What is Neoprene Fabric: Properties, Manufacturing and Its Importance in Terms of Sustainability?

What is Neoprene Fabric: Properties, Manufacturing and Its Importance in Terms of Sustainability?

Are you a scuba diving enthusiast? Or scuba diving is on your bucket list? Assuming this is the case, you should know about neoprene fabric. This material is utilized to make wetsuits and many different things you utilize consistently.

From dumbbells in the gym to mobile phone cases in your hand, all of them are made using Neoprene. However, with the people committed to knowing about what makes a product sustainable, neoprene is also questioned.

If you are hearing this word for the first time, read on, as this guide covers it all. From what is Neoprene’s history, along with its manufacturing process and characteristics, are discussed below.

What is Neoprene?

Neoprene, sometimes called polychloroprene, is a synthetic rubber that is oil, heat, and water-resistant making it a decent insulator.

Primarily, it is a chief material used in making wetsuits for scuba diving. However, you can likewise find Neoprene at your nearby store used in making phone cases, mouse pads, and even winter coats.

How was Neoprene invented? 

Wallace Carothers, a scientist at Harvard College, invented Neoprene in 1931. He worked with the DuPont Organization, determined to track down an answer for the rubber shortage that happened after The First World War.

The material was initially used under the name “Duprene” and was used to make phone wires, insulators, gaskets, and car hoses.

By The Second World War, it was renamed “Neoprene” and was exclusively made for the military. Consistently, customers could only get it at stores once the war was over.

How is Neoprene Manufactured Today?

Neoprene is commonly a petrochemical substance, which means that its major source is petroleum-based extraction.

Utilizing the free radical emulsion polymerization process, natural chloroprene is changed into polychloroprene, its synthetic form.

Polychloroprene is the base material for producing neoprene fabric. Similarly, you can also manufacture Neoprene using limestone.

However, since the manufacturing of neoprene involves the usage of two raw materials, it isn’t eco-friendly.

There are many sustainable fabrics and their types that can be used as an alternative to neoprene.

Following is the complete process by which Neoprene is produced.

Delivery In Fluid Form

Polychloroprene, the essential component for the manufacturing process of Neoprene, is delivered to the production plants in fluid form.

It is then joined with synthetic mixtures to build the product’s flexibility. Fabric businesses have licensed formulae to add synthetic materials to feature different attributes in the final form.

Loaf Making

The mixture produced after delivery is then positioned in a blender and handled further. During this cycle, it is prepared in an industrial oven and changed into a portion like a bread loaf. It is this solidified chloroprene rubber, which is known as a loaf.

Cutting of Loaf 

Like a bread loaf, the neoprene loaf is cut utilizing a big modern machine. The typical thickness of each cut is between 3 mm and 5 mm.

Thicker polychloroprene sheets are water-resistant and show good insulative properties.

Since the pressure is higher deep in the oceans, the diving suits that scuba divers and swimmers wear are typically produced using 6 to 7-mm thick material.

Embellishing the Patterns

The material is then stacked onto beds after cutting and is shipped to cloth production plants.

In polychloroprene cuts, patterns are followed, and the fabric is cut into slices, which are shipped for sewing.

This is the last phase of producing the completed material for this fabric. Various things can be produced using a single slice. Tailors cut the necessary shapes according to their essential estimations from a slice.

Sewing

As per the requirements of the customers, the wetsuits, athletic apparel, and other requirements are sewn in the production unit.

They are then packed for the deliveries. At this stage, insulating or waterproofing showers are applied to the fabric.

Properties of Neoprene 

Since its invention, Neoprene and the conventional types of polychloroprene have gained significant importance in customer and industrial life. Following are some of the neoprene fabric properties

Impermeability

Neoprene creates a durable barrier between the person wearing it and its surroundings. At the same time, this characteristic blocks breathability. It also protects from uncomfortable ecological circumstances.

Flexibility

While it provides a perfect barrier against moisture, Neoprene is very stretchy. The flexibility of Neoprene is a great advantage; otherwise, divers would’ve found it difficult to wear it.

Heat Retention

While a small amount of heat is enough to melt petrochemical-based fibers, this synthetic fabric gives magnificent insulation properties. Because of polychloroprene, surfers can withstand colder temperature ranges.

Formability

While most fabrics are woven, Neoprene fabric is manufactured. In this manner, it is pre-made into any shape and size, saving fashion designers time and work.

What is Neoprene Rubber Utilized for?

Apart from the production of scuba diving suits, neoprene rubber is utilized for a wide variety of applications in various industrial sectors. These include

  1. Mobile Technology
  2. Military Equipment
  3. Clinical and Medical Care
  4. Stainless Steel
  5. Food Equipment
  6. Aerospace

Neoprene is commonly used to efficiently manufacture solid gaskets, cable coats, tubing, O-rings, seals, tire sidewalls, fuel hoses, and gym equipment.

You’ll likewise find it as a base gum in electrical insulations and resistant coatings because of its many helpful properties and sensible cost.

Is Neoprene Sustainable?

If you are familiar with green manufacturing, you will easily tell that the production of neoprene doesn’t fall under this category. Since it does involve the usage of harmful synthetics, the production of this fabric is not considered eco-friendly.

However, its negative effects after production can be minimized. Organizations and waste management firms reuse Neoprene or things made of Neoprene fabric, for example, wetsuits.

This is highly important to minimize the negative impacts that are caused during its production.

Neoprene is frequently mixed with other synthetic materials and synthetic rubbers to make new materials. One of these materials is called resurrection rubber. This material is a blend of cleaved Neoprene and rubber and is utilized to make shoe soles.

Another way Neoprene can be reused is by giving wetsuits to a few organizations that work in reusing the material. Wetsuits can be reused into yoga mats, laptop cases, clinical gauzes, athletic shoe insoles, gloves, boots, mats, and car cushions.

Is There a Sustainable Option in Contrast to Neoprene?

As we discussed the importance of what is ethical fashion in previous articles, we must find out a sustainable alternative to neoprene. Patagonia, a well-known brand launched its own wetsuits in 2008 in pursuit of providing people with a sustainable option.

In 2016, they partnered with Yulex, an Arizona-based provider that guarantees plastic-free leather. It’s totally plant-based leather derived from hevea trees and made in a process that has zero waste.

Moreover, this process ensures that 80% less carbon dioxide is discharged than neoprene. Patagonia says Yulex neoprene is light, stretchy, yet solid, all while as yet being really great for the planet.

Is Neoprene Toxic?

The terms polychloroprene and Neoprene are often used together. Both refer to a similar group of manufactured rubbers delivered by the polymerization of chloroprene. But people often ask if that is Neoprene toxic.

Neoprene itself isn’t viewed as a toxic material and has chemical resistance. However, in a production setting, the gases from its creation can be unsafe and can cause negative environmental conditions.

Final thoughts on what is neoprene fabric

As consumers, we have a definite choice to promote sustainability by adopting green practices and buying from top affordable sustainable brands. Thus, whether it’s scuba diving or any other water sport, we must look for sustainable wetsuits.

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