Latex, also known as natural rubber, is the milky sap of the tropical rubber tree. The main countries cultivating this tree are Asia, Africa and Central America. Latex is still the most important starting material in the production of rubber. Modern life is virtually inconceivable without this raw material, so varied are the items for daily life we make from it. The industry is increasingly relying on special high-speed separators from GEA Westfalia Separator Group to obtain latex efficiently.
The process is as follows: after the rubber milk has been harvested, collected and transported to the production facilities, it is first stored in large sedimentation tanks to separate off impurities. After a certain settling period, the latex milk is passed to the separator system.
The separators separate the majority of the aqueous phase, the so-called “skim milk”, and other contaminants from the plantation milk. The plantation milk, also known as “field latex”, contains around 30 percent latex. After separation of the skim milk, the latex fraction in the concentrate increases to over 60 percent. Once stabilizing additives have been added, the concentrate is sold as commercially-available latex.
This product is especially good for making rubber gloves, condoms, balloons or other molded thin-walled rubber items.
The aqueous skim milk can still contain up to five percent latex. By adding chemicals in a treatment system downstream of the separators, rubber can be recovered from the skim milk. The natural rubber obtained by this means is sold in blocks and used for more robust rubber items, in particular car tires.
What makes GEA Westfalia Separator Group centrifuges so interesting to the industry is their technology, as demonstrated by the LTC 130 latex separator, specially developed for this field. The high speed at which this separator operates allows latex particles to be obtained, meaning higher yields and greater profitability. Special attention was paid to ensuring that this separator is reliable, even under the extreme weather conditions of the tropics.