Rubber Transfer Molding
- An important consideration in transfer molding is the potential increase in waste or excess flash.
- De-flashing is an essential step in transfer molding due to the presence of sprues.
- It’s worth noting that transfer molding may involve slightly higher tooling costs.
- The cycle time in transfer molding tends to be higher due to the extended curing time required.
What are the Materials for Rubber Molding Operation?
Rubber, an elastomer composed of long chains of molecules, comes in various types, including both natural and synthetic compounds. Each type offers unique properties suited for different applications.
Here are some primary materials compatible with rubber molding:
The natural rubber has excellent mechanical properties. It is used in different applications including tires and tubes, boots and shoe shole. However, it is not durable enough to withstand outdoor weather conditions for an extended time.
Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (NBR)
NBR, a cost-friendly synthetic substitute for natural rubber, shows satisfactory mechanical characteristics along with outstanding resilience to petroleum. It finds application in O-rings, oil seals, hoses, and more.
Neoprene is a natural rubber alternative that is stronger and more long-lasting. It has a higher resistance to water, ozone, and oil. It is commonly used in industrial, automotive, and sports equipment such as gaskets, sportswear, and water-tight bags.
Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (HNBR)
HNBR offers increased heat, ozone, and chemical resistance. However, it has similar to NBR in mechanical properties. It finds widespread use in the automotive, pharmaceutical, and food industries for seals, hoses, belts, and gloves.
Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)
EPDM is resistant to high temperatures, weathering, UV light, and ozone. It is utilized in outdoor applications like roofing, as well as for seals, gaskets, custom rubber molding, and more.
Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR)
SBR is a low-cost synthetic rubber with high abrasion resistance. It finds application in car tires, shoe soles, hydraulic brake seals, and various industrial equipment due to its excellent abrasion resistance and non-toxicity.
Fluro Elastomer (FKM)
FKM has a high temperature resistance, good hardness, resistance to the environment, and stability against many chemicals.
Seals, O-rings, hoses, gaskets, and other products made using these materials find widespread application in the aerospace, petrochemical, and automobile industries, among others.
Urethane elastomers offer excellent tensile strength. They are commonly used as sealing agents, protective layers, and in producing rubber-molded seals and general-use parts.
Silicone is a synthetic rubber that is both hard and soft, and it has excellent resistance to the elements, including protection from ozone and ultraviolet light.
Due to the fact that it has an excellent compression factor, it is suitable for use in seals and gaskets. Molded silicone is a popular choice in the food sector for applications requiring a synthetic rubber material that is safe for consumption.
What are the Considerations for Rubber Molding?
Rubber molding is a versatile and easy technique for mass production. Modifications can be easily implemented, but it is essential to consider particular design variables to ensure good rubber molding.
Let’s explore these critical considerations here:
Design and Geometry
During the design phase, it’s essential to pay close attention to the following:
- Aim for symmetrical designs whenever possible, as they facilitate easy machining and trouble-free ejection from the mold.
- Avoid sharp corners in your geometry to prevent uneven fills and potential damage during demolding.
- Steer clear of deep undercuts, overhangs, and complex geometries, as they can lead to inconsistent fills and difficulties during demolding.
Consider the intended application of the rubber parts and incorporate additional design considerations. For example, sealing applications need carefully assess the compression factor.
Product durability depends on the rubber material. When choosing raw rubber stock, consider these properties like material hardness, elasticity, compression factor, operation environment, etc.
Surface finish and aesthetics play a key role in externally visible parts. However, the surface finish of some rubber products may not be crucial, especially for hidden uses.
Properly sized overflow grooves are vital for absorbing excess molten rubber, ensuring complete mold filling. If the grooves are too small, there’s a risk of rubber leakage and flashing.
The Best Partner for Custom Rubber Molding
Kemal leads in customized rubber molding solutions. Our state-of-the-art rubber molding machines produce excellent rubber products.
Our engineers and technicians have been designing complex custom-molded components for our clients for years. Our services include Rubber Injection Molding, Mold Fabrication, and CNC Machining and Tooling.
We take great pride in our ability to tailor a wide range of rubber products to your needs.
Contact us to find out how we can help you reach your objectives.
Rubber molded products offer different choices, challenges, and considerations. By understanding the various manufacturing techniques and design considerations, you can ensure rubber products’ successful production and optimal functionality.
Additionally, careful selection of the right rubber material based on factors such as hardness, elasticity, and operating environment can significantly impact the performance and longevity of your molded products.
With this knowledge, you are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of rubber molding and make informed decisions that lead to high-quality, reliable, and durable rubber molded products.