Saturday, January 12th, 2013
that accompanies industrial rubber products.
Modern vulcanization still involves sulphur, as when Goodyear discovered it all those years ago, but plain sulfur vulcanized rubber- while it does not degrade as quickly as pure indiarubber- will still fall apart sooner or later. Modern industrial rubber compounds include not only sulphur but stearic acid (Think: Steer-ic acid, it’s a by product of cattle butchering, and is common in beef fat) and they last LOTS longer than before. The upper and lower radiator hoses in the old Exploder are original, and are still in fine shape.
Years ago, we did a job for a company whose name I cannot name, who made molded radiator hoses for cars. The process is actually very unusual; there’s a polished mandrel made in the shape of the hose in question, and the surface of the mandrel is covered with a bazillion holes. Air comes out of these holes and the raw hose is pulled over the mandrel the way a puck glides on an air hockey table.
Once the hose is in place on the shaped mandrel, the mandrel is filled with steam and the hose vulcanizes in the bent and twisted shape of the mandrel. This process causes the bonding of the molecules in such a way as to make the rubber far more durable than the previous generation of radiator hoses (Anyone over 50 who remembers copper and brass radiators also remembers changing the hoses every couple of years) Anyway, the hoses, once vulcanized, retain their shape, and outgass a LOT of sulphur and stearic acid. If the steam was a little too hot, it smelled like a burnt steak fart. Which was often.
And the hoses, once vulcanized into their final shapes, they were a chrome plated bitch to get off the mandrels, even with the help of the “Air bearing” effect, so we installed robotic systems to grab the hose by it’s bottom end and push it up off the tube, following it around the twists and turns of the mandrel.
The people who worked there, most of whom looked like stevedores because of the muscles required to remove the hoses, were so happy they actually cried.
Yesterday I finished my day in the shop of our Parker supplier getting some custom hoses made for a project, and that sulphur and stearic acid smell you always get around rubber products took me back to that job I did some fifteen years ago, and how happy those people were not to have to wrestle those damned hoses anymore.