Rubber is a highly versatile material. It can be manufactured into many parts and products, from O-rings and gaskets to tubes and profiles. It is also available in numerous variations, each of which exhibits unique characteristics that make it suitable for particular applications.
Two of the most commonly used rubbers are EPDM and silicone. While these synthetic materials are similar in some ways, they are different in others; due to their physical, mechanical, and chemical differences, they are used in separate types of applications. Below, we highlight the unique advantages, disadvantages, and applications of EPDM rubber and silicone rubber to help readers identify which one is right for their projects.
What Is EPDM Rubber?
Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) is a synthetic rubber that is ideal for use in a wide range of applications. It has a stable and chemically saturated polymer backbone structure, which gives it enhanced rubber characteristics. Its similarities to silicone include:
- It offers chemical and temperature resistance (to varying degrees).
- It provides electrical insulation properties.
- It maintains flexibility in low temperatures.
- It remains resilient when exposed to prolonged pressure (good compressions set).
- It is used for seals and tubing.
Advantages & Disadvantages of EPDM Rubber
EPDM rubber has a number of advantages over other rubbers, such as:
- Water resistance. EPDM exhibits the greatest water resistance of all rubbers, which is why it is widely used for outdoor applications. It is commonly utilized for roofing since it withstands exposure to harsh weather conditions like rain, sleet, and snow.
- Electrical resistance. EPDM has excellent electrical resistance. This quality makes it well-suited for use in gaskets and other products used for electrical insulation.
- Super tropical bleach resistance. EPDM is able to withstand exposure to harsh substances such as super tropical bleach (STB). This makes it ideal for military applications that are rated for exposure to nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare (NBC rated), as it is resistant to the cleaning chemicals used on this type of assembly.
- Durability. In addition to bleach, electricity, and water, EPDM offers resistance to many other compounds and conditions that may cause material damage or degradation. For example, it is resistant to abrasion, alkalis and diluted acids, cold/heat, ozone, steam, tearing, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and weathering. These qualities make it highly durable, which is why it is a popular choice for construction applications.
However, there are also several disadvantages to be aware of when utilizing EPDM rubber. For example, its lifespan is somewhat shorter than that of silicone, meaning that it may require more frequent maintenance or replacement. Further, it does not have the broad service temperature range, both low and high, of silicones. Additionally, it is incompatible with concentrated acids, grease and oil, halogenated solvents, and hydrocarbon fuels.
EPDM Rubber Applications
EPDM rubber is ideal for many applications that require durability. Typical industrial uses include:
- In the automotive industry, it is used for gaskets that provide protection against weather and reduce the force of vibrations.
- In the construction industry, it is used for roofing, weatherstripping, and other components that require water and weather resistance.
- In the consumer appliance industry, it is used to stop unwanted movement caused by vibrations.
- In the enclosure industry, it is used for seals that prevent contaminant ingress and isolate vibrations.
- In the HVAC industry, it is used for gaskets, grommets, insulation, seals, and tubing.
- In the masking industry, it is used to create tight seals that prevent paint from reaching specific areas of a component.
- In the military industry, it is used for gaskets and seals regularly exposed to extreme conditions.
What Is Silicone Rubber?
Silicone rubber is an inorganic polymer composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and silicon. Like EPDM rubber, it is highly resistant to chemicals, electricity, ozone, UV, and weather. However, while EPDM is generally used for specific applications, silicone rubber is more versatile and suited for general use across a wide range of industries.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Silicone Rubber
The advantages silicone rubber offers over other rubbers include:
- Food-safe formulation. It is a sterile elastomer, which is why it is commonly used in the food and beverage industry for processing and serving equipment components (e.g., seals and tubing).
- Low/high temperature resistance. It is suitable for use in temperatures ranging from -67° F to 450-500° F.
- Customizability. It is available in many formulations. Companies can customize the durometer, color, and other properties to suit their exact material needs.
While silicone rubber has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages. For example, it may not have the same abrasion and tear resistance as EPDM elastomers.
Silicone Rubber Applications
While silicone rubber is used in many of the same industries as EPDM rubber, it is generally utilized for different purposes.
- In the HVAC industry, it is used for fan mounts that offer protection against shock and vibration and as seals in smoke dampers and louver systems.
- In the medical industry, it is used for tubing in peristaltic pumps, as seals in ultracold storage containers, as sheathes for fiber optic bundles, and in surgical smoke evacuation tubing.
- In the electronics industry, it is used for insulators, lubricants, and sealants.
- In the cable management industry, it is used for cable straps and sheathes.
- In the food and beverage industry, it is used for bakeware/cookware, food containers and utensils, and production machinery, beverage dispensers, and as seals on ovens, refrigerators, and freezers.
EPDM and Silicone Rubber Products From Vanguard Products
For additional information about EPDM and silicone rubber, ask the experts at Vanguard Products! Vanguard Products has provided custom rubber manufacturing solutions for over 50 years. This experience gives us the knowledge to answer or address any questions or concerns you may have about these materials.
We can also deliver high-quality, competitively priced rubber goods. From gaskets and seals to hoses and tubes, we’ve got you covered. To learn more about our capabilities or discuss your product needs with one of our team members, contact us or request a video consult today.