Archive for February 2nd, 2012

February 2, 2012

Indonesian Grand Tour Interlude: How Rubber is made

by Tabitha Kidwell

Did you know how rubber is made? Me neither!

First, they cut diagonally across one side of a rubber tree (our guide said it had to always be the same side, but I don’t know why) and let the sap drain out. Each tree produces a bowl about the size of a coconut everyday.

Then, the sap is rinsed. The foamy part is scraped off the top and set aside to make lower grade rubber for things like flip-flops, while the pure rubber is separated by metal dividers and left to dry (see the tank in the background below).

The next day, the strips of rubber are taken off the metal dividers and hung to dry.

The third day, they are moved into a room with a fire below (kind of like a huge oven) and dried even more.

When it is totally dry, the ladies at quality control check it and put it in piles.

Then these guys take the piles and use this machine to compress them.

And they sit for a few days to get further compressed.

Then they are wrapped up and put in this warehouse, presumably to be shipped somewhere and made into tires, galoshes, bouncy balls, and whatever else we use rubber for.

What I don’t get is, who originally looked at a tree and said “I bet, if we drain the sap from that tree, wash it, let it dry, then heat it a bit, it would be something really useful.”? I’m going to just start trying procedures like that at random and just see what I get!