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What Is EPDM Rubber?
May 15, 2018

EPDM rubber was one of the successful synthetic innovations of the 20th century. Ever since it’s discovery, rubber had been a mainstay of the world economy. So many products used natural rubber that it was impossible not to come across one on any given day. However, despite the strengths of natural rubber, it could not keep up with the increasingly complex and demanding industrial needs of manufacturers around the world. It was not long before manufacturers realized that they needed a UV-resistant rubber, something that could be used outdoors for extended periods of time without degrading under UV rays the way natural rubber did.

What is EPDM Rubber Then? The answer eventually came in the form of ethylene propylene rubber, properly known in chemical terms as ethylene propylene diene monomer. EPDM rubber was developed in the early 1960s as companies and chemists set out to produce unique synthetic elastomers. After it’s first initial discovery, the DuPont chemical company was the first to refine the rubber into the product that we know today. These days, an increasing number of industries use EPDM sheet rubber in products that need both elasticity and UV and ozone resistances. EPDM’s resistance to weathering is the material’s defining feature that sets it apart from most other elastomers.

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Like most rubbers, ethylene propylene rubber is easily produced and can be manufactured in many forms, including EPDM sheet rubber and adhesives. Thus, to choose the appropriate rubber it depends less on form and more on the rubber’s characteristics. To answer the question what is EPDM rubber, lets see how an EPDM product stands toe-to-toe with some popular rubbers:

  • EPDM vs. Natural Rubber: Natural rubber reigns as the most physically strong elastomer. It has an extremely low compression set, high tensile strength, incredible elongation, and a high resistance to abrasions. Most elastomers cannot hold a candle to natural rubber in such categories. While EPDM does have decent physical properties, they are not on the same level as natural rubber. However, EPDM rubber can brag about its resistances to UV and ozone, a quality that is natural rubber’s most glaring weakness.

  • EPDM vs. SBR: Ethylene propylene rubber performs better than Styrene-Butadiene rubber (SBR) in nearly every way. EPDM has a lower compression set, a higher tensile strength, a better resistance to heat aging, and high weathering resistance. However, an SBR product will have a much better resistance to abrasions than an EPDM product would.

  • EPDM vs. NBR: Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) stands alone as the most oil- and fuel-resistant elastomer. It is also known for maintaining its stability in low temperatures. A sheet of NBR rubber can survive in temperatures as low as -22 degree Fahrenheit. On the other hand, EPDM sheet rubber lies on the opposite side of the spectrum and can operate at higher temperatures. The rubber is also more resistant to water swell and weathering elements.

  • EPDM vs. Silicone: Although UV and ozone resistances can be considered as the defining features of EPDM rubber, silicone is actually the synthetic elastomer with the highest resistances to such weathering elements. So, why would you choose an EPDM product over a silicone one? Silicone rubber is actually very easy to tear and has one of the weakest resistances to abrasive substances and conditions. On the other hand, EPDM is a UV-resistant rubber that has a great tensile strength and is moderately resistant to abrasions.

  • EPDM vs. Neoprene: As the all-purpose elastomer, neoprene matches EPDM stride for stride in properties such as compression set, resilience, and even ozone resistance. For the most part, these two products function in a very similar capacity. The one thing that gives EPDM rubber an edge is that it possesses a better level of water swell resistance and a larger operable temperature range than neoprene.

What is EPDM Rubber? Ethylene propylene rubber is commonly produced as EPDM sheet rubber, which is used to create gaskets, seals, protective pads, and other various products. This rubber essentially mirrors many of the physical properties of natural rubber and adds the all-important functional property of weathering resistance. As awareness about the environment and UV rays grew, so too did the need for a UV-resistant rubber. Sure enough, where there is a demand, a supply will soon follow. Much like nitrile butadiene rubber was a gift to manufacturers during the years prior to World War II, so too was EPDM rubber a gift to industry in the 1960s. Continuing to be popular ever since it’s arrival onto the manufacturing scene, there will always be an EPDM product near you.