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|The Editor received this
note from Gavin Sharples which is self explanatory. We thank Gavin for
taking the time and trouble to remind us of our yesterdays.
December 17 2011
Hi, I’ve just
stumbled upon the NBR website by accident. I was quite surprised to see
a picture of myself taken when I was only twenty years of age. I started
work in the millroom at Uniroyal at 18 years of age. At the time the
demand for reclaimed rubber was in a decline due to the fact that it was
cheaper to produce from raw materials. The history of Rubber
regenerating was interesting as I didn’t know a great deal about it.
The only thing that wasn’t mentioned was the fact that the cracker
house was destroyed in a fire. I had the “pleasure” of working in
the cracker house, process, millrooms, laboratory and chemical plant
during my four and a half years there. It’s funny how you can look
back with nostalgia at a job that was dirty, unsafe and unpleasant and
think it was one of the best jobs you’ve ever had. This was more
because of the people I worked with than the job itself. I wonder if Tom
Bartlett can remember the Sunday morning I nearly hit him with a can of
red paint that I dropped, while up a ladder painting fire alarms? I
noticed too there was no mention of the fact that the wet chalking plant
used to catch fire at least once a week due to pieces of rubber falling
off in the dryer.
September 18 2010
More facts and photos of the
Rubber Regenerating Company in Manchester--
It closed in the 1982 when Tyres had converted totally to wire instead of
Our sincere thanks to Tom Bartlett for preparing this interesting history of one of the Associate Companies of Uniroyal in the North West of England. The Editor, had no idea that the company was started by an American gentleman as far back as 1909---read on
Rubber Regenerating Company Limited
A Short History of Rubber Reclaim
Rubber as a commodity for
manufacturing purposes has been used in this way for over 200 years. In the far
off days it was mainly used in Footwear but with the advent of the motor car in
particular, rubber began to be used on such a vast scale that supplies of virgin
rubber became totally inadequate. It became obvious that the only satisfactory
means of augmenting supplies was to make use of old and worn out scrap.
Fortunately, rubber, by its
very nature, can be used over and over again. The problem was to provide a means
of breaking up these old out-worn rubber products, replasticising the subsequent
rubber mass and producing finally, a rubber from which products could once more
It was with this in mind that
in 1909 The Rubber Regenerating Company Limited was formed and thus became
integrated with essential supplies for an expanding rubber industry.
The Early Days
When Raymond Beach Price strode purposefully into a
Manchester accountant’s office one Saturday morning in late August 1909, to
discuss the formation of a new company, he was already well versed in the
technique of rubber reclaiming.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A. he graduated at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894, and was engaged by the Boston
Woven Hose and Rubber Company, where he founded the first general laboratory in
the American rubber industry. It was here that he devised the famous
alkali process of reclaiming, which led to great advances in both volume and
quality of reclaimed rubber.
Raymond Price formed The Rubber Regenerating Company of Illinois in 1908 which was located in Mishawaka it was stated to be the largest single reclaiming plant in the world, having a capacity of about 50 tons per day.
In order to protect his English patent Price founded the
new Company with a capital of £60.000 and named it The Rubber Regenerating Co.
He selected a small site in the then beautiful surroundings of Trafford Park, which contained a lake, an 18 hole golf course and a polo ground.
A location alongside the Bridgewater Canal was chosen as
the factory site which ensured adequate provision for fuel transportation and
the raising of steam and power.
Below ground were large volumes of water, of which million of tons would
be required for cooling and other purposes.
Building started in late 1909 and incredibly quickly,
production started in March 1910. The earliest buildings were extremely modest
with the General Office and Laboratory being housed in one room 30 feet square.
There were no fume cupboards in the laboratory and ash determination on reclaim
brought many complaints from the office workers.
In 1911 the factory was doubled in size and an acre of land
added to the site. In the autumn of 1912 the factory buildings were again
increased by the addition of a new power plant. Up to this period all plant and
machinery were located in one room, but segregation started in 1913 with the
construction of a Digester House.
It was also in 1913 that the U.S.Rubber Company bought the
Rubber Regenerating Company and while the company was initially founded for the
purpose of reclaiming scrap rubber but in 1925 it secured the selling rights for
rubber anti-oxidants, accelerators etc. then manufactured by Naugatuck Chemical
Co. a division of the U.S.Rubber Company.
In 1917 a new Devulcaniser House was added and in 1919 new
offices, a warehouse, factory buildings, machinery and boilers were completed.
In 1920 a complete new factory and power plant was built alongside the old one.
By now the works were located on 6 acres of land
In 1929 large changes took place with regards to
automation. Production areas were converted to the most advanced forms of
mechanical handling. Wheelbarrows made way for screw conveyors and pneumatic
conveyance of materials.
In 1938, the factory was further modernized with the
removal of steam engines and the transfer to electricity
In December 1940, the works were very severely damaged in
an air raid but the plant was back in full production within 5 months. During
the war years the production of aqueous dispersions of reclaim was started. Just
after the war the Company purchased extensive premises, originally belonging to
the Ford Motor Company. This site was situated immediately across Westinghouse
Road opposite the original factory. These premises were to house what were the
most modern reclaim mill rooms in the world, being fully conveyorised and having
During 1955, a giant cracker was installed which resulted
in the elimination of the “de-beading” process which in itself was a very
hazardous operation. In 1961 an additional 10 refining mills were installed so
as to step up production.
Between 1961 and 1966, severe technical problems faced the
reclaim industry, mainly due to the increasing use of synthetic rubber in tyres.
“Rubber Regen” took a bold step by completely changing its process. Due to
the introduction of the new system it was possible in 1970, to relocate the
entire reclaim plant on to the Westinghouse Road site, thereby providing a much
more efficient manufacturing unit. During this relocation, a new cooling tower
for the recirculation of cooling water was installed.
The first operation after receiving scrap materials was to grade the tyres and inner tubes according to their size, quality etc. The uniformity of the ultimate finished product was in no small measure linked with the efficiency of the preliminary sorting.
process – Cracking:
The operation essentially consisted of disintegrating and screening the waste, and was performed on friction mills, having very heavy fluted rolls. These close-set rolls afforded a cutting and tearing action and quickly reduced the waste to the requisite size for screening. It was once the practice to remove beads from tyres prior to cracking but this process was eliminated in 1955 when a new giant cracker was installed.
The cracked waste was sieved on gyrating riddles and then passed under powerful electro-magnets to eliminate tramp and other metal, after which it was conveyed to the Digester House.
Digesting and Pan
Reclaiming (Pre - 1961)
The former implies that the sub-divided waste was heated and plasticized in contact with excess water in closed vessels, whilst the latter was reserved for heating in direct contact with open steam and substantially free of water. Alongside the Digester House was the tank farm in which large quantities of reclaiming materials were stored and from which the various products were accurately metered into the reclaiming vessels.
The digesters were fitted with full-length agitator shafts
and heated by steam jackets under high pressure. In his operation all
constructive fabrics were destroyed and the rubber was plasticized. After
“cooking” the waste was blown into dump tanks, very thoroughly washed on
vibratory screens, de-watered in presses and finally dried on a continuous
Due to the increased use of SBR in tyres Rubber Regenerating completely changed this process by introducing fabric separation and dry digesting, thus eliminating washing and drying. It should be noted that many other companies within the industry were so adversely affected by technical problems that they ceased to manufacture.
Very briefly, these operations involved the following stages:-
It is hoped that that this description has conveyed some impression of the elaborate processing which was carried out in the reclaim plant at “Rubber Regen” In its heyday it was among the most modern reclaiming units in the world.
Motor tyres, inner tubes, conveyor belting, footwear, matting, car battery containers etc. being just a few of its many outlets.
Not only did it serve to cheapen mixings, but also conferred many processing advantages in manufacture.
Latterly the company had developed the ability to reclaim specialized rubbers such as nitrile, butyl and neoprenes.
After being associated with the Rubber Industry for 72 years the plant was closed in December 1981.