Romar Engineering and the Secret World of Elastomers
Elastomers are highly specialised materials – that are surprisingly pervasive. As a global leader in elastomers, Romar Engineering excels in creating elastomeric solutions for the medical, aerospace, automotive, mining and industrial sectors.
Practical applications are extensive… so much so you will frequently find elastomers in objects that we use daily.
Carlo Cartini, Director of Technical Development at Romar, is a materials expert – and an elastomers specialist.
“We no longer use elastomers as a catch-all material when something soft is needed,” he explains. “There are cheaper materials for that. Instead, elastomers are a niche group of materials with very specific – and valuable – properties.”
Elastomers are the elite of soft materials. They are high performance… and they are all around us.
An overview of elastomers
An elastomer is a natural or synthetic polymer with elastic properties. It is soft enough to change shape, but it simultaneously fulfils a specific function, such as withstanding extreme temperatures.
Carlo explains that there are various types of elastomers including natural rubbers, silicone, synthetic rubber (neoprene) and nitrile rubber.
“The term elastomer describes a polymer made up of lots of repeating units to create a larger chain. Polymers can be either thermoplastic or thermoset. Elastomers can stretch by 50% or more of their original length and snap back to their original shape. With a thermoset elastomer, there is a chemical change that produces a higher grade of material. Elastomeric properties are determined by the chemical spaces that make up the chain.”
There are now multiple materials – such as cheaper thermoplastic – that are suitable where you simply need a soft material – but the difference lies in performance.
Carlo explains that the two key features of elastomers are the capacity for movement and ability to operate in distinct environments.
“The overriding principle of what makes elastomers useful is that it is a material which can change shape yet retain its original physical properties,” says Carlo. “So it’s ideal when you need an object to fulfil a desired function in a particular environment.”
While elastomers have applications in industrial and advanced manufacturing and specialist areas including medical devices, we also find them in common utilitarian products… from conveyor belts to camera equipment, computer mice… and reusable coffee cups.
The need for flexibility and shock absorption means elastomers may be used for sporting goods such as golf bowls and footballs, as well as wetsuits, swim fins and goggles. “Swimming goggles are a good example,” says Carlo. “Old styles used to crack or completely disintegrate if left in the sun. They require a material that is durable, that will seal softly against the skin and have the flexibility to subtly change shape when your face moves.”
In addition to neoprene, elastomeric fabrics include polyurethane, which we find in raincoats, stretch clothing and footwear, providing shock absorption and cushioning for the feet.
Cooking with gas
Elastomers have extensive potential in the home from insulation… to interior decor.
They have the ability to handle large weights and pressure, so a glass coffee or dining table for instance may use an elastomeric ribbing between the metal frame and the pane of glass.
Another elastomeric destination is in the kitchen. Elastomers are ideal for oven and fridge seals which need to withstand extreme temperatures and the subtly shifting movement in door position. There’s also modern bakeware.
“Modern, flexible bakeware tends to be made from a soft silicone, a type of elastomer that is temperature resistant, an effective insulator, food grade and inert to the human body. It is also durable and very impervious to normal weather conditions,” Carlo adds.
Being high performance materials, we frequently find elastomers in the hydraulic seals and hoses used in the oil, gas, auto and industrial sectors.
Automotive products potentially made from elastomers also include tyres, wiper blades, windshield and window seals and – given their vibration absorption properties – suspension systems, engine mounts, belts and hoses.
Elastomers are widely used in the construction industry – in everything from electrical insulation to roofing sheets, air-conditioning hoses and window glazing.
“Multi storey office buildings use elastomeric window seals to hold the glass in place,” explains Carlo. “You need the strength and integrity of a proper cross-linked elastomer to hold a heavy pane of glass in a fixed location for a very long period of time, often more than 20 or 30 years, and to withstand extreme storms and weather conditions.”
Romar elastomeric expertise
We work with natural rubber, silicone, Viton, Aflas and the full range of elastomeric materials… and create a range of products including cup seals, isolation mounts, torsion springs and rubber to metal bonded assemblies.
We supplement our expertise with world-class facilities and testing equipment, and an in-house quality assurance team to guarantee consistently high-quality production.
We create effective and scalable solutions to manufacturing challenges. So please contact us if you have a manufacturing problem, or require advice on the potential of elastomers for your project.