Unraveling the Confusing Web of Neoprene Materials

Unraveling the Confusing Web of Neoprene Materials

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Neoprene material is one elastomer that can go by several...and we mean several names. As a highly versatile and in-demand elastomer, neoprene is also available in an array of forms, which is where the naming convention can get a bit tricky. At Frank Lowe, we've created a quick guide to understanding neoprene to simplify this material and help you make the best decision for your application. 

Don't have time to read more about neoprene? No problem! Simply reach out to the team at Frank Lowe. Our experts specialize in all of the materials we offer. We'll use our in-depth knowledge to match your application with the best possible solution. Reach out to a Frank Lowe specialist today and/or continue reading to learn more about the mystery of neoprene sponge, neoprene foam, neoprene rubber, foam rubber,  and so on! 

Did We Forget to Mention Chloroprene? 

To throw another kink in the neoprene chain, the material is sometimes referred to as chloroprene. Abbreviated as CR, chloroprene has become well known as sponge neoprene or foam rubber. The foam type of neoprene can be further separated into two different categories: closed-cell neoprene foam and open-cell neoprene foam. 

Both of these materials have a unique set of benefits and traits, offering chloroprene material exponentially more useful benefits than monikers. Chloroprene was the material before there was any type of closed-cell or open-cell neoprene foam sheet. 

It's important to understand that chloroprene is the primary material used in the creation of neoprene rubber. It was synthesized originally back in 1930 by Dupont under the name DuPrene. 

Sponge Neoprene Is Born

Neoprene sponge was invented as a response to evolving industrial and commercial needs. It was created through the same manufacturing process as its solid form counterpart. The only difference was the implementation of a chemical foaming agent, which is why it adopted the moniker "foam rubber". 

The foaming agent used works to create gas bubbles inside of the rubber during the curing stages. Alternatively, the pockets of gas in neoprene foam sheet rubber can be created by continually whipping the rubber composition. In the end, it creates a sponge product that is majority air (85%) and about 15% rubber. 

Sponge Rubber Neoprene

Sponge rubber is an overarching name that can be used to describe two different products. Sponge rubber neoprene can be either open-cell or closed-cell foam. While the open cell variety tends to be softer, the closed-cell type of neoprene sponge rubber is more rigid and sturdier. 

Open Cell Sponge Rubber Neoprene

In the open-cell version variation, the air bubbles will rupture during the whipping or foaming process. This creates a robust network of particles that are interconnected, which lends a softer consistency to the product. 

Open-cell sponge rubber neoprene has a higher rate of compression. This means that if significant pressure is exerted on an open-cell neoprene sheet, it can return to its original shape exceptionally quicker than other elastomers, particularly the closed-cell counterpart. 

Closed-Cell Sponge Rubber Neoprene

In contrast to open-cell variety, the air bubbles do not pop when the neoprene rubber is being created. This results in a material with several internal pores — a much more flexible and stronger rubber. 

Solid Rubber Neoprene

Sponge neoprene is wildly popular and very useful. However, it tends to not last as long as solid rubber neoprene. And this is due to the fact solid rubber neoprene is engineered to withstand much more physically challenging environments. 

Over time, the physical structure of neoprene foam will degrade, weaken, and lose its flexibility. On the other hand, solid rubber neoprene boasts outstanding resistance to aging. As with most other types of neoprene, solid rubber can be broken down into two different categories:

  • Hard solid rubber neoprene
  • Soft solid rubber neoprene.

It's worth noting that both hard and soft solid neoprene rubber have similar qualities, such as excellent performance in outdoor weather conditions and chemical environments. The differentiating performance factor between hard solid neoprene rubber vs soft solid neoprene rubber is durability. 

As you can imagine, hard neoprene can withstand significantly more physical abuse than the softer form. While hard neoprene sheets weigh more and are denser, softer sheets have better flex fatigue and are more supple.

Hard, Soft, and Durometer

Using the terms "hard" or "soft" can be confusing. These terms used in isolation are useless. Durometer is a measurement that assigns a value to the hardness or softness of materials. At the same time, a durometer is an effective way to measure the pliability of the material and flexibility. 

To measure the durometer, a device drives an indenter through the material at a steady and constant rate. When the device is removed, the depth of the indent is measured. The depth that the penetration is made will determine a number ranging from 0 to 100. 

If the indenter penetrates the material entirely, the durometer will be 0, which would indicate an extremely soft material. Alternatively, a durometer of 100 is a very hard material where the indenter doesn't penetrate it at all.

Contact Frank Lowe for Assistance Choosing the Best Type of Neoprene

As you can see, there are several factors to consider when choosing the best neoprene material. And each type of neoprene can offer different attributes that can impact the application. Because of the implications, it's vital to select the best type of neoprene material, which is easier said than done. 

In either case, the team at Frank Lowe can and will help. We specialize in helping manufacturers choose the best neoprene material in the most ideal durometer to improve the application. 

Contact us today to learn more about choosing the best neoprene for your application.

About the Author Randy Cohen

Since 2002, Randy Cohen has served as the Senior Vice President of Frank Lowe — leading Sales and Marketing as well as a variety of Administrative operations. Randy has 25 years of experience with a background in sales & marketing, production and business management, serving both government agencies and private industry. He holds a B.A from Syracuse University and a Masters and Professional Diploma from Fordham University. Randy uses his unique set of experiences to help businesses and entities across all sectors explore, pursue, and create better solutions.

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