Condom production

Giving a form to natural rubber latex

Condoms are made from a natural, renewable raw material, which is extracted from the bark of the rubber tree in the form of a “milky” sap. Today, the rubber tree is grown in plantations in tropical regions.

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This film shows the way from the rubber tree to the finished condom.

From raw material to condom

To extract the raw material, cuts are made in the bark of the rubber tree and the sap, which emerges in droplets, is collected in containers which are attached directly to the trunk. Following this harvest, the liquid natural rubber latex is collected in large tanks, centrifuged and stabilised for transportation by sea all over the world using ammonia.

The quality of the raw material is comprehensively checked both upon landing at the port and once the tanker arrives at our site. For further processing into condoms, which are classed as medical devices, only material of first-class quality comes into consideration. Once the natural rubber latex has been transferred to our tanks, approx. three per cent of additives are added to the raw material according to a closely guarded formula ahead of further processing. They are charged with optimally regulating the natural raw material so that a consistent output is achieved.

The condom comes into being

The natural rubber latex mixture must be stored for several days to allow it to ripen, whereby the degree of ripeness is constantly monitored. Once the optimal degree of ripeness for processing has been reached, the mixture is carefully poured into the tanks of the dipping lines. Above the tanks run endless chains, to which the glass dipping moulds are attached. These glass moulds, which exhibit the shape of the respective type of condom to be produced, are dipped in the mixture. Upon emerging from the tank, a thin latex film, still in liquid form, remains on the moulds. 

The liquid latex is retained on the moulds through continuous rotation and is dried using intense heat (“vulcanisation”). As a result of the vulcanisation, natural rubber latex molecules coalesce on the glass moulds to form a strong, dense and highly-elastic film.

In a further step, the rolled edge is made, which securely closes off the open end of the condom. Using soft brushes and with the aid of warm water and a special soap, the condoms are stripped from the glass moulds and collected in a collection container.

Washed and packaged

Afterwards, the condoms are washed thoroughly by machine in order to rinse out soap residues and soluble components, for example. At the same time, a special coating agent is used to ensure that the products have a silky-smooth surface. Then, the condoms are whirled around in hot air by a machine until they are completely dry both inside and out.

In the next working step, all condoms are individually mounted on electrically conductive metal moulds and subjected to a fully automatic, electronic individual test. In this way, the smallest of holes and also areas in which the latex film of the condom is too thin can be detected. Only those condoms which exhibit no flaws in the tests conducted at this production station are rolled up and stand by for further processing. 

The condoms rejected at this station are destroyed.

Quality controls in our own laboratory

The condoms which exhibited no flaws in the tests are provided with a drop of lubricant by a machine and individually sealed in light-impermeable and air-tight protective foil. In this process, the corresponding batch number and the expiry date are imprinted on each wrapper.

In a final step, the wrappers are inserted in the product boxes along with the accompanying leaflet, on which instructions and tips for use are noted. These are packed into cardboard boxes for dispatch on pallets.

Before the products are cleared for dispatch, samples are taken according to strict sampling plans for scrupulous examination by Ritex quality control personnel in our own laboratory. All test results are electronically recorded and documented. Only batches which have also fulfilled all of the requirements of this final testing stage receive approval for dispatch.

All of the processing steps named and the numerous quality inspections during and following completion of production are documented in writing along with their results and assigned exactly to the individual production batches. In this way, all of the data is available at all times – from the data of the imported raw material to the finished product. The careful archiving and long-term statistical evaluation of these batch documents creates an invaluable pool of data.