These describe the very familiar yet very trendy rubber bracelets. Coming in all colors and in various designs, these lightweight accessories always steal the show and have widely been used by different organizations for promoting a product or for pushing an advocacy.
How are these fancy bracelets made, and what makes them stand out among other types of bracelets and wristbands?
The Rubber bracelets that are sold ready-to-wear or customizable are formed from synthetic chemicals called elastomers. A few examples of elastomers are butyl rubber, which is often used in gloves and masks, and silicone rubber, which is used in cooking and baking products.
One way of imagining elastomers is that, at the microscopic level, the elastomer molecules look like a mess of tangled spaghetti noodles. What makes these spaghetti noodles special is that when you apply stress, for example by stretching the rubber, the noodles straighten out and stretch also. But, when the stretching stops, they return to their original arrangement unaltered (unless the stress was too much for the elastomer to handle.)
This is the reason why rubber bracelets are very flexible! You can’t do the same to bracelets made from leather or stainless steel. Also, the spaghetti noodles are so tight together, water can’t even pass through it and water won’t damage the elastomer. This property makes it safe to swim or wash while wearing the bracelets.
Before processing, the elastomer is a solid from which dyes are added with heat to form rubber of various colors. Afterwards, when the elastomer returns to a solid form, strips or tubes of varying thicknesses are cut. The dimensions of the cut strips or tubes depend on the mold that will be used later. The tubes are then placed into machines to undergo a technique called compression molding? this method uses high temperature and pressure to liquefy the elastomer and squeeze it to fit a mold.
The mold is the reason why the elastomer takes the familiar shape of the bracelets. The mold is adjusted for a specific size, but the usual is that the bracelets are 1 inch across the solid portion and 7 to 8.5 inches for the inside circumference. The technique of compression molding could also be used to form boots and other rubber materials! It is also possible to form bracelets of multiple colors or with swirling patterns when more than one color of elastomer is used.
While compression molding is a very interesting and creative process, it does not tell the complete story. It forms the shape of the rubber bracelets, but compression molding does not explain how letters, shapes or paint are added to customized bracelets. There are four main methods used to customize the bracelets: debussing, embossing, color debussing and screen printing. Debussing is a method where a client purchases letters (which can form a patter containing words or a sentence) to be placed on the bracelet. The mold used in the compression molding process is altered so that the final bracelet contains depressions that showcase the pattern.
Embossing is a similar procedure, but instead of altering the mold so that the pattern is depressed on the bracelet, the pattern is instead protruding from the bracelet. We can take debussing a step further and color the depressions with paint. This method called color debussing is a sure way to make the letters in the mold pattern pop! However, some clients want to retain the classic smooth shape of the bracelet. A method called screen printing uses a silk-screen to color in a pattern directly on the bracelet. This last method is easy and can also be used to print on the inner side of the bracelet.
Customization is easy, affordable and fun! The availability and price of customization to clients interested in promotion or advocacy makes rubber bracelets stand out from the many other types of bracelets in the market.