Today, rubber is widely known to be one of the most durable and resilient materials that can protect machinery. Heavy duty rubber is used in all sorts of abrasive, impact absorption, and protective applications, ranging from heavy equipment mats to durable garage flooring. However, you may be surprised to learn that it was not always that way!
The Origins of Rubber
Rubber has humble organic beginnings as the product of natural rubber trees. Ancient civilizations like the Mayans would harvest the tree’s sticky gum sap to make competitive sports balls while other early cultures have been documented using thin layers of rubber for waterproofing. When rubber evolved from natural sources to synthetics, it was first met with acclaim—scientists had finally found a way to mimic natural rubber!
Early Rubber Industry Issues
Pioneers of the synthetic rubber industry were soon met with a range of problems… synthetic rubber was difficult to produce, and early products had a horribly foul, burnt chemical odor. It was also unstable—within the perfect temperature range, rubber was ideal for many applications; however, when the temperature got too warm or too cold it melted into a hot and sticky mess or became rigid as concrete. These were problems that caused early rubber manufacturers and investors to lose millions of dollars that they had put toward the rubber industry.
The Birth of Today’s Heavy Duty Rubber
Fortunately, the persistent efforts and luck of a few early innovators brought rubber back from a dying market. One man, Charles Goodyear (who is actually unrelated to today’s industry giant Goodyear Tires) was experimenting with rubber compounds, trying to find a way to keep it from altering its properties. One day, he accidentally came across vulcanization, which is a process in which synthetic rubber is mixed with sulfur and subjected to high heat. This process stabilizes the rubber, making it resistant to temperature extremes. Goodyear’s discovery was ultimately the trick for making rubber what it is today: heavy duty rubber is highly durable, resistant to weathering and temperature, and tough enough for just about anything!