Textile Industry


The Early History of Fabric-Reinforced Rubber Materials

Today, so much of the modern world relies upon articles made from polymer-textile (mainly rubber-textile) composites; in fact, it is difficult to imagine how we could survive without these goods in modern life. Products such as transportation systems

(rubber-textile tires), material-handling systems (conveyor belts) and mechanical driving systems (belts) reflect the importance of these materials. Although textiles have been produced and used for many thousands of years, rubber (gum) was introduced into Europe only 500 years ago [52], and only during the past 200 years has it been really utilized, notably in combination with textiles. Since then, however, a substantial development has taken place in the design and use of these materials.

Over the past 85 years, synthetic products have replaced natural materials (i. e. rubber and cotton) in the production of textiles and polymers, with the result being a wide variety of versatile, composite materials.

From the skills ofthe ancient Mesoamericans, who were very knowledgeable about the characteristics of native rubber, rubber processing progressed towards applications such as the manufacture of waterproof coatings of sails, hoses and bags. All of these products, however, had a limited use performance. The final landmark in the early history of the rubber industry was the discovery of vulcanization at the start of the 19th century; this made it possible to produce pneumatic tires [53, 54] that consisted of an inner tube and an outer tire. The outer tire was produced from several layers of plain — woven cotton fabric and rubber, and provided with bead wires to hold the tire in place on the rim. Although, in 1915, the replacement of tarpaulin with cord fabrics led to a major improvement in tire performance, the latter was still limited by the rubber material used at the time. Subsequently, the introduction of carbon black doubled the service life of tires from 3000 to 6000 km, while the fabrics ‘caught up’ with a relatively new fiber called ‘rayon’, a regenerated cellulose. Unfortunately, this created a new problem since, for the first time, a fiber other than cotton was used. Until then, the combination of cotton with rubber was perfect because the fine cotton fiber ends could be incorporated into rubber, resulting in a mechanical bonding of the rubber to the textile reinforcement. Synthetic fibers, however, are composed of continuous filaments with only a few fiber ends. So, to make synthetic textiles bondable to rubber, an adhesive solution was developed that was originally based on natural rubber and casein, and used to treat textiles by helping them to bond well to rubber. Shortly afterwards, a resorcinol-formaldehyde-based resin replaced the casein component. As a conse­quence, with every newly developed fiber a matching adhesive system was developed with regards to continuing the performance of the composite material, such that the development of rubber and textile technologies ran in parallel. Today, a wide array of composite materials is available for whatever requirements are to be met under most adverse conditions, whether in space, in the deep sea, or at arctic temperatures [55].


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