Thermoplastic Polyurethane 101
Today we are going to learn all about thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU for short. We will learn exactly what it is, what are its advantages and disadvantages and include just some of the many products you can find TPU material in across a wide range of industries.
So what is TPU material? TPU is a material that is like a bridge between both plastic and rubber. Why think plastic vs rubber, when you can combine the best elements of the two! It is extremely rubber-like in appearance, possessing similar properties of rubber too. Meaning it is flexible, durable and also smooth to touch. These properties make the material highly versatile for many industries, including consumer goods, coatings and components. Along with this, it is a great choice for those who wish to use injection molding or printing TPU with 3D printing.
But it is fundamentally a thermoplastic, meaning that it is a plastic that can be melted down multiple times and re-used again and again. Unlike a thermoset, which can only be used once. So polyurethane plastic is special, in that it behaves like a rubber material but has the reusability and recyclability of a plastic. There is also high customisability with regards to TPU meaning that it can be as soft as a rubber or as hard as a plastic, depending on the needs of the product built with TPU materials.
What is a TPU? Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is like a bridge between both plastic and rubber. TPU polymer can be customized to be as hard as one or as soft as the other.
Advantages of Thermoplastic Polyurethane
Polyurethane material has a wide set of advantages, which is why is it so readily chosen as a plastic for many types of components. One of the best advantages of TPU plastic is just how resistant it is. Resistant to water, oxygen, ozone, flame, aging, oil, chemical and solvent. As previously mentioned, because it is also very rubber-like, it also has high elasticity, but also great strength and good tactile properties, making it smooth to touch. It can be sterilized too, making it a good option for food packaging and the medical field. TPU filament is highly transparent but it can be easily coloured too, for extra customizability.
Polyurethane properties make it highly resistant to many variables. Combined with the fact that it can be readily sterilized. This makes material TPU a great choice of plastic in the medical field.
Disadvantages of Thermoplastic Polyurethane
While it has some great advantages, there are a few drawbacks to this incredible plastic and rubber fabric. Throughout all of the manufacturing process, TPU requires particular manufacturing conditions to be met for it to be produced, making it one of the less readily available manufacturing methods on the market. Some of thermoplastic polyurethanes grades have short life cycles. The cost of the material itself is higher, compared to other materials like that of PVC and clear TPU eventually ends up yellowing and cannot be reversed, so many opt to colour this material.
Is polyurethane rubber? Is polyurethane plastic? It’s a thermoplastic. But it has the properties of a rubber. Polyurethane rubber is a great material if you require something that can stretch, feel great, and be extremely resistant in all kinds of conditions. Chances are, when you think of a moldable rubber that hardens, you are thinking of TPU!
Products of Thermoplastic Polyurethane
Because TPU polycarbonate has a wide range of benefits it can be used across many industries. Let us take a look at just some of the products you can find TPU is used in:
- Thermoplastic polyurethane phone case
- TPU screen protector
- TPU film
- TPU laminate
- Castor wheels
- Hoses and tubes
- Power tools
- TPU fabric
- Polyurethane plastic sheet
- Sports equipment
- Automotive parts and drive belts
- TPU studs
- Medical tubes and devices
- Food processing tools
Hard or soft TPU material can be used in a wide array of applications. From a TPU case to TPU lamination. From TPU rubber outsoles on your sports shoes to TPU coating on your power tools with soft TPU. Chances are if you wonder “Can TPU be used in this product”, it likely can.
Today we learned all about TPU! We learned how to define polyurethane, as in what does TPU stand for. We looked at polyurethane structure, examining what it can do and some of its main advantages and disadvantages. We also looked at some of the products we can often find TPU used in.
We here at Shineyuu know all about TPU. In fact, we know a lot about all kinds of plastic materials, since we are an injection molding company! If you are thinking about if your next project should include TPU, wish to know more about TPU price, or are not sure which plastic is best to use simply contact us and request a quote, or indeed you can ask us any questions and we will be more than happy to assist you in any way we can!
If you enjoyed the article make sure you take a look at some of our other posts on many other materials and topics, such as Injection Mold Tooling, What is Thermoplastic Rubber and Picking Polystyrene for more great information.