Examination gloves, more commonly known as rubber gloves, are a staple item found in hospitals and clinics. Invented in 1894 by the Chief of Surgery at John Hopkins Hospital, William Stewart Halsted, this prevented damage to hands. The disinfectants used during surgeries were damaging the hands of one of the nurses at the institution. Interestingly, Halsted and the nurse married sometime after.
Halsted, nor his future bride, could fathom the importance of examination gloves at the time. Before this, the use of examination gloves was unheard of.
After this invention, young medical professionals began using these rubber gloves to protect their hands from chemicals and disinfectants. Older surgeons and medical professionals, however, were averse to using rubber gloves during surgeries. They feared it might impede their ability to perform surgery. It was later that people realized the purpose of the gloves. It was more than to protect their hands. It could also prevent the spread of infections.
These rubber gloves are made from various materials. Latex is one of the most common materials used to make examination gloves. The reason why latex gloves are widely used is that they are stronger and provide more elasticity. However, in some instances, nitrile and PVC gloves are appropriate. Similar to latex gloves, nitrile gloves are strong. However, these are more expensive than latex and PVC gloves.
In addition to this, powder and powder-free latex gloves are also available. The use of powdered gloves is on decrease because these can cause allergies. On the contrary, there is an increase in the use of powder-free gloves.
One of the major concerns involving disposable gloves is their impact on the environment. It can take several decades for a rubber glove to decompose. None of the materials mentioned above, except for latex, are biodegradable. Since latex is a naturally occurring substance, it can break down easily compared with other materials.
Rubber gloves can add to pollution. The good news is that biodegradable gloves are available for use.
Rubber gloves manufacturing process
An examination gloves factory follows several steps to ensure the quality of the gloves. The manufacturing process of synthetic and natural latex gloves, such as nitrile and PVC gloves, is relatively the same.
An examination gloves manufacturer will likely produce gloves on a large scale. For this, they will follow the same process. Hence, they need to ensure that the quality of the gloves is maintained. They will also have a step-by-step process for manufacturing gloves.
Many examination gloves factories in Malaysia specialize in the manufacturing and production of various types of gloves. An examination gloves factory in Malaysia is the largest in the world. Tec Gloves is another factory that offers quality rubber and examination gloves to other countries, such as Brazil and the USA.
The following sections describe the main steps of the process in detail.
Step 1 – Cleaning and sterilization
The first step in the manufacturing process involves cleaning and sterilization. It is perhaps the most integral part of the process as sterilization ensures that the equipment is free from bacteria and other microorganisms.
The ceramic or aluminum molds must be cleaned properly. The same molds are used in the production of each batch of rubber gloves. Hence, they are first dipped in soapy water to remove any residue or particles left on the mold from the last batch of rubber gloves. In case the molds are not cleaned properly, they may make lacerations in the new rubber gloves. Thus, running an entire production batch of examination gloves. The molds are then dipped in bleach and passed through brushes to remove residue from crevices. The molds may also be dipped in hot water for sterilization. After this thorough cleaning process, the molds are left to air dry.
Depending on the examination factory, the method of cleaning and sterilization may vary.
Step 2 – Dipping
The second step involves dipping the molds and applying various coatings. The first coat ensures that the liquid rubber does not stick to the mold. The first coat contains calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate.
The molds are then dipped into the latex coating. Once the liquid rubber comes into contact with the first coating, it becomes a gel-like substance. The thickness of the gloves depends on the duration for which the gloves are put in the liquid rubber.
Step 3 – Leaching
In some cases, the molds may be dipped in water to remove the calcium nitrate from the mold. The temperature of the water is hot but not boiling.
Step 4 – Vulcanization
After removing excess rubber, the molds are then taken into an oven for vulcanization. This process hardens the rubber and gives strength to the gloves. The oven is set at around 130 degrees Celsius, and the gloves may “bake” for about 30 minutes. The heat in the oven allows the rubber to stick to the mold and becomes a hand shape.
Step 5 – Cleaning and drying
The gloves are washed with water to remove any residue from the first coating. The gloves are dried using brushes. Leaching is done after vulcanization as well. During this process, the cuffs of the gloves are also rolled up, which allows the gloves to be pulled from the molds with ease.
Step 6 – Removal
In the final step of manufacturing, gloves are removed from the molds. Workers are assigned to pull the gloves. Synthetic rubber gloves are harder to remove and require workers to remove them from the conveyor. However, natural latex gloves are easier to remove and come off the mold with relative ease. To remove latex gloves, pressurized air is blown into the gloves for removal.
Step 7 – Quality Control
The best examination gloves factory ensures the quality of the final product. A worker tests each glove for strength and stretchability. Three different types of tests are done, which include water testing, air testing, and mechanical testing. The worker inflates the glove to check for holes and other damage to a glove. Another test that a worker may perform includes injecting water into the gloves to check for holes.
Step 8 – Packaging
Finally, once a batch of gloves is approved by the quality control department, they are ready for packaging and transportation.
Rubber gloves manufacturing is a multi-step process that involves extreme care. These are the main steps involved in the production of rubber gloves.