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Nature’s Elastic Suppliers: Exploring Trees that Yield Rubber Threads

There have been extended uses of rubber thread since its discovery, continuous production, and collection more than 200 years ago. It is not only easy to obtain but is also in high demand for making many of the items we use daily, thanks to its elasticity and waterproof properties. However, first, we need to delve into its definition and provide a general explanation. Rubber thread, commonly known as elastic thread, is a fine square or round filament made of rubber. There are two types of rubber: synthetic, made entirely from oil that undergoes many chemical-based processes, and natural, which is retrieved from the white-colored rubber tree sap grown in tropical climates.

Rubber thread made from natural rubber is more trusted for utilization in various kinds of products, such as shoe soles, medical gloves, tires, balloons, adhesives, coatings, and rubber bands because it possesses unique properties that man-made rubbers are incapable of imitating. Usually, the sap that contains latex – a milky-colored mixture containing proteins, alkaloids, sugars, starches, oil, tannins, gum, resins, and other elements that coagulate when exposed to air – is retrieved from rubber trees, typically in the form of Ficus Elastica. This specific type of tree originates from the Southeast Asia area, where the humidity and temperature support its thriving until it reaches a height of 30-50 meters. Aside from Thailand and Indonesia – With one of its largest rubber thread-producing companies called Omnimax operating under PT. Cilatexindo Graha Alam as important rubber suppliers, neighboring countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Malaysia also deserve mention as homes to top rubber thread export companies, which together cover almost 70% of the world’s natural rubber demand.

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Nevertheless, Ficus elastica is not the sole type of tree that produces latex-containing sap for rubber thread. Even though there are approximately 20,000+ latex-yielding plants, only 10% of them actually contain rubber in them. One of those 10% is Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the Pará rubber tree, an indigenous plant from South America (a native plant to the Amazon forest in Brazil, where it derives its name). It can reach a height of between 30 to 40 meters when grown naturally and only 15 meters when cultivated.

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Both natural raw rubber materials collected from the aforementioned types of trees are highly elastic. This material can withstand stretching without breaking, even after being stretched many times. In addition to their exceptional flexibility, their effectiveness as electrical insulators and resistance to various corrosive substances further contribute to their versatility. They are often chosen for use in textiles, medical, and even industrial applications. The natural rubber material made from rubber tree sap is known to possess a unique molecular structure called a polymer chain. This chain is linked together in a crosshatching pattern, enhancing the rubber's ability to revert to its original shape even after undergoing multiple stretches.

Bringing it all together, it's no wonder that rubber thread has been a critical material for various product applications for hundreds of years. The remarkable elasticity offered by the saps produced by Ficus elastica and Hevea brasiliensis makes them capable of enduring stretches, serving as excellent electrical insulators, and resisting potential damage from corrosive materials.

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