There are many types of rubber used in industrial hose and gasket sheeting. Some that appear to be the same side-by-side may differ greatly in cost and performance. Neoprene, Nitrile, Butyl, Gum rubber, with so many choices and some going by multiple names, we aim to explain the options and the applications for which they are best suited. Many hoses and rubber sheeting are made from blends of engineered rubber compounds. You may see EPDM / SBR blend. While sometimes this is a cost savings measure, adding another rubber to the blend can also alter its characteristics for the better. Consider produce, where many types that go to market are genetically modified to reduce bruising or allow them to travel longer distances. In rubber, blends or modifications may add oil resistance or increase flexibility.
Rubber at its most natural is Gum Rubber (also known as… Natural Rubber). Gum rubber is resilient, soft, abrasion resistant, and can withstand low temperatures. It is frequently used as a liner in hose designed for highly abrasive and dry materials such as sand and gravel. Natural rubber sheet is found in conveyors and wipers, as well as gaskets where parts are not perfectly flat. This is because gum is very soft and can seat into any gaps or imperfections well. Gum rubber however does not have oil resistance or handle high heat very well. This, along with cost, often make other synthetic rubber materials more desirable.
Synthetic rubber means any rubber material that has been modified by adding or altering the composition. Just about any industrial material currently is a synthetic engineered polymer. SBR (Styrene-Butadiene) is one of the earlier developed synthetic rubber blends. This is often found in tires and basic durable industrial products. In rubber hose, SBR is often found in a blend with EPDM for hose covers. This blend offers ozone and weather resistance, at an economical price. Red SBR sheet rubber is often used for flange gaskets and other general purpose sealing applications. SBR is not resistant to most oils and chemicals, and does not handle extreme heat.
Neoprene (chloroprene) is the next general synthetic rubber material, often found in a mid-range hose or gasket products. It adds moderate oil resistance and a slightly improved temperature range. It also handles sunlight and ozone well. Neoprene is often used as a hose cover material in applications where the outside of the hose may lay in oil and grease such as an air hose in an auto repair shop. Neoprene is also found in gaskets and matting that may see some contact with oil and where good outdoor weathering is desired.
Nitrile (Buna-N or NBR) is the go-to material for applications in contact with oil. It can withstand contact with hydrocarbons and acids, however it is less resistant to ozone. For this reason, many tank truck and outdoor oil hoses utilize a Nitrile tube and a Neoprene outer cover. Many gaskets are made from Nitrile rubber as they typically do not see daylight even in outdoor use. Because of its ability to withstand oil and fuels, Nitrile is also used in many automotive V-belts and hoses.
EPDM Rubber has excellent outdoor abilities in both hot and cold climate extremes. While it does not have oil resistance, it can withstand some chemical use. This along with durability in ozone exposure makes it a good choice for all around outdoor service. EPDM is often found in agricultural applications for these reasons. EPDM is also the rubber type found in most air hoses as they typically require a hose that can withstand rugged outdoor use.
Silicone Rubber is a very resilient high temperature and high performance material that is available in a wide variety of types and durometers. Often broken down into commercial grade and spec grade, there are many special formulas that meet specific criteria. Silicone sheet rubber can be made to meet a variety of parameters and may also include test report data for critical applications. Silicone is often found in high temperature duct hoses, lab and pharmaceutical tubing, food handling, and aerospace service.
FKM (Viton® Rubber) is a fluorelastomer available in a few different varieties, and is typically used in applications with extreme heat or requiring chemical resistance. FKM gaskets have a low compression set, and can withstand temperatures nearing 450 degrees F. FKM sheeting offers a high tensile strength, and can be fiber reinforced. Viton® A, B and F types offer special resistance to different petrochemicals.
®Viton is a registered trademark of the Chemours Company, all rights reserved
PTFE / FEP / PFA (Teflon®) is a polymer that is often used as a liner for chemical resistant hoses, as a lab and medical grade tubing, and for high performance seals and gaskets. PTFE is a fluorelastomer that can handle extreme heat. FEP is a slightly different polymer that has a somewhat lower melting point but similar characteristics. PFA is another type of polymer with high heat resistance and improved chemical resistance. Typically these are used interchangeably in industry unless very specific needs are required. Teflon® is very light and is also water non-permeable. For these reasons it is often used as the tube material for rubber and flexible metal hose. It can also be found in cryogenic hose and seals, as well as in aerospace and other high performance applications.
®Teflon is a registered trademark of the Chemours Company, all rights reserved
UHMW PE (ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) and XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene) are performance plastics that are often used in chemical transfer hoses. They are both highly resistant to chemicals, and are also very slick and puncture resistant.
This list may continue to grow, however this grouping will help to differentiate some of the most common types of synthetic rubber and polymers.
Please contact us with any questions regarding suitability or chemical resistance.