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RUBBER COMPOUNDS “Grade or Quality” Classifications

In the early 1900s, all around the world, rubber products and manufacturing suddenly began to flourish. Decades after the “vulcanization” discovery, rubber was finally beginning to fulfill its 20th Century prophesy as a major supplier to both the automotive and industrial industries.
Tire demand Here in the USA, the Rubber Manufacturers drives rubber Association (or RMA) was established in 1928. production Although having many directives with its rubber manufacturing constituents, this trade association was empowered to catalog and qualify various rubber products as to their quality and expected performance … aspects that, to that date, varied widely within the industry.

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The RMA later went on to establish specifications for rubber used in “flat” belting products … identifying each according to a specific “grade.” Originally, there were three such RMA grade classifications … #1, #2, and #3. Each was qualified according to a minimum cover tensile RMA qualifies rubber “grades” and elongation, along with minimum cover and carcass ply adhesions. Over the years that followed, the flat belting picture has changed significantly. Yet, the RMA grade specifications have changed little!! As a result, there tends to be a great deal of confusion about today’s compounding “grades or qualities.” How many are there?? What exactly do they mean?? And how do they apply to compound selection?? Can they be “combined??” To answer some of these questions, and to keep current with today’s compounding “classifications,” let’s review each of the primary grades that are fundamental to Conveyor and Elevator belting. You’ll see that each grade tends to be broadly categorized under either a “General Purpose” or “Special Purpose” label.

Grade I. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … Matchless. Note 1 … The properties of Natural rubber are extremely important in this grade! In its purist form. with good abrasion resistance o Now qualified by min tensile (2500 psi) and elongation (400%) values @ break o The RMA guidelines suggest Typical RMA I that the cover will consist of Application Natural or Synthetic rubber. Grade II. test values. the compound should be 100% Natural rubber. • RMA “Grade 1” … o Was RMA’s 1st rubber “grade classification” o Referenced as Cut/Gouge Resistant rubber.“ “G Ge en ne er ra all P Pu ur rp po os se e” ”G Gr ra ad de es s RMA Grade Designations … Today. suitable for applications involving sharp and abrasive materials or severe loading conditions. Matchless Plus. RMA’s Flat Belt Technical Committee provides a specification for end-users entitled “Conveyor Belt Cover Characteristics and Classifications.” The properties. we refer to the existing “RMA Grade” classifications (last updated in 1994) as a reference to “General Purpose” compounds. with little dilution from extenders. or blends thereof. with somewhat less cut/gouge resistance than Grade I. and Grade M • RMA “Grade 2” … o Was RMA’s 2nd rubber “grade classification” o Primarily referenced as a Wear Resistant rubber o Now qualified by min tensile (2000 psi) and elongation (400%) values @ break o The RMA guidelines suggest an elastomeric composition similar to Grade I … providing excellent service with abrasive materials. 2 . this grade category eventually disappeared in the early 1970s as market expectations gradually outdated it. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … Giant. and Giant SAR • RMA “Grade 3” … No longer specified!! Originally referenced as an “economy” offering (a 50/50 blending of fresh and reclaimed rubber). and minimum requirements included serve as a guideline for acceptable performance for these basic of all field applications.

the spirit of the “RMA Grades” is to simply differentiate between the two principal “General Purpose” application options: 9 “Grade 1” … best possible Cut/Gouge resistance! 9 “Grade 2” … best possible Abrasion resistance! Typical RMA II Applications Note 2 … The test methods for Fenner Dunlop Americas Conveyor and Elevator belting and its rubber covers are based on testing in compliance with ASTM D378-91 and ASTM D41292. 3 . Each grade or quality references a specific rubber-performance expectation … and are therefore cataloged as one of several “Special Purpose” grades. However.As originally structured. They are also much better products … in many cases exhibiting physicals that the early RMA references simply could not have imagined. While there is only one chemical type of “Natural” rubber. Synthetic rubber production in the USA alone increased over 100 fold!! With the advent of Synthetic rubbers. what once worked well years ago (with predominately Natural rubber and cotton carcasses) is no longer as meaningful. now based on merely tension and elongation values alone. there are more than twenty different chemical types of “Synthetic” rubber. this rubber grading system was a reasonably effective way of “qualifying” a belt’s expected field performance. came the opportunity to “chemically” create polymers and compounds that could meet specific needs … needs that could never have been met with Natural rubber alone. here are some of the more prominent of those compound grade categories. after just four years. (As an example … Dramatic improvements in adhesion levels have long ago obsoleted the adhesion references that were once an RMA Grade criterion!) Bottom Line … The once pertinent RMA Grade classifications. With advanced polymer and textile technology. With “Allied” access to Natural rubber virtually severed. “ “S Sp pe ec ciia all P Pu ur rp po os se e” ”G Gr ra ad de es s Out of necessity. are no longer the best indicators of any compound’s performance! Today. With Conveyor & Elevator belting. today’s flat belting products have much different performance indicators. Within each Synthetic polymer type. a major emphasis was placed on the making of Synthetic rubber. there are often many distinguishable grades or qualities offered. By the end of that war. World War II accelerated the development of Synthetic rubber.

their governing flame retardency test is referenced as “Can\CSA-M422-M87. MSHA Application Note 3 … Today. have always been a “mine site” issue. FF-CSA. as such. the result was “Schedule 28” (later referred to as “Schedule 2G”) … a federal regulation mandating a fire resistant standard for all rubber destined for use in underground mining/conveying operations.” Note 4 … When such “flame testing” was first implemented. During the 1950s. were 2G compliant. In the USA. FFAR-CSA. FAR. several world-wide government regulatory agencies … principally the NCB in Great Britain. and in Great Britain. FF.” All elastomeric belts WILL burn!! Flame “retardant” ones are merely qualified to “selfextinguish” when the source of the flame is removed or will no longer propagate the fire! Oil (and sometimes Acid) Resistant … In the presence of oil. tensile. LT/FR.MSHA (Mine Safety Health Administration) … Major fires. causing untold personnel and property loss.” In Canada. Scandura solid woven PVC products were amongst the first belt offerings to pass their respective flame testing requirements … both in the USA. adhesion. The USBM began to require that all belting sold in such underground service must pass their new “flame retardency” tests … and be appropriately branded. However. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that belt manufacturers were finally able to compound more cost efficient SBR and BR rubbers to satisfy the federal flame retardency test. and FORP Important to understand. FFOR.65. liked that produced by Scandura. or oil-based contaminants. and the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) … began to implement strategy designed to minimize these tragedies. SFAR. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … F. 4 . standard compounded rubbers will “swell” and degrade … resulting in a genuine loss of “physical” properties (abrasion. FFAR. MSHA/FR. DuPont’s “Neoprene” (due to the same inherent chlorine content as in PVC) was the first … and for many years the only … commercially available rubber polymer that could be economically compounded to pass 2G. however … that “flame retardency” is NOT the same as “flame proof. Many early PVC industrial conveyor belts. etc). MSHA has replaced the USBM as the agency that regulates the flame retardency test in the USA… which is now cataloged as “30 CFR 18.

in the 1970s. Eventually. Besides an overall degradation. Today. For higher temperatures. Besides processing somewhat better in the factory than Butyls. 5 Hot Service Application . FORP. this problematic compound was slowly being replaced by EPDM for such extreme high heat resistance. or so. ORN. several different polymers are used and/or blended together (including Neoprene and Nitrile) to offer differing degrees of resistance to such absorption and deterioration. and Uscothane Heat Resistance … As contact temperatures increase. “Butyl” rubber was initially used. However. SOR. the cover cracking can lead to undesirable “carry-back” issues. cover fill-in adhesion. When those temperatures rise above 180-200 oF. compounds in the early 1950s could offer resistance to heat degradation up to 250 oF. It is important to understand that NO compound is totally resistant to oil Oil Resistant Application degradation! Oil resistant offerings will merely withstand contact with such volatiles and contaminants for a longer time before compound degradation (and ultimately belt demise) takes place. will most of these will likely crack. EPDMs “hardened” when heat aged … often considered more desirable in field service than “softening” (as Butyls tended to do).. rubber experiences an acceleration of the oxidation (or aging) process. Today.g. FFOR. some of these compounds are still in service … while now combining their very moderate heat resistance with good abrasion resistance. Typically … compounds containing the highest levels of Nitrile concentration will offer the greatest resistance to oil degradation. those approaching 350 oF. etc). With the proper blending of standard SBR and BR rubbers. The hardening aspect can aggravate splice life (e. an unprotected cover compound will tend to get hard. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … MOR. existing “oil resistant” technology combined with newly available Synthetic rubbers to legitimately offset rubber degradation when in contact with such undesirable contaminants.Soon after WWII. ORP.

NO compound is totally resistant to heat degradation! So-called “high heat” offerings will merely endure higher temperatures. and Super Sahara OR (SSHOR) Static Conducting … As belting interfaces with the various conveyor components. and Super Sahara Note 5 … For BOTH “heat and oil.” Fenner Dunlop offerings include Sahara OR (SHOR). Ingredients contained in these products are therefore FDA approved.Today. Sahara SAR. As this static builds up. This was done to achieve more consistent heat resistance throughout the entire high temperature range! Similar to the “oil resistant” story. before such compound/belt degradation takes place. Fenner Dunlop uses a variety of EPDM and EPR polymers to optimize heat resistance. Static Conducting Environment (Grain Terminal) Fenner Dunlop offerings include … FORP FDA (Food & Drug Administration) … This government agency regulates belt surfaces that come in contact with “consumable” goods. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … FDI and FDP 6 Typical FDA Application . etc … that spark could lead to a devastating explosion! With concern over such “spontaneous combustion” explosions in the early 1970s. fertilizer plants.” Standard rubber compounds tend to act as “insulators. These belts are typically “light-weight” and “color-pigmented” (nonblack).” and inhibit the release of any such static. the resulting friction can produce a “static charge. OSHA instituted qualifying guidelines on all belts destined for such “static-induced” service. (Today. and possibly for a somewhat longer time. such belts would be deemed “static conducting”…and suitable for this service. Fenner Dunlop offerings include … Sahara. Upon passing that test. They mandated that all belts utilized in such service would have to pass an “electrical resistance” test … having a maximum surface resistivity. munitions factories. any subsequent discharge can result in a “spark. that maximum resistivity level is set at 300 mega-ohms).” In some dusty/dry enclosures … grain elevators.

don’t hesitate to give us a call. compounding needs are continually being addressed and satisfied. Belt selection requires both carcass and cover/compound choices … and within each of these separate categories. New.S Su um mm ma ar ry y… …“ “G Gr ra ad de eo or rQ Qu ua alliit ty y” ” Over the past six decades. but to pioneer and benefit from it as well. questions are bound to arise. and provide the “elastomeric value” needed! As the compounding/grade aspects of Conveyor and Elevator belting continually change. In the final analysis. and often overlapping. Compound performance has vastly improved. As they are developed. and help provide a meaningful solution. that rapport is certain to be a “win-win” … for all of us!! * * * * * * * Geoff “Small G” Normanton Corporate Director of Technology September 2005 George “Big G” Frank Manager. We’ll analyze your needs. all compound requirements must be factored together … and requested. the era of Synthetic rubber has evolved. these new compounds will be categorized just as existing ones have … into one or more “grade or quality” classifications. the available options can be staggering. Most compounds will cross-reference into more than one “grade” category. Application Engineering 7 . To assure that you’re both current and properly informed. consistent with their performance expectations! Fenner Dunlop Americas expects to not only participate in this process. When selecting the proper compound. as such!! No single grade reference is likely to fulfill that.