Neoprene, less commonly known as polychloroprene, is a synthetic rubber invented by a group of scientists in 1930. Produced by the free-radical polymerization of chloroprene, neoprene exhibits many superior traits, including a flexibility that remains uncompromised even with exposure to extreme temperatures and temperature changes. Neoprene has high flame resistance, exceptional weather resistance, notable durability, outstanding buoyancy, and unmatched chemical inertness. Originally branded as Duprene, it was the first mass-produced synthetic rubber to hit the market. Today, it still enjoys widespread success within many commercial and industrial industries.
Quick links to Neoprene Information
Applications of Neoprene
Neoprene is used in many industries, including sports and recreation, marine, industrial manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, electronics, and textile. In sports and recreation, neoprene is used to create a variety of products, such as fly fishing waders, ankle guards, saddle pads, cinches, and exercise mats. Because neoprene is made of a closed-cell plastic that does not allow liquid to permeate or penetrate it, it is an excellent material choice for a number of marine products, such as wetsuits, boat covers, and boat mats.
In industrial manufacturing, equipment made during neoprene molding is used extensively to facilitate the process of producing other items. Among other products, neoprene molded industrial manufacturing equipment includes conveyor belts and vibration control products (like mounting pads). Neoprene molding is also quite popular in automotive manufacturing, where it is used to make products that face demanding environments, such as hoses, timing belts, and gaskets.
Manufacturers in the electronics industry count on it to protect fragile and/or sensitive electronic devices. Finally, neoprene fabric has many applications, both as everyday clothing and as vehicle seat covers. Neoprene fabric lends itself particularly well to the task of seat covering, as it will not degrade or become discolored in the face of coffee spills, water exposure, sun or ozone exposure, or dirt. The puncture-resistant fabric is soft but durable.
Manufacturing Process of Neoprene
Raw neoprene stock is formed when individual chloroprene molecules are made to connect to one another in a long chain. It is available in foam, liquid, and dry grades. After its formation, the stock may be processed in a variety of ways that produce different, usable neoprene molding products. Some of these processes include injection molding, extrusion, compression molding, and cell casting.
During injection molding, molten neoprene stock is injected into a hollow space called a mold cavity. Once inside, the neoprene spreads out and takes on the shape of the mold. After this, it is ejected, allowed to cool and harden, then sent on for secondary processing or prepared for shipment. The process of extrusion is somewhat similar to injection molding. It also uses raw, molten neoprene heated on a conveyance channel and a specially shaped tool (in this case, called a die). However, the extrusion process is not capable of creating as complex forms as injection molding. Instead of injecting the die with the stock and letting it fill out, extrusion works by forcing molten neoprene through the die and out the other side, where it cools and hardens.
Compression molding reflects features of both of the previous processes, in that, it uses a mold and employs pressure. However, it is also quite different from both. To begin the process, stock material, which is typically preheated, is placed inside a heated metal mold cavity. Once inside, the mold closes on it from the top, applying pressure. Between the heat of the mold, which softens it, and the pressure applied from the top, the neoprene gradually compresses into a new shape. Cell casting is an older method of creating neoprene sheets that involves pouring liquid material between two sheets of toughened glass that are sealed with a rubber gasket. Here, the material is heated for polymerization. This method, however, has largely been replaced by extrusion because the process often yields surface defects and variations in thickness.