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The Pitfalls of Various Thickness Gradients


Measurements taken on a single use (SU) glove are typically contained to three main areas—the finger, the palm and the cuff—each having their own set of unique requirements for barrier protection and performance ability. Although invisible to the naked eye, thickness levels at these three areas can vary significantly, and are measured in mm or mil, where 1 mil = 0.0254 mm.


SU gloves are made using a dipping process, so the finger will also be a bit thicker than the palm. But quality manufacturing provides a more controlled environment that minimizes the gradient range across the finger, palm and cuff.


Achieving a near-zero gradient across these three areas as well as the modulus (elasticity) and material formulation are key to dexterity and durability. Even a very thin glove can be stiff and uncomfortable to use if manufactured at a low quality. A finger thickness far beyond that of the palm is a sign of lesser manufacturing. The true value comes in a controlled process that evenly distributes quality material across all areas of the glove.

SW Safety Solutions Inc: Hand Fatigue

Finger thickness is measured 1.5 cm from the tip of the middle finger. If this area is too thick, hand fatigue increases, meaning efficiency decreases and dexterity is reduced. Those needing fine motor skills or who perform repetitive tasks with their fingers are most affected. And because damage happens before the pain sets in, it’s important to avoid repetitive muscle fatigue. Over time, the damage may become chronic. In fact, 1/3 of dentists who retire early due so because of musculoskeletal disorders.[1]


Measured from the center of the glove to the thumb crotch, the palm area is actually the area that offers the hand the most protection. Be sure to investigate the specific palm thickness of an SU glove and not assume the mil designation applies to all areas. Typically, that figure is for the finger thickness, not the palm. For example, if a finger is 6 mil, but the palm is only 4 mil, that equates to a 33% reduction across the area offering the most protection.


The cuff is measured 1.5 cm above the beading, the point that typically receives the most stretch when donning an SU glove. Having a lower gradient from finger to cuff strengthens the overall integrity of the glove, improving the material’s tensile strength for a more even distribution of the impacts on the glove, such as pulling while donning or wear and tear during use.


An even gradient also ensure a better fit, since the material stretches and contracts with similar resistance across all areas of the glove.