Henry Ford

Innovators Who Shaped American Manufacturing: Henry Ford

Before his name was associated with F-150 trucks, Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, was better known for his iconic Model T car and his pioneering work in the manufacturing sector. With the introduction of the moving assembly line and novel, employee-focused business initiatives, his legacy set numerous precedents for today’s industrial landscape.


Though he is most commonly recognized in the context of automobiles, American industrialist and businessman Henry Ford is also often credited with revolutionizing manufacturing through his innovative approaches and groundbreaking achievements. Armed with a dream and a natural affinity for engineering, Ford’s unwavering determination and innovative mindset propelled him to become one of the most influential figures of the 20th century and one of the most impactful forces in creating the American middle class.

Cars for the Great Multitude

Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863. He was raised on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan, and showed an early interest in mechanics and engineering. Though he had little formal education, he found work as a teen apprentice in a machine shop, where he became proficient in operating and servicing steam engines. In adulthood, he started at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, quickly rising to become chief engineer within just a couple of years.

Growing up in a family of limited means, one of Ford’s most persistent dreams throughout his life was to produce goods in such a way that they would be affordable for anyone. After multiple career setbacks and failed business ventures, the Ford Motor Company was started in 1903, where he began producing a variety of automobiles. Five years later, after proclaiming he would “build a motor car for the great multitude,” Ford introduced the iconic Model T, which, at its peak, would eventually represent half of all cars on the road worldwide.

Pioneering the Assembly Line

Ford’s most notable contribution to the manufacturing industry came from the moving assembly line. In 1913, at his Highland Park factory in Michigan, Ford introduced the world to a groundbreaking method of mass production that involved breaking down the assembly of automobiles into a series of simple, repetitive tasks. This led to faster production times and a significant increase in the output of goods, as the time it took to build a car dramatically reduced from hours to just minutes. This innovation increased efficiency and productivity and made automobiles more affordable and accessible to consumers.

With the implementation of the assembly line, Ford achieved his vision of making the automobile a practical mode of transportation for the average American. By 1925, the Model T had become a reliable, affordable, mass-produced car that transformed the automotive industry. By standardizing parts and streamlining production processes, Ford lowered the Model T’s cost from $825 to just $260, making it a reasonable investment for millions of working-class families across the country.

Less Work, More Pay

In a bold move to combat high employee turnover and attract skilled workers, Henry Ford also introduced the “Five-Dollar Day” in 1914, doubling the average wage of his employees to $5 per day. This groundbreaking initiative improved the quality of life for Ford’s workers and set a new standard for employee compensation and welfare in the manufacturing industry. By paying higher wages, Ford aimed to attract and retain skilled workers, reduce turnover, and foster loyalty and productivity among his workforce.

As another method of enticing and keeping reliable employees and increasing production, Ford shortened the average workday by one hour from nine to eight. This allowed for the addition of a third shift, turning the company into a 24-hour operation, giving existing employees more time outside of the plant, and providing jobs for even more workers. Though critics called him “Crazy Henry” for his unconventional business practices, insisting he would quickly go bankrupt, Ford would eventually say it was “the smartest cost-cutting move [he] ever made.” Not only were his employees more likely to continue showing up to work, but a new class of consumers was created that could afford Ford cars – another win-win for both the company and its workers.

Lasting Effects on American Manufacturing

Ford’s introduction of the assembly line and unprecedented business initiatives transformed the automobile industry and set a precedent for manufacturing practices across various sectors. His innovative methods and forward-thinking approach, which emphasized productivity, standardization, and continuous improvement, laid the foundations of the modern industrial landscape and have had a profound impact on the way goods are produced to this day.

His legacy can be seen in modern production techniques, supply chain management, and labor practices that prioritize efficiency, quality, and employee well-being. As the manufacturing landscape evolves, Henry Ford’s foundational principles remain relevant, serving as a testament to his enduring impact on American industry and innovation.

To learn more about manufacturing, check out Effects Of The Industrial Revolution On Wisconsin, History Of Manufacturing In Eau Claire, and Supporting Employee Mental Health In The Manufacturing Industry


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Exploring Scientific Research on Polymer Durability

Exploring Scientific Research on Polymer Durability and its Impact on the Rubber Industry

In the world of rubber manufacturing, durability is the holy grail. The ability of rubber products to withstand wear, tear, and the ravages of time is paramount. Today, cutting-edge research is pushing the boundaries of polymer durability, promising products that last longer and perform better.


The concept of more resilient, long-lasting rubber is poised to enhance the way we build, move, and live with new scientific advancements in the durability of polymers. This article will explore the fascinating world of polymer research and its impact on the rubber industry.

Understanding Polymer Durability

A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units, or monomers, connected by chemical bonds. These long chains of repeating units give polymers their distinctive properties based on the type of molecules they’re made of and how they’re arranged. Rubber is considered an elastomer (“elastic polymer”), characterized by its ability to stretch and return to its original shape with impressive strength and resilience.

However, due to heat, stress, and exposure to chemicals and UV radiation, polymers can break down over time. This degradation leads to reduced product lifespan and performance. Because of this, researchers and manufacturers continually explore ways to modify and improve the polymer structure to enhance rubber’s performance and durability in various applications.

The Quest for Resilience

Rubber manufacturing companies have long sought ways to enhance the durability of their products, and recent research efforts are focused on developing innovative techniques to fortify polymers. Here are some notable approaches:

Cross-Linking

Cross-links are ionic or covalent bonds connecting segments from separate polymer chains via chemical reactions. This creates a strengthened network of polymers, improving thermal stability and chemical resistance.

The most common form of cross-linking is vulcanization using sulfur, which toughens rubber, improves tensile strength, and protects against abrasion. Some newer techniques use peroxide for better compression set percentages and low-temperature flexibility. By combining these types of elements, scientists have been able to achieve a variety of properties based on the desired applications.

Researchers are investigating additional methods to increase cross-linking within polymers to further improve this process’s effectiveness. A recent study by a team of chemists from MIT and Duke University found that using weaker links to connect chains in random places significantly improved tear strength due to cracks needing to travel through a longer path to break the weaker links while avoiding the stronger ones.

Nanotechnology

Utilizing nanomaterials is another promising avenue that involves manipulating matter at the nanoscale. Researchers are experimenting with incorporating nanoparticles into rubber compounds to reinforce polymer matrices with cross-linking agents.

During this process, the nanoparticles are dispersed within the polymer, penetrating the spaces between chains and acting as reinforcements. The introduction of nanoparticles strengthens the polymer and enhances its properties, including increased tensile strength and improved resistance to factors like heat and chemicals.

Bio-Based Polymers

Sustainable rubber is rising, and researchers have been exploring bio-based polymers derived from renewable sources, a significant departure from traditional petroleum-based polymers. These environmentally-friendly options are gaining attention for their potential to create durable, eco-conscious rubber products.

The key to improved durability with bio-based polymers lies in their unique molecular structures, which have intrinsic self-healing mechanisms that a small amount of energy can activate. When exposed to chemical and physical forces, local growth occurs within the polymeric chains, repairing the material’s structure and restoring its functional properties.

While bio-based polymers have not yet become the most effective solution to increased durability, scientists continue developing them to use them as a more environmentally-conscious option. As of right now, they appear to have a strong potential for significantly improving the lifespan of products and reducing waste.

Applications and Impact

The impact of enhanced polymer durability can make a notable impact in numerous applications extending across various industries such as:

1. Automotive: Longer-lasting rubber components like hoses, gaskets, and seals mean reduced vehicle maintenance and replacement costs. Durable, well-functioning parts also ensure the safety of the passengers, especially when it comes to tires.

2. Construction: Rubber is often used for roofing, sealing, and insulation due to its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions. Durable rubber helps maintain consistent home temperatures, absorb vibrations and sound, and effectively protect piping and cables.

3. Aerospace and Aviation: Aircraft rely on rubber for various components, such as hydraulic actuators, air valves, and auxiliary power units, mainly due to its ability to withstand extreme temperatures and aggressive chemicals. Improved durability ensures safer and more reliable aircraft.

4. Medical: In the healthcare sector, durable rubber is essential for medical accessories and devices that maintain performance and sterility over time. Reliable protective wearables like gloves and masks help to maintain cleanliness and reduce the risk of disease transmission. At the same time, specialized equipment like rubber bladders, catheters, and tubes must dependably be able to hold their contents to avoid potential contamination.

The quest for durability in rubber manufacturing is an ongoing journey marked by scientific innovation and tireless research. The efforts to fortify polymers open doors to a new era of rubber products that endure and excel in performance. As we witness the collaboration of cutting-edge science and the rubber industry, we can anticipate a future where rubber products last longer, perform better, and continue to be the backbone of countless applications in our modern world.

For more rubber-related content, check out 5 Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry, Seven New Uses for Old Tires, and History of Manufacturing in Eau Claire.


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Maintaining Quality and Consistency in Rubber Manufacturing

Whether it is being made into tires, conveyor belts, hoses, cabling, or any other application, the quality of rubber significantly impacts the quality of the final product it is used for. Because of this, rubber manufacturers need to be mindful of every step of the process to ensure ideal, consistent results.


Rubber manufacturing is a complex process that transforms raw materials into a range of products we use daily, from automotive parts to household items. Ensuring the quality and consistency of these rubber products is crucial not only for safety but also for meeting customers’ specific needs and expectations. Here are some measures taken to maintain high standards throughout the process.

Understanding the Raw Materials

To make high-quality rubber, you need to start with high-quality ingredients essential for producing durable and reliable products. Manufacturers carefully select and test raw materials, such as natural rubber and synthetic polymers, to ensure they meet required specifications and performance standards. This initial step is vital to achieving consistent results in the final product.

Precision in Mixing and Compounding

During mixing and compounding, raw materials are blended to create the desired rubber compound – a precise is required to achieve the right balance of ingredients. Reliable equipment and systems ensure accurate measurement and thorough mixing, minimizing variations and inconsistencies.

Careful Monitoring During Processing

Once the rubber compound is ready, it undergoes various processing techniques, such as molding, extrusion, or calendering, to shape it into the final product. Strict quality control measures are implemented throughout these processes to monitor critical parameters like temperature, pressure, and speed. Skilled operators detect deviations and make adjustments to maintain the desired quality and consistency.

Thorough Testing and Inspection

Once the rubber has been processed, rigorous testing and inspection are conducted. Each batch is tested for physical properties, such as tensile strength, elongation, and hardness, as well as for durability and performance in real-world conditions. This thorough testing ensures that the rubber products meet industry standards and customer requirements before they are shipped out.

Constant Improvement

Continuously producing top-quality rubber is an ongoing commitment. Investing in research and development to explore new materials, technologies, and processes can further enhance product composition and performance. Continuous training and education for staff ensure they understand and can apply the latest knowledge and skills to uphold the highest standards in rubber manufacturing.

Maintaining quality and consistency in rubber manufacturing is a multifaceted process that requires attention to detail, expertise, and a commitment to excellence at every stage. By investing in quality control, precision manufacturing techniques, and continuous improvement, rubber manufacturers can deliver products that meet and exceed customer expectations. Whether in the market for automotive parts, industrial components, or consumer goods, knowing the measures taken to ensure quality can help you make informed decisions and choose products that offer durability, reliability, and value for money.

To learn more about what we do, check out The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy, A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber, and 5 Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry.


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The Human Element of Rubber Manufacturing

At API, our skilled team takes pride in delivering high-quality rubber. Our commitment to customer satisfaction, quality, and innovation are the cornerstones of our success. We know that even though our machines do a lot of work, our business wouldn’t be possible without our people, who play a vital role in the manufacturing process. Before the rubber meets the road, it passes through our hands.


With its sophisticated machinery and intricate processes, rubber manufacturing might seem like a highly automated industry. While those elements play a crucial role, there’s another essential component that often goes unnoticed—the people. Behind every product lies a touch of human expertise, dedication, and craftsmanship. Undoubtedly, people contribute the most to creating an excellent final product.

The Art of Mixing

At the heart of rubber manufacturing is the blending of raw materials to create the perfect rubber compound. While machines handle the bulk of the mixing process, skilled technicians oversee and adjust the recipes to achieve the desired consistency and quality. Their expertise in understanding the nuances of different rubber types and additives is essential in creating compounds that meet specific performance requirements.

Craftsmanship in Molding

Molding is where rubber takes shape, transforming from raw material to the final product. Operators use their keen eye for detail and hands-on skills to ensure that each piece meets specifications. Whether for automotive parts, industrial components, or consumer goods, the precision and care taken during molding significantly impact the product’s functionality and durability.

Ensuring Optimal Quality

Quality control is an integral part of rubber manufacturing, and the humans behind it are crucial to ensuring the final product is satisfactory. Meticulous testing ensures that each batch of rubber products meets strict quality standards and customer expectations. Trained inspectors examine each batch of rubber products, checking for consistency, durability, and performance. Their attention to detail helps identify any irregularities or defects, ensuring that only the best products make it to the market. Their vigilance and commitment to quality assurance help maintain the company’s reputation and build customer trust.

Innovation and Problem-Solving

People who work in rubber manufacturing are not just operators or technicians but also innovators and problem solvers. Facing challenges and seeking innovative solutions is part of their daily work. They have an intimate knowledge of the materials, processes, and equipment involved, allowing them to troubleshoot issues, optimize performance, and ensure quality at every step of the way. Whether improving production efficiency, developing new formulations, or troubleshooting issues, their creativity and ingenuity drive continuous improvement and propel the industry forward.

Building Relationships

Beyond the production floor, people in other roles around the plant are crucial in building and nurturing relationships with customers and partners. Sales representatives, customer service agents, and support staff are vital in understanding customer requirements, addressing concerns, and ensuring a seamless experience from inquiry to delivery. Their knowledge, professionalism, and commitment to customer satisfaction foster a positive experience that fosters loyalty and long-term partnerships. In a world where business is increasingly digital, the human touch remains irreplaceable in establishing trust and understanding customer needs.

While machines and technology are indispensable in modern rubber manufacturing, it’s the humans who breathe life into the process. This industry would not exist without the invaluable knowledge and skills of its dedicated people. From craftsmanship and quality control to innovation and customer engagement, humans are the driving forces behind the quality of production and the core of everything we do.

To learn more about human involvement in manufacturing, check out Supporting Employee Mental Health in the Manufacturing Industry, The Beauty Behind Blue-Collar Work, and Safety Considerations in Manufacturing.


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Applications of Rubber Products in Diverse Industries

Rubber has become indispensable across various industries, revolutionizing everything from transportation to healthcare. With its unique properties and versatility, rubber enhances our daily lives and drives innovation across multiple sectors in many ways. Here are just a few of the seemingly infinite uses of rubber.


One of the most versatile materials, rubber has found its way into countless products and industries we rely on daily. From the tires on our cars to the seals in our appliances, rubber is a staple in modern life. Rubber plays a significant role in contributing to the world around us and is invaluable to a diverse range of industries, such as:

Automotive

One of the most recognizable applications of rubber is in the automotive industry. Tires, in particular, rely on rubber’s elasticity and durability to provide traction, grip, and shock absorption, ensuring safe and smooth road rides. Rubber is also used in belts, hoses, and o-rings, which help engines run smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, rubber vibration isolators help reduce noise and enhance comfort for drivers and passengers.

Aerospace and Aviation

In aerospace and aviation, rubber components are essential for sealing, insulation, and vibration dampening. Rubber and gaskets help maintain airtight seals in aircraft doors and windows, while rubber insulation protects critical electrical and mechanical systems from extreme temperatures and vibrations. It is valued for its extreme durability and chemical resistance and is often used in hydraulic actuators, auxiliary power units, turbine engines, and bleed air valves and fittings.

Construction and Infrastructure

Rubber finds widespread use in construction and infrastructure projects, using roofing materials, waterproofing membranes, coatings, joints, and belting, improving durability and safety. Additionally, rubber components prevent leaks in plumbing and HVAC systems, while rubber mats and flooring provide slip resistance and absorb impact and sound.

Healthcare

Rubber’s elasticity and durability make it indispensable in the healthcare and medical fields. Medical gloves, masks, and tubing are often made of latex or synthetic rubber due to their hypoallergenic properties and flexibility. It is also used for medical device seals to ensure airtight connections, prosthetics, and other equipment such as catheters, syringes, and bladders.

Electrical and Engineering

Rubber is commonly used in electronics and electrical engineering for its insulating properties and resistance to heat and moisture. It can be found in cables, wiring harnesses, connectors, and gaskets to protect sensitive electronic components from environmental factors and ensure reliable performance.

Agriculture

In agriculture, rubber materials are crucial in enhancing productivity and sustainability. Rubber hoses and tubes are used for irrigation systems, ensuring efficient water distribution to crops. Additionally, rubber belts and conveyor systems facilitate the movement of produce and equipment, allowing for streamlined operations and reduced reliance on manual labor.

Sports and Recreation

Rubber’s elasticity and resilience make it an ideal material for sporting goods and recreational equipment. Rubber enhances comfort, performance, and safety in various sports and leisure activities, from tennis rackets and golf clubs to shock-absorbing soles in athletic shoes. It is also used in running tracks, gym flooring, and just about every type of sports ball available.

Consumer Goods

Rubber’s versatility also shines in making consumer goods, which are used in everything from household appliances and electronics to waterproof clothing and footwear, enhancing the functionality and durability of everyday items. Rubber grips on kitchen utensils and other handles provide ergonomic comfort and non-slip features, while rubberized coatings on electronics offer protection against shocks and impacts. It can be found in almost every room in the house and outside, as it is used in toys, office supplies, storage containers, hair ties, doorstops, headphones, fashion accessories, gardening tools, and hundreds of other items we use regularly.

From the cars we drive to the the healthcare we receive, rubber touches virtually every aspect of our daily lives. As the rubber manufacturing industry continues to evolve and explore new applications, we expect to see even more groundbreaking uses across all sectors.

To learn more about the various applications of rubber, check out The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy, Seven New Uses for Old Tires, and A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber.


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Rubber Manufacturing

The Role of Rubber Manufacturers in Building a Circular Economy

Rubber, known for its durability and versatility, is a prime candidate for recycling and reuse. Rubber manufacturers actively contribute to a circular economy as end-of-life rubber products are transformed into raw materials for new production cycles. From recycled rubber mulch for playgrounds to eco-friendly flooring solutions, possibilities are expanding as manufacturers find innovative ways to reincorporate rubber into new applications.


As the sustainability of commercial production becomes more of a concern, rubber is stepping into the spotlight as a champion of the circular economy. This is being achieved by improving manufacturing processes and repurposing already-used rubber. These thoughtful approaches ensure that products have a second life, reducing the need for new raw materials and taking a step towards eco-consciousness in the industry.

Transforming Waste

In the not-so-distant past, worn-out rubber products would often find themselves relegated to landfills, further contributing to an overabundance of waste in our society. Today, manufacturers are at the forefront of a revolutionary shift, seeing the inherent value in used rubber and transforming it into a valuable resource through recycling.

To do this, they collaborate with other suppliers, customers, and recycling facilities to give used rubber products a new purpose. Through these partnerships, the industry can foster a more comprehensive and effective approach to closing the loop on rubber production.

Repurposing Rubber

Once considered a major environmental concern, old rubber is now a source of opportunity as rubber manufacturers pioneer recycling programs that reclaim the material from discarded tires and other products. The recycled rubber is used to create a myriad of products, from playground surfaces and athletic tracks to eco-friendly shoes.

Instead of ending up in vast junkyards, manufacturers are repurposing rubber through innovative recycling methods. Here are a few ways it is reused:

Eco-Friendly Footwear

Ever thought your shoes could have already hit the road in a different lifetime? Rubber manufacturers are reshaping the fashion landscape by incorporating recycled rubber from used tires and other products into footwear. Sneakers, sandals, and other shoe varieties crafted from upcycled rubber not only reduce waste but also showcase the versatility and durability of recycled materials, especially rubber.

Long-Lasting Landscapes

Your local playground or garden may have undergone a subtle yet impactful transformation thanks to recycled rubber mulch. Manufacturers are repurposing discarded rubber by shredding it, providing a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood mulch. This innovative use both extends the life of rubber materials and provides a long-term, low-maintenance solution.

Durable Construction Materials

Rubber is no stranger to construction sites, but now it’s taking on a greener role. Recycled rubber is finding its way into projects through components such as roofing tiles, sealants, and accessibility ramps, contributing to more sustainable building practices. In these applications, rubber provides ample durability while reducing the demand for using new resources.

Hardy Sports Surfaces

Recycled rubber is hitting the fields and courts, providing surfaces that are not only high-performance but also environmentally-conscious. Whether it’s a rubberized running track or synthetic turf made from recycled materials, these surfaces support the athletic pursuits of communities by providing a heavy-duty playing field.

Consumers can become integral partners in closing the loop and promoting a more sustainable, circular economy by choosing items made from recycled rubber, from rubber-based fashion items to eco-friendly home accessories. Whether through product labeling, educational campaigns, or partnerships with retailers, the industry is empowering consumers to make environmentally conscious choices, further amplifying the impact of sustainability efforts.

Manufacturing Responsibly

To truly understand and enhance the sustainability of their products, rubber manufacturers are conducting comprehensive life-cycle assessments. This involves evaluating the environmental impact at every stage, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal. By pinpointing areas for improvement, they can refine their processes and contribute to a more circular and sustainable economy.

As a result, rubber manufacturers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable sourcing practices, ensuring that the material they use is obtained in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. This not only safeguards ecosystems but also supports local communities dependent on rubber cultivation.

They are also investing in energy-efficient technologies and processes that minimize waste and reduce the environmental footprint of production. Cutting-edge innovations, such as lean manufacturing and closed-loop systems, enable these companies to optimize resources and increase overall efficiency.

The journey of rubber from discarded to repurposed products showcases the ingenuity of rubber manufacturers in embracing recycling as a cornerstone of a circular economy. As these practices become more widespread, the industry is witnessing a tangible shift towards increased sustainability and eco-consciousness.

For more rubber-related content (our specialty), check out Seven New Uses for Old Tires, Five Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry, and A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber.


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mason

All in the Blue Collar Family: Mason

Many of the world’s oldest structures still in existence have at least one thing in common – they are mostly made from some variation of stone. Masons have been harnessing the strength of this material for millenia, constructing beautiful and durable buildings, monuments, and infrastructure using their unique knowledge and skills.


When you look at iconic structures such as the Egyptian Pyramids, the Colosseum in Rome, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Great Wall of China that were first constructed thousands of years ago, you probably can’t help but wonder how they are possibly still standing strong after all this time.

Their impressive sturdiness is thanks to masonry, which combines the durability of some of nature’s toughest materials and the talents of skilled artisans to create some of the world’s longest-lasting structures.

History of Masonry

Thousands of years ago, as humans began settling into more permanent man-made shelters, they experimented with ways to build residences that were as protective and durable as the rare natural caves they sometimes lived in. Naturally, they first turned to using stone, strategically assembling piles into huts and developing some of the earliest stone masonry techniques. Soonthereafter, they started using clay mixed with straw and grass to create uniformly-shaped bricks that were initially baked in the sun, but eventually shifted to being fired in kilns to improve durability.

As building techniques continued to evolve, the art of masonry experienced a significant development with the invention of concrete by the Romans. By mixing cement made out of volcanic ash with water, lime, and stone fragments, they created a material that was faster and cheaper to make, and provided more flexibility in shapes, such as arches. Ever since, masonry has remained a valuable method of construction, as it offers unique aesthetic appeal with its colors, textures, and patterns, and also functional benefits such as sound control, fire resistance, and temperature regulation.

The Role of Masons

Masonry is generally considered to be the art of building different types of structures such as walls, sidewalks, and chimneys using brick, concrete, stone, or other similar materials. It is a skilled trade that requires knowledge of how to use proper tools and techniques to effectively arrange and bind pieces together for secure assembly.

What Masons Do

While all masons need to know the basics of reading blueprints, mixing and preparing materials, and using the proper tools, there are a variety of types of projects one may work on. A few common jobs masons perform are:

  1. Building Construction: A classic application for masonry work is in the construction of both residential and commercial properties, as most start with a concrete foundation in the walls and floors. Masons may also be tasked with assembling other features such as brick exteriors or stone fireplaces.
  1. Essential Infrastructure: Masons are often responsible for constructing pieces of critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, and retaining walls, which require significant expertise to ensure they can be used safely and will hold up over a long period of time.
  1. Concrete Finishing: Masons that specialize in cement may take on a variety of commercial and residential projects that involve meticulous finishing work. They use specific tools and techniques to pour, level, and create decorative effects on surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, patios, and other concrete surfaces.
  1. Restoration and Renovation: Older and historic buildings and monuments sometimes need extra care and attention to maintain their appearance and structural integrity. Masons who work on these types of projects must be familiar with older materials, techniques, and architecture and have a strong attention to detail.
  1. Maintenance and Repairs: Over time, structures can begin to deteriorate, and require cleaning and repairs. Masons are often in charge of conducting inspections and performing maintenance such as removing dirt and stains, reinforcing joints and weak spots, and applying sealants and protective coatings.

Becoming a Mason

To learn the masonry trade, it typically takes about three to four years to complete the required training to be eligible to begin working independently. The path to becoming a professional mason often includes:

  1. Education: In general, the only requirements for beginning training are being at least 18 years old and having a high school diploma or equivalent. While no other formal education is usually necessary, a prospective mason may be asked to complete an aptitude test to ensure the trade is a good fit.
  1. Apprenticeship: The most significant step is completing an apprenticeship, which combines classroom instruction and hands-on training with an experienced mason. These programs are typically sponsored by an employer or union and include lessons about topics such as reading blueprints, construction math, and the history of the trade.
  1. Licensing and Certifications: In some states, masons may be required to have a license to work professionally, which might include passing an exam and providing references. More experienced masons sometimes also choose to earn additional certifications to enhance their reputation with customers by providing proof of their high levels of knowledge and experience.
  1. Beginning Work: Once an individual has achieved the necessary qualifications, they can begin working as a journeyman mason. They may sometimes continue with the employer from their apprenticeship or find new jobs through the union and other postings.
  1. Continued Experience: After a few years on the job, a mason can become a master tradesman once they have gained enough experience, allowing them to train apprentices. They may also choose to specialize in a specific type of work or start their own business.

An essential part of the construction trade, masonry has remained a vital component of building durable structures throughout the course of history. Masons use their unique knowledge and skills to build the lasting foundations of our society, and their work will continue to be around for many generations to come.

To learn about other jobs in the blue-collar family, check out these articles about plumbers, electricians, and welders.


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13

A Guide to Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber

While you probably use products just about every day that include rubber, you might not have realized that different kinds come from different sources. Natural and synthetic rubbers each have their unique properties based on how they are processed and are both useful for different applications.


Rubber, the versatile material that bounces, stretches, and provides grip, is essential to our daily lives. Whether it’s the tires on our cars or the bands that keep things together, rubber plays a crucial role. But did you know that not all rubber is created equally? There are two main types with different characteristics: natural rubber and synthetic rubber.

Natural Rubber

Sourcing and Production

Natural rubber, as the name suggests, is derived from natural sources – rubber trees, primarily the Hevea brasiliensis species. Some of the earliest evidence of its use is from Native Americans thousands of years ago, followed by the first major production efforts beginning in the 18th century. The manufacturing process begins with tapping the trees and collecting the sap, which contains latex.

The latex is then transported to a processing facility, where it is mixed with acid to induce coagulation. Additives such as carbon black and silica may also be included based on the specific properties desired. Once the clumps are formed, they are rolled into a flat sheet and dried. The rubber is then vulcanized, which involves heating the material with chemicals and creating cross-links between the polymer chains, thus improving strength, elasticity, and resistance to heat, chemicals, and wear.

Properties and Advantages

Natural rubber tends to be quite durable and resilient, with a unique set of chemical and physical traits. Some of its main properties include:

  1. Excellent Elasticity: Natural rubber offers exceptional stretchability and rebound. It can stretch many times its length and return to its original shape, making it ideal for applications that require strength and flexibility.
  1. Low Heat Generation: Natural rubber generates less heat during rolling and friction, contributing to better performance and longevity.
  1. Biodegradability: Natural rubber is biodegradable, which means it can break down naturally over time, reducing environmental impact.
  1. Cold Resistant: Natural rubber maintains flexibility in a wide range of temperatures and is resistant to breaking between -58 and 212 degrees F.
  1. High Durability: Natural rubber is impressively strong, and does not easily get cut, chipped, or torn. It is resistant to repeated stress, wear, and abrasion.

Uses and Applications

Natural rubber is widely used in a variety of industries. It’s favored in situations where high resilience and durability are required. A few of its main applications are:

  1. Tire Manufacturing: Because of its excellent elasticity, resilience, and low heat buildup during rolling, natural rubber is a vital component in tire manufacturing. It provides grip, durability, and the ability to absorb shocks, making it ideal for off-road automotive, construction, aerospace, and other applications that require the ability to withstand harsh conditions.
  1. Flooring: Its water and wear resistance make natural rubber an excellent option for flooring and fatigue mats in gyms, animal shelters, and commercial kitchens where padding and anti-slip surfaces are needed.
  1. Clothing: The flexibility, comfort, and waterproof qualities of natural rubber make it a preferred choice for the production of various types of footwear, including sneakers, rain boots, and flip-flops, as well as other types of clothing that require stretch, such as waistbands and wetsuits.
  1. Latex Products: Natural rubber latex can make gloves, balloons, pencil erasers, and paint. Its natural stretchiness and flexibility make it well-suited for products that require a significant amount of elasticity.
  1. Industrial and Mechanical Goods: Natural rubber is used to manufacture conveyor belts, gaskets, seals, hoses, and various industrial goods. Its resilience and durability are valuable in these applications.

Synthetic Rubber

Sourcing and Production

Synthetic rubber is a man-made creation, invented during WWII when the United States was cut off from international natural rubber supply lines and needed an effective alternative to continue manufacturing essential military supplies. It is produced through chemical processes by polymerizing various petrochemical compounds derived from crude oil and natural gas. The compounds undergo a chemical process known as polymerization, where individual molecules (monomers) are chemically bonded to form long chains or networks of polymer molecules.

Various additives, such as antioxidants, accelerators, and curing agents, are mixed with the polymer to enhance specific properties like heat resistance, durability, and curing characteristics. Fillers like carbon black or silica may also be added to improve strength and wear resistance. The rubber is then cured via vulcanization.

Properties and Advantages

The versatility of synthetic rubber lies in the ability to customize its properties. Some are designed for high-temperature resistance, while others prioritize oil resistance, chemical resistance, or flexibility. Some of the main advantages of this type of rubber include:

  1. Versatility: Different types of synthetic rubber can be formulated for particular properties, such as oil resistance, heat resistance, or chemical resistance, making it suitable for a wide range of industrial applications.
  1. Damage Resistance: Synthetic rubber is highly resistant to chemicals, oxidation, and abrasion. This means it does not deteriorate easily and has excellent longevity.
  1. Weather Resistance: Synthetic rubber can withstand extreme temperatures, especially high heat, and is not heavily affected by outdoor conditions such as sunlight, and ozone exposure, making it less susceptible to degradation.
  1. Adhesion: Some synthetic rubbers can bond well with other materials, allowing them to be used as adhesives and sealants to join various components. Varieties with a tacky surface are excellent for applications where grip is essential.
  1. Tear Resistance: Synthetic rubber can be stretched twice its length without deformity. It can handle significant stress and immediately return to its original shape and size without tearing or permanent damage.

Uses and Applications

Synthetic rubber offers a wide range of applications due to its versatility and ability to be tailored for specific purposes. It can have a variety of uses, such as:

  1. Tire Manufacturing: Synthetic rubber is a key component in passenger tire manufacturing. Different synthetic polymers are blended to achieve the desired balance of properties such as tread wear resistance, traction, and impermeability. 
  1. Automotive Components: It is also used in various other automotive components, including engine bearings, clutches, seals, and hoses. Synthetic rubber’s durability and resistance to automotive fluids make it ideal for these applications.
  1. Industrial Products: Synthetic rubber is used in cable installation, belts, gaskets, and rollers in machinery. Its resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and extreme temperatures makes it suitable for industrial use.
  1. Commercial Goods: From wearable items like hair ties, boots, and raincoats to household items such as dishwashing gloves, jar seals, and garden tools, synthetic rubber can be found in many items people use every day due to its impressive versatility.
  1. Medical and Laboratory Equipment: Due to its high durability and resistance to chemicals, synthetic rubber is excellent for lab flask corks, fatigue mats, and prosthetics. 

Outside of their functional properties and applications, one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing between natural and synthetic rubber is typically the cost. The latter often tends to be cheaper, which makes it the best option when price point is critical. However, this is not always the case, as both types are subject to fluctuations in market rates of necessary ingredients, which can change due to a variety of factors.

In the world of rubber manufacturing, natural and synthetic rubber have unique roles and advantages. Natural rubber shines in its eco-friendliness and exceptional elasticity, making it a top choice for tires and various consumer products. On the other hand, synthetic rubber offers versatility, allowing engineers to fine-tune properties for specific needs, whether heat resistance, chemical resistance, or durability. Together, both of these types of rubber keep our world rolling, bouncing, and gripping, meeting many significant industrial and consumer demands.

To learn about rubber mixing and weighing at American Phoenix, visit our services page. And for more rubber-related content (our specialty), check out 5 Quick Facts About the Rubber Manufacturing Industry and Seven New Uses for Old Tires.


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14

All in the Blue Collar Family: Electrician

Electricians have an incredibly valuable role in modern society, from ensuring our homes are comfortable and safe to bringing power to our industries and businesses. They are responsible for installing and maintaining the electrical systems necessary for the appliances we use each day, such as refrigerators, heaters, lights, and, perhaps most importantly, the outlets that charge our cell phones. Imagine life without all that!


Electricity, the invisible force that powers our modern lives, is a marvel we often take for granted. And behind every light that brightens our homes and every outlet that charges our devices stands a skilled electrician who has mastered the art of controlling electricity.

History of Electricians

Electricity is a natural force that has existed since the dawn of time. However, it wasn’t until the late 18th century that scientists began to study it truly. The efforts to understand the invisible power began when Benjamin Franklin (you know, the guy with the key and the kite) proved that lightning and electricity are the same thing. His experiments inspired other iconic figures such as Luigi Galvani, whose discoveries led to the voltaic pile, Alessandro Volta, the creator of the first electric batteries, and Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb.

Near the end of the 19th century, inventors began taking their electrically powered equipment to show off at significant exhibitions and world fairs, such as the 1889 Paris Exhibition and the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During these events, electricians were hired to build and operate the inventions, sparking a significant increase in the prevalence of the profession. As electricity has continued to power more homes, cities, appliances, and other machines over the past few centuries, the need for skilled technicians has grown exponentially.

The Role of Electricians

Electricians are the architects of our electrical infrastructure. Their primary responsibility is to design, install, maintain, and repair electrical systems that power our homes and businesses. This encompasses many tasks, from wiring buildings and installing electrical panels to troubleshooting electrical issues and ensuring safety compliance. They have the crucial job of keeping the lights on, the heaters running, and the devices charging, and they are instrumental in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

What Electricians Do

The role of electricians in society is nothing short of pivotal, and they perform a myriad of essential tasks, such as:

1. Installation: They set up electrical systems in new construction projects, ensuring that power flows safely and reliably throughout a building to areas such as electrical outlets, light fixtures, and ventilation systems.

2. Maintenance: Electricians conduct regular inspections and maintenance of systems to prevent electrical malfunctions and ensure safety.

3. Repair: When electrical systems falter, electricians diagnose the issue and implement the necessary repairs promptly.

4. Upgrades: As technology advances, electricians upgrade systems to meet modern energy efficiency standards and technological requirements.

5. Safety: Electricians are responsible for enforcing electrical safety codes to protect people and property from electrical hazards.

Becoming an Electrician

The journey to becoming a skilled electrician usually involves:

1. Education: Aspiring electricians typically start with a high school diploma and then enter a vocational or technical school to gain foundational knowledge.

2. Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships combine practical learning with on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced electricians.

3. Licensing: Most jurisdictions require electricians to obtain a license, which involves passing an exam to demonstrate their knowledge and competence. New electricians who have completed an apprenticeship and earned their license are called “journeymen.”

4. Continued Learning: To become a “master electrician,” an individual must practice for at least two years and pass an exam. Electricians must also stay updated with changes in electrical codes and emerging technologies through ongoing training and education.

5. Skills Development: Electricians continue developing their skills through real-world experience and may specialize in specific areas such as residential, commercial, or industrial work.

The journey from the experiments of early electrical pioneers to the indispensable professionals of today is a testament to electricians’ profound impact on our society. Their profession empowers us to harness the energy that fuels progress, ensuring that currents flow smoothly and safely through our everyday lives.

For more about blue-collar jobs, check out The Beauty Behind Blue-Collar Work, Top Seven Reasons to Work in Manufacturing, and All in the Blue Collar Family: Welder.


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12

All in the Blue Collar Family: Welder

Welders, the architects of metal fusion, are indispensable to the modern world. They wield their skills to forge connections that support our daily lives, crafting everything from towering skyscrapers to intricate art pieces. Often perceived as a modern marvel, welding carries a history nearly as old as human civilization itself. 


Welding is an ancient craft with a modern twist that plays a vital role in shaping our world. It’s more than just melting metals together – the alchemy that bonds structures, pipelines, and bridges. Here’s a look into the rich history of welding, how it works, and the indispensable role of welders in society.

History of Welding

Welding, in some form, dates back to about 3000 BC, when ancient Egyptians and Greeks used bronze to create boxes, jewelry, utensils, and weapons via pressure welding. By around 1500 BC, iron smelting became more common, and people in the Middle East began making swords and other tools using heat. Over the next several millennia, metals such as copper, silver, and gold also became popular. Then, in the Middle Ages, blacksmiths entered the scene and introduced a hammering method for forging iron tools.

Modern welding as we know it started taking shape in the 19th century with discoveries such as the ability to produce an arc between two carbon electrodes by Sir Humphry Davy and the hydrocarbon gas acetylene by his cousin, Edmund Davy. In 1881, Russian inventor Nikolai Benardos combined these findings and patented the arc welding process, marking a significant turning point in welding history. Today, there are over 100 welding processes, with more being constantly developed to fit the needs of various projects.

The Role of Welders

Welders are crucial when it comes to construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing. Their primary role is to permanently join metals, creating structures ranging from skyscrapers to pipelines to delicate art pieces. They ensure the strength and integrity of these structures, making the world around us safe and functional.

While there are many welding methods, they nearly all require the same three basic components: an electrical device that produces an arc, a protective shield, and filler material. The process involves generating intense heat to melt the edges of two metal pieces and allowing them to fuse when they cool. Precision and expertise are essential, as welders must meet specific standards and codes to guarantee the safety and quality of their work.

Welding in Various Industries

Welders are undoubtedly the backbone of numerous industries. Here are just a few:

  1. Construction: Residential and office buildings like apartments and skyscrapers, as well as other structures like bridges and tunnels, rely on welders to join steel beams, trusses, columns, and other elements to form solid foundations.
  1. Manufacturing: Welders create machinery, vehicles, and other equipment critical to producing goods.
  1. Infrastructure: Gas and oil pipelines, railways, and power plants depend on welders for maintenance and expansion.
  1. Automotive: Between assembly and repairs, vehicles such as cars, trucks, and motorbikes require thousands of welds to ensure they are put together properly and securely.
  1. Aerospace: Skilled welders are vital to building safe and operational aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters, and spacecraft, such as rockets and satellites.
  1. Art: Welding can be a medium for artists to express their creativity and craftsmanship; metalwork is often used to create impressive sculptures.

Becoming a Welder

The path to becoming a skilled welder often involves:

  1. Education: At a basic level, most welding jobs require an associate’s degree from an accredited school. Many vocational schools and community colleges offer welding programs that cover techniques, metallurgy, safety procedures, blueprint reading, and other useful skills.
  1. Apprenticeships: Some aspiring welders choose apprenticeships, learning on the job under the guidance of experienced mentors.
  1. Certifications: Achieving industry-recognized certifications, such as those offered by the American Welding Society (AWS), can enhance career prospects.
  1. Experience: Gaining hands-on experience and developing a portfolio of work is crucial for advancement in the field.
  1. Continuous Learning: Welders must stay updated with evolving technologies and techniques to remain competitive in the job market.

Welders are modern-day alchemists, shaping our world through their craft, and their work bridges gaps, connects communities, and supports industries. In a world defined by progress and innovation, welders emerge as architects of connectivity, forging the future with sparks of skill and artistry.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy The Beauty Behind Blue Collar Work.


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