About The Discovery Of Natural Rubber
In 1496, the Spanish observers said there was ‘nothing comparable in the world to the way that the natural rubber balls bounced’ when Christopher Columbus brought back natural rubber balls from his second voyage to the West Indies.
Since 1496, many scientists and creative developers in Europe tried to use this to manufacture products, but the problem was during the winter it would get hard and rigid, and during the summer it would get soft and sticky, so this product wasn’t very useful due to the changes in their characteristics.
In 1841, Charles Goodyear accidentally left sulphur and natural rubber in a two-roll mixing mill, and it over-heated due to staying too long in the mill. Finally, it became one of the greatest discoveries for the automotive industry and almost all other industries in the world. This was patented in 1842 by Charles Goodyear.
Since the first production runs of automotive vehicles in the late 19th century, natural rubber has been and still is the one and only option used by vehicle manufacturers from the cheapest to the most expensive vehicles, for suspension, engine mounts and many other applications.
The Main Benefits Vehicle Manufacturers Expect From Natural Rubber
Natural Rubber can Bond to Metal
- As an example, a suspension bush bonds an outer and inner metal sleeve with vulcanized natural rubber to function as a cushion. These types of vulcanized natural rubber bushes have the highest efficiency due to the ‘bounce back ability’ of natural rubber
- Polyurethane bushes may not be able to bond with the metal. It causes squeaking noises due to the bush pivoting without grease while in vehicle suspension operation. Natural rubber suspension bushes work as a cushion due to metal and natural rubber bonding.
Benefits From The Vulcanization Of Natural Rubber
For suspension bushes, vehicles have different applications for different hardness natural rubber compounds.
- Natural rubber is used for hydraulic suspension bushes & engine mounts because of the ‘bounce back ability’ (similar to a spring) with the hydraulic liquid inside the bush (working similar to shock absorber)
- Suspension bushes are also made in different hardness’ to absorb impact from the road and control the travel distance in applications such as control arms according to vehicle manufacturer design.
Why Some Natural Rubber Bushes Don’t Last Long
Due to the poor technical know how on natural rubber mixing and curing process’, human error issues and other cheap material used with natural rubber compounds are the main causes for poor quality natural rubber products. Nowadays personnel who are involved in the natural rubber products manufacturing process are overseas where cheap labour is available, increasing the risk of human error. Mainly they are motivated to earn a living and their attitudes are not committed to do a quality job to be satisfied.
The ASP Family Advice for Australian Mechanics
Buy aftermarket automotive natural rubber products from a reputable company that is directly involved in manufacturing. The manufacturer must have direct customer feedback to manufacture accurate products. You may need to identify the technical know-how of the manufacturer and how deeply involved they are in manufacturing of their natural rubber products.
Words by Pradeep Walliwala