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 of chloroprene, neoprene exhibits many superior traits, including a flexibility that remains uncompromised even with exposure to extreme temperatures and temperature changes, high flame resistance, exceptional weather resistance, notable durability, outstanding buoyancy and unmatched chemical inertness. Neoprene, originally branded as Duprene, was the first mass-produced synthetic rubber to hit the market. Today, it still enjoys widespread success within many commercial and industrial industries.
Raw neoprene stock is formed when individual chloroprene molecules are made to connect to one another in a long chain, and 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, like injection molding, it uses a mold, and like extrusion, it employs pressure. However, it is also quite different than 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.
Some of the industries in which neoprene is used include sports and recreation, marine, industrial manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, electronics and textile. In sports and recreation, neoprene is used in the creation of a variety of products, including 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 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.
Neoprene Molding – Accurate Products, Inc.