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Plastics & Elastomers

TPE Developments Keep Up with Success - 2020 Materials Round-up

Payal Ahuja – Nov 11, 2020

TAGS:  Rubber Replacement      3D Printing      Green and Bioplastics      Medical    

TPE Developments – 2020 Materials Round-upThermoplastic elastomers, TPEs, have been continuing to advance with new grades and higher performance features being regularly introduced to the market. All TPE classes have been experiencing these improved new grades:

  • Styrenic Block Copolymers, SBCs (SIS, SEBS)
  • Thermoplastic Olefin Elastomers, TPOs
  • Thermoplastic Vulcanized Olefinics, TPVs
  • Thermoplastic Polyurethanes, TPUs
  • Copolyester Ether Elastomers, COPEs, and
  • Specialty TPEs

There are several reasons driving the global thermoplastic elastomers market, like, intense competition in the market is leading to development of value-added products (soft touch, flexible, high adhesion…) through increased investments in the R&D. The "greening" of plastics is also having an impact as bets are being placed on bio-based or "renewable-content" materials.

To attain competitive advances, a good understanding of the implications of these new products is a must for the TPE and rubber part manufacturers as well as users and specifiers.

Check out some of the latest advances in thermoplastic elastomers segment seen recently answering the growing demand in the industry.

Bio-based TPEs Meet Sustainability & Performance Needs

Climate change, finite oil resources and customers who are increasingly environmentally aware are leading more and more materials manufacturers and users to turn to “renewable” and “bio-based” solutions. By developing customer-specific and application-specific compounds using renewable raw materials, several suppliers are aiming to meet the growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable thermoplastic elastomers.

The notable developments in bio-based thermoplastic elastomers segments are mentioned below.

Soft ‘Green’ TPE from Plant

HEXPOL TPE offers Dryflex® Green family of biobased and recyclable TPE compounds containing raw materials from renewable resources such as plant and vegetable crops. Recently, HEXPOL TPE added Styrenic Block Copolymer (TPS) and Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) grades with amounts of renewable content to over 90%.

According to the company, Dryflex® Green TPE compounds display mechanical and physical properties close to and comparable to TPE compounds from fossil based raw materials.

  • Flexibility & tensile properties
  • Soft touch feel
  • Suitable for injection molding & extrusion
  • Adhesion to polymers, such as PE, PP, ABS, PC/ABS, PET
  • Fully recyclable
  • Can easily be colored
  • Amounts of renewable content to over 90% (ASTM D 6866)
  • Hardness from 15 Shore A to 60 Shore D
  • Suitable for consumer, automotive, packaging, medical and construction markets

Bio-derived TPEs for Overmolding

reSound™ OM thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are based on biopolymers  derived from sugarcane. The reSound™ OM portfolio consists of:

  • Four overmolding grades compatible with rigid polypropylene, and
  • One grade that's suited for overmolding onto ABS.

These new formulations utilize between 40 and 50 percent bio-renewable content derived from sugarcane and offer hardness levels, favorable property retention and UV resistance comparable to traditional TPEs.

The new grades highlight easy colorability, an essential requirement such as cosmetics packaging, personal care products, and consumer electronics.

reSound™ OM thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs)
Applications of reSound™ OM Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs)

Bio-based TPE for Extrusion and Injection Molding

FKuR offers Terraprene®, a family of high-quality TPE compounds based on renewable resources. The Terraprene® family includes compounds from hardnesses 20 Shore A to 40 Shore D and up to 90% of bio-based content. In addition, they can be easily colored and for a more natural look they can be filled with organic fibers like wood or cork.

Terraprene® by FKuR
Terraprene® Filled with Organic Fibers by FKuR

According to FKuR, Terraprene® compounds can be used in various applications for example in soft-touch handles, toys, tools or sports equipment. As a result, it can be used as sustainable replacement for PVC as well.

TPE Capabilities Extended to 3D Printing

Flexible polymer materials significantly expand the options for additive manufacturing because they allow us to realize new, demanding applications in attractive markets. Expanding TPE capabilities to 3D Printing, we see the following developments in the industry.

TPC for Fused Filament Fabrication

Car Part (Air Pipe), 3D Printed Using Arnitel® ID2060 HT
Car Part (Air Pipe), 3D Printed Using Arnitel® ID2060 HT
DSM has developed Arnitel® ID2060 HT, a high-performance Thermoplastic Copolyester (TPC) for 3D printing using Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Made from 50% bio-based feedstock, Arnitel® provides a perfect blend of flexibility, temperature resistance, chemical resistance and strength for use in a wide variety of applications while remaining 100% recyclable.

  • First high temperature TPC filament on the market
  • Prolonged high temperature performance: 175°C (1000 hrs), 190°C (500 hrs)
  • Excellent chemical resistance
  • Hardness of Shore D 61

Selective Laser Sintering TPE Filament

Flex TPE is a soft thermoplastic elastomer for Selective Laser Sintering and offers rubber-like flexibility and functionality. This material maintains high flexibility and has excellent shape retention. It has an inherent surface texture and modest feature definition and can be finished in a few basic color options.

Flex TPE retains up to 5X stretch capacity and is infiltrated with either a 40A or 70A durometer polyurethane material.

Thermoplastic Amide for Flexible Applications

Evonik and HP present a new a flexible specialty elastomer powder for Jet Fusion 3D printing technology. This lightweight-construction material is based on a thermoplastic amide grade (TPA) with a very low density of 1.01 g/cm³ and a Shore A hardness of 91.

INFINAM® TPA – Flexible, High-performance Specialty Powder Based on a Thermoplastic Amide Grade (TPA)

The material is said to be well suited for production of functional high-tech 3D plastic parts—prototypes as well as series products—that call for high extensibility and energy return, such as sports equipment or automobile components.

Soft-touch to High Flexibility - Growing Demand in Consumer Applications

Food Contact Compliant, Soft Touch TPE

Especially tailored for the consumer goods applications, ACTEGA offers SOFT EST.® flexible TPE compounds suitable for injection molding. The series include highly transparent, translucent and natural-colored versions with Shore hardness values from A20 to A85.

Features of SOFT EST.® Flexible TPE Compounds
Features of SOFT EST.® Flexible TPE Compounds

The materials are all food-safe according to EU 10/2011 and FDA regulations. The products are suitable for applications involving direct contact with foods containing water, acids, alcohol and fats and also with dry foods; in all these situations the correct ratio must be maintained between the contact area and the total area.

Electrically Conductive TPEs Bring New Opportunities

KRAIBURG TPE has developed electrically conductive TPEs with adhesion to polyolefins or polyamides. Electrically conductive TPEs open up new opportunities with regard to touch qualities, functionality and design for innovative applications such as sensors, electrostatically dissipative components for automotive or smart textiles for sportswear and safety clothes.

  • The EC series with adhesion to polypropylene provides a resistance of < 101 Ω-cm, a hardness of 70–80 Shore A with a density of 0.97–0.99 g/cm3.
  • The unique EC/PA series with adhesion to polyamides has a resistance of < 103 Ω-cm & a hardness of 70–80 Shore A with a density of 0.96–0.97 g/cm3. 

Glass Fiber-reinforced PEBA for High Strength Applications

XEGLASS 17 by Xenia
XEGLASS 17 by Xenia
XEGLASS 17 is a 50% glass fiber reinforced PEBA that offers high chemical resistance and great impact strength at low temperatures. The glass fiber reinforcement allows the achievement of mechanical features, much greater than the ones of the pure polymer. 

XEGLASS 17 composites have low hygroscopic absorption and dimensional stability, they are colorable and they are available also in bio-compatible grades.

By combining the outstanding aesthetic quality and the easy processability, XEGLASS 17 grades meet the requirements of sport, consumer and industrial goods sectors.

German Drinking Water Standard Compliant TPEs

Monprene® RG-14000 Series Compounds from Teknor Apex meet stringent German standards for drinking water applications and can be used in a wide range of extruded, molded, and over-molded components for potable-water uses.

They are certified for cold-water (23°C) and warm-water (60°C) applications in accordance with Germany’s KTW (Kontakt mit Trinkwasser) guideline for hygienic assessment of organic materials in contact with drinking water.

These materials can be used for flexible or elastic components used in residential or commercial applications. Some examples are shower heads, plumbing seals and gaskets, membranes, valves, pipe fittings and connectors, and hoses.

Medical-grade TPEs – Healthy Growing Segment

The healthcare market depends on the reliable and secure supply of controlled raw materials which must fulfill especially demanding standards w.r.t safety, biocompatibility, toxicity and more. In medical sector, TPE materials:

  • Enhances the ergonomic and aesthetic properties of medical devices
  • Adds new functionalities, and
  • Provides the design freedom and cost savings associated with parts consolidation.

Recent TPE developments include:

  • Avient’s injection moldable Versaflex™ HC 3810 TPE series are formulated without animal derivatives, an increasingly common requirement for healthcare products. These products offer a wide range of durometers to serve a variety of medical device applications. Avient also released Versaflex™ HC BT218 TPE, a silicone alternative for biopharmaceutical tubing applications.

    Versaflex™ HC Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs)
    Applications of Versaflex™ HC Thermoplastic Elastomers

  • Teknor Apex launched medical-grade Medalist® MD-34900 TPE series for general medical overmolding applications and MD-36975 TPE grade specifically for overmolding in wearable device. The new TPEs exhibit strong adhesion to medical-grade polycarbonate (PC) and PC alloys and include formulations with enhanced resistance to chemicals encountered in wearable applications. According to the company, Medalist® TPEs are alternatives to liquid silicones used in over-molding because they do not require the use of a primer, have a shorter cycle time (avoiding the lengthy curing process), and can be processed on conventional injection molding equipment.

  • Borealis and Borouge have developed first controlled plastomers solution - Bormed™ PL8830-PH - for the global healthcare market. It is an ethylene-based, octene-1 plastomer. Because it is a reactor polymer, it boasts the very highest and most consistent quality. Overall, it exhibits excellent purity and cleanliness. It offers enhanced compatibility with PP, easy processing, clarity, and flexibility on an elastomers level. 

    Medical Application of Bormed™ PL8830-PH
    Medical Application of Bormed™ PL8830-PH

Check Out the Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) Grades 

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