Many other forms of rubber extrusions perform in inconspicuous places, but rubber sheets are easy to find in consumer and commercial contexts.
Rubber sheeting with ridges or other textures are often used as door mats or stairwell treads because they trap dirt and provide traction for people who might otherwise slip on smooth surfaces. Driving ranges often make use of textured rubber sheets as driving surfaces. Rubber sheets may also be used as permanent flooring in some settings such as children’s play areas, gymnasiums or in auto dealerships.
Small, thin rubber sheets are used to create some varieties of mouse pads, and medium-sized, textured rubber sheets are very commonly used as vehicle floor mats. The thinnest rubber sheets may have applications in healthcare settings, while thick rubber sheets, in industrial contexts, may be placed beneath machinery in order to reduce noise and vibration. Rubber sheets, like all extruded rubber products, must be processed before they become usable.
A rubber extruder takes raw natural or synthetic rubber material, which is also called stock, and turns it into a strengthened, specialized product by using pressure and heat. The process begins with stock, usually in the form of many small pellets at the beginning of the extrusion process, which is collected in a hopper. From there it is directed into a conveyance channel where a long screw pushes the material toward a die. Dies are specially-configured tools that force stock to take certain shapes and properties.
A die can be designed in any shape. Because of this, extrusions can be designed in any shape as long as the appropriate die has been designed for it. In the case of plastic sheets, the die would be thin and wide. Using heat and the pressure created by the turning screw, the stock reaches a semi-liquefied state and is forced through the die. When it emerges, it has taken its new, flattened shape and is allowed to cool and harden. Depending on its application, a rubber sheet may require vulcanization (a process that strengthens the extrusion), adhesive application (especially in the case of permanent flooring) or any other manner of treatment.