Latex Surgical Gloves: How they’re made
Latex surgical gloves are a huge part of day to day activity at a hospital, protecting both patients and workers from transmission of diseases or other types of illness. Their manufacturing process is actually pretty simple, which helps make them affordable and disposable.
The Manufacturing Process
First, latex must be collected from the rubber tree. Growing mostly in southeastern Asian countries, farmers will extract the latex sap from trees by tapping them, similar in process to how maple trees are tapped for their syrup. The difference is that rather than drilling a hole into the tree, strips of bark are removed in a downward spiral, which allows the sap to run into a collection bucket. Next, the sap is sent to a production facility for preparation.
Once delivered to a production facility, various compounds are added to the sap that add to the latex’s ability to stretch, and to stabilize the material. It is at this time that liquid pigment dispersions can be added to color the latex to any color or shade. Chromatech has specially developed liquid pigment dispersions for latex, and are designed to be seamlessly added into the production process.
After the latex has been colored and prepared, the hand shaped molds must be cleaned and prepped for use. Manufacturers dip ceramic hand shaped formers into a water bath, and then into a bleach solution. This removes any residue that may be left over from the previous batch of gloves. Now that they’ve been cleaned, the formers are dipped into a calcium carbonate/calcium nitrate solution which helps the latex stick to the formers. Now that the preparation is complete, the formers are dipped into the latex bath, and varying the time that the formers are submerged controls the thickness of the glove.
The next step is to vulcanize the latex. Vulcanizing is crucial to the process as it is what gives latex its elasticity, and the gloves are also dried during this process. After drying, the gloves are rinsed with water to remove excess latex, which also gives the latex a softer texture.
At this point, the gloves are almost finished. If the gloves are meant to be powdered, they are dipped in a corn starch slurry, and then dried once more. For powder-free gloves, they are chlorinated and then coated with a polymer that makes the glove smooth. Finally, either air pressure or man power is used to remove the gloves from the formers and then prepared for quality checks and packaging.
Colorants from Chromatech
Chromatech has a line of pigment dispersions that are formulated to be compatible in latex surgical gloves. Whether you’re trying to color code different glove types or just want to have more color options, contact Chromatech today and talk to one of our technical sales representatives to learn more.