Natural rubber is harvested from plants rather than being chemically engineered like synthetic rubber. Most natural rubbers are harvested from the Hevea brasiliensis, or the “rubber tree”, through a process called tapping. The process of tapping involves cutting the tree carefully at an angle to help preserve the tree for future harvesting. Once the tree has been cut, the latex sap of the tree is then collected into buckets and then transported to a facility to be processed and manufactured into solid rubber. During this process, chemical strengthening agents are blended with the liquid latex sap then the mixture is vulcanized (the heating of the material with sulfur) to harden the material into its final form. The finished product is a flexible, yet durable, rubber material with excellent physical strength and moderate chemical-resistance properties.
Natural gum rubber generally resists most organic salts, ammonia, acids, and alkali solutions. Despite its wide range of chemical-resistance, natural rubber is still significantly weaker than their synthetic rubber counterparts. Natural gum rubber is a product which has been derived from nature and, in terms of industrial uses, natural gum rubber is more suited for light to medium grade applications that do not involve overly abrasive temperatures and chemical conditions.
Contrary to popular belief, natural gum rubber actually retains excellent physical properties. As an elastomer, natural gum is capable of stretching out to great lengths without tearing or breaking. Additionally, it holds a low compression set, great resilience, high tensile strength, excellent shock-absorption, and abrasion-resistance that allow it to be used as protective padding. Most importantly, natural rubber is most valued for its naturally high coefficient of friction which offers optimal non-slip qualities. This allows rubber to retain its ability to grip even when coming into contact with moisture. Due to these physical qualities, natural gum rubber is often used to create safe and non-slip floors.
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