HOW THE NATURAL RUBBER LATEX IS MADE

Natural latex is produced from the Hevea brasilienesis rubber tree in Thailand and is the protective fluid contained beneath the bark. Note: Natural rubber (latex—from plants) are different from synthetic rubber (made artificially in a chemical plant or laboratory).

Natural latex is a white liquid, similar to milk and is collected by cutting a thin strip of bark from the tree and allowing the latex to exude into a collecting vessel over a period of hours. The trees can be tapped for up to 30 years, and are often rested for a period after tapping.

COLLECTING THE LIQUID

Growing and processing natural rubber is one of the most complex agricultural industries and requires several years. The planted trees are cultivated and cared for until they are ready for tapping in about six to seven years.

To harvest latex, a worker shaves off a slanted strip of bark halfway around the tree and about one third in (0.84 cm) deep. Precise skill is required for if the tree is cut too deeply, the tree will be irreparably damaged. If the cut is too shallow, the maximum amount of latex will not flow. The latex then bleeds out of the severed vessels, flows down along the cut until it reaches a spout, and finally drops into a collection cup that will later be drained.

MANUFACTORING PROCESS

About 10% of the latex is processed into a liquid concentrate by removing some of the water and increasing the rubber content to 60%. This is achieved either by spinning the water out of the latex through centrifugal force, by evaporation or by a method known as creaming.

A number of quality checks are made after the latex is harvested. After tapping, the latex is checked for purity and other properties. After each step of the production process, technicians check physical properties and chemical composition, using a variety of analytical equipment.

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