In general, rubber will need to be cut at some point in order to create one of the many products for which it is used for. Luckily, rubber and rubber products can be cut into strips and shapes fairly easily. For the most part, a rubber supply company will need to do the cutting for their customers and clients in order to create specialized products. However, elastomers are usually easy enough to handle such that they can be cut by hand by provider or consumer for applications which are simpler in nature. Naturally, some methods of cutting are going to be more accurate, faster, or more affordable than others, and so it is up to the consumer to decide which method is the best suited for their particular project. It is important to weigh out these options so that you don’t end up with something you cannot use. The exactness in dimensions is more important in some applications than others, and you definitely do not want to waste time or money.
There are four basic methods which rubber supply company use to cut large sheets and rolls of rubber into smaller and more specialized products. Each will have its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so you must choose wisely:
By Hand: As mentioned earlier, in general, rubber is a product which can be handled by consumers and manufacturers alike. While this method may be one of the fastest and by far the most affordable way of cutting rubber, it does come with its downsides. Because it is done by hand and by a human, it is the least precise of all the methods. Of course, this method works well for applications in which larger pieces of rubber are needed, or even when clients only wish to test out materials before investing in a higher-priced but more accurate method of cutting. Some companies will even provide samples of their products, and for this, a hand-cut piece of rubber would be appropriate. This method is probably best for large pads for machinery or for matting which will cover hard ground surfaces.
Die Cutting: Dye cutting rubber and rubber products is sort of equivalent to using a cookie cutter. A thin strip of metal (a metal dye) is bent into the desired shape and pressed into the rubber material. The piece is stamped out from the shape and can be reproduced in large quantities. This method is also better suited for creating products that are somewhat more tolerant for accuracy. The tolerance for this method is 1/16 (.0625”) of an inch, and so, if you need a lower level of tolerance for your application you will need to look into the other forms of cutting. Dye cutting is also limited to thinner sheets of rubber, usually under 3/8 of an inch. Also, the dimensions of the metal dye must be less than 24 inches on any one side, meaning that the products which can be cut with this method must be relatively small.
Laser Cutting: For this method, a shape must first be programmed into a computer to be cut. The computer is connected to a laser-cutting machine, and this machine will follow instructions given to it by the computer. A high-powered beam will makes its way across the surface of the material according to these instructions, cutting lines that are extremely precise. While the precision that is afforded through this method is highly desirable, this method is also very costly because of the large amounts of energy that are used during the process. However, a rubber supply company generally find this to be the least-favorable method of cutting, and so it is used infrequently or perhaps not at all. Be sure to confirm whether or not this service is available for their rubber and rubber products.
Hydro-Jet Cutting: Similar to laser cutting, this process begins by inputting a design into a computer. The computer controls the hydro-jet cutter and gives it instructions on where to place its high-pressure jet stream of water, pressing through the material. As you may know, there are various densities, thicknesses, and durometers of rubber; for harder materials, an abrasive is added to the water to aid it in cutting through the material cleanly. For the “green” consumer, this method of cutting is considered to be eco-friendly, as it uses considerably less energy than laser cutting and utilizing water as the main cutting agent. As with laser cutting, there are higher costs involved with using this method, but the precision of the finished product cannot be beat.
There you have it, all the ways in which rubber supply company cut their rubber and rubber products. In general, rubber will need to be handled with care if you wish to create a fully-functional and high-quality product, so make sure you know which method of cutting is best for your unique application!