Introduction to Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) Bridging the Gap between Rubber and Plastic.

Imagine a material with outstanding toughness, strength over a wide range of flexibility and stiffness (modulus), while providing significant part design freedom. Sound too good to be true? It's TPU!

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) offers an impressive balance of mechanical properties and durability, including:

  • Excellent wear and tear resistance
  • Good chemical resistance
  • High resilience
  • Low compression set
  • Unique sound and vibration dampening characteristics
  • Certain grades of TPU offer exceptional hydrolytic stability and
  • low-temperature flexibility, while others provide significant strength and ductility.

    It's this variety of property combinations that makes TPU adaptable to a multitude of uses.

TPU Basic Chemistry

TPU's are comprised of two primary components, a hard segment, and a soft segment. The hard segments are isocyanates and are either aromatic or aliphatic. The more common grades are aromatic, however, if color and clarity retention is required in conjunction with UV light exposure, an aliphatic hard segment is recommended.

The soft segment is either a polyester or polyether type polyol. Polyester-based TPU's are preferred for applications requiring optimal physical properties and resistance to oil and hydrocarbons, while polyether-based TPU's should be considered for parts used in moisture- rich and cold temperature environments.

The hard segment defines the TPU's processing temperatures, its continuous and upper use temperature limits, tensile strength, chemical resistance, and adhesion characteristics. The soft segment determines the TPU's lower service temperature limits, hardness, flexibility and compression set. TPU offers flexibility without the use of plasticizers.

TPU Processability

TPU is fully thermoplastic and therefore is melt-processable. It can be extruded, injection molded, and blow molded using the conventional equipment. Other processes include compression molding, vacuum forming, and solution coating. TPU will chemically bond to a variety of rigid thermoplastic substrates using typical over-molding processes.

TPU Enhancements and Alloys

A variety of additives can be combined with TPU to improve certain properties. The more common supplements are glass fiber (short and long), carbon fiber, UV and hydrolytic stabilizers, flame retardants, lubricants, conductive and anti-static agents, and barium sulfate.

Alloying with polycarbonate and other rigid materials combines the toughness of TPU with greater stiffness and strength.

TPU Applications

TPU's are available in a hardness range of 60A to 80D, with clear, translucent and opaque appearances, and are used in most markets.

Architectural Glass Lamination
Agriculture Implement Component Parts
Animal Tags
Automotive Interiors, Lumbar Supports, Bushings, and Grommets
Caster Wheels
Coated Fabrics
Constant Velocity Boots (Automotive)
Drive Belts
Film and Sheet
Fire Hose Liner
Food Processing Equipment
Footwear (Sports Shoe Soles)
Hydraulic Hoses
Hydraulic Seals
Inflatable Rafts
In-Line Skates
Magnetic Media
Medical Tubing and Devices
Mining Screens
Regulated Components and Devices (FDA Food Contact, ISO 10993, USP Class VI, UL, and NSF)
Sporting Goods
Swim Fins and Goggles
Wire and Cable Jacketing

Whether for its outstanding toughness, durability or processing ease, TPU is a versatile performer that bridges the gap between rubber and plastics.

Amco Polymers is a family owned business with a product portfolio that provides its customers with the highest quality products from industry-leading suppliers. Industry knowledge, integrity and dependability create unmatched value in the distribution marketplace. For more information, call 800.262.6685 or visit our contact page.