What is Latex and How is it Made?
With the wide array of brands of mattresses in the market today and latex being an essential constituent, consumers are faced with confounding shopping decisions as to which one to go for—from the full mattresses, to the individual comforts layers within a mattress, boxed beds, even the separate toppers and many more.
It is still surprising that so many mattress consumers are yet to fully experience the benefits of latex irrespective of its availability for nearly a century. For retailers hoping to catch a large chunk of the market, it would be worthwhile to vividly communicate its value to potentials customers from the word go.
Because of its breathable aspect, latex can provide high level comfort no matter the weather while still offering superior durability, and as such, the overall sleep environment is given a facelift.
Another attractive feature is its resilience that is much more than that found in memory or polyurethane foams. To this end, it helps to relieve pressure points due to its adaptive feature and also reduce pain alongside aligning the body spine.
Latex conforming properties are widely known, but that does not mean all of them are the same. They come in different types and form, and their source materials and methods of production places them in different categories.
Comparing Natural and Synthetic Latex
From the milky sap of the topical rubber tree, comes the natural rubber latex–which is obviously a polymer. Places like India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are typically known for growing latex on plantations. With favorable conditions and the right plantation and harvesting method, the trees can be a source of renewable material for vulcanized rubber foam.
When the sap from the tree is collected, the formation of foam takes effect after the sap is whipped with air; the foam is anti-microbial, hypoaller-genic and dust-mite resistant in nature.
Synthetic rubber latex is a product of styrene and butadiene, with production done on both batch and continuous production lines to make it look like natural rubber. Residual reactants are gotten rid off from the synthetic latex after polymerization and it is concentrated to be used commercially.
Both latex options come with varying benefits, but natural latex in particular is extolled for having superior comfort. For synthetic latex, the sourcing of the material provides a consistent feeling and high level of reliability. As a result of this, there is a general affinity for the combination of both latexes to achieve an appreciable contouring feel.
Comparing Dunlop, Talalay and Continuous
The process of formation of the foam plays a key role on the overall feel of the final product and the source of latex compound. Latex rubber suppliers have long engaged in a heat debate over time as to which formation process is superior to the other. But if the truth must be told, each method comes with advantages that cannot be overlooked.
With the Dunlop Process, one can arrive at a denser latex product, even as it made its first appearance in 1929. This method allows the rubber sap in the centrifuge to be whipped into froth and then emptied into a mold and steam-baking is done when it is covered.
As the process progress, the injection of a latex compound with air is carried out with a gelling agent to form foam by frothing. The function of the gelling agent is to cause destabilization of the foam as it fills the mold completely when poured.
As the rubber destabilizes, the foam settles with rubber particles fusing together to form a continuous open-cell, solid block of foam rubber. All of this is possible when the mold is closed. To allow for vulcanization to occur, the foam is heated and cooled subsequently, and finally taken away from the mold. It is washed and then dried.
As the World War II was in progress and improvements in technology became apparent, newer Talalay process came into play, thereby increasing the steps of the Dunlop method. Before any kind of baking is done, the sap is vacuum-sealed to eliminate any trapped air and flash-frozen in a chemical manner when poured into a mold.
Injection of air with latex compound is carried out and frothed to cause the formation of foam. At this point, the mold is filled and the pressure reduced when the aluminum mold is filled part way in addition to the poured foam.
After the mold is sealed, pressure inside is reduced, causing air bubble to spread with the foam redistributing itself evenly to fill mold and achieve a uniform density. Subsequently, inside the mold, the foam froze right before the introduction of carbon dioxide for the stabilization of the rubber present in the latex– and its vulcanization occurs when the foam is heated.
After cooling, the newly manufactured foam block emerges and it is washed and tried. Of course, the mold must be open for this to happen.
The continuous Process has continued to be a common practice in this industry, being more simplified when compared to Dunlop process. This method takes you through latex pouring, curing, washing and finally, drying by using a long belt devoid of a mold. It helps to do away with air extraction and freezing stages to arrive at latex with a higher density and consistent feel.
Latex Foam Rubber
Speaking from a general perspective, softer latex emerges from the Talalay method having springier feel than Dunlop Process. With the Dunlop process being simpler, the Talalay process offers a feel that is consistently buoyant in nature. Because of the density, gauge and consistency that the continuous Process brings to the table, its suitability for mattress base core is highly appreciated by a sizeable numbers of suppliers.