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Thermoplastic Elastomers: A Much Needed Alternative

By Expert Author: Sunil Dolia

Thermoplastic elastomer, also abbreviated as (TPE) is a material that has both thermoplastic and elastic properties. Thermoplastic refers to the ability of a compound to change form with change in temperature. This means that a solid compound can change to liquid with increase in temperature and revert to its original state and form with reduction of temperature.
The TPE material possesses the ability to stretch approximately to double its size with the exertion of force at room temperature and to return to its original form once the force has been removed. That means they possess the properties of rubber but are also processed like plastics.

The oldest source for TPEs has been the conversion of rubber materials, including recycled rubber and plastics. Its continued use can be attributed to its recyclability since it usually reverts to its original form. This has made it useful in parts integration, design differentiation, reduction in manufacturing costs etc.

The processes used in the creating of TPEs include:
Extrusion
Compression molding
Blow molding
Thermoforming
Heat welding

When choosing TPE rubber compounds, there are key aspects that require close attention. These include;
What liquid or chemicals if any the material will be coming into contact with. The TPE compounds have varying resistance to different liquid or chemicals. Also this is important since TPE has varying solubility depending on the chemical it comes in contact with.

Another key consideration to be observed is what temperature the material will be subjected to during its continuous use. Since the main feature of TPEs is its thermo-plasticity, it would be wise to know what these temperatures.
Thermoplastic elastomers have the advantage of continuous reusability. Since TPEs can easily revert to their original form, they can be reused more often than other raw materials. This offers TPE manufacturer’s renewable raw material for their products.

Another key benefit of TPEs is since they are usually made from old tire and plastics, it offers a much needed avenue for recycling and with a growing concern for the environment and the need boy industries to reduce wastage, this offers a great alternative as a source of raw material.

TPEs are also tear resistant and have very good tensile strength. Also they have very good flexibility due to their rubbery property.

One of the key drawbacks of TPEs is the cost. Since it’s quite expensive to make TPEs, the products tend to be also quite pricy.
The TPEs are used mainly in the automotive industry as a substitute of rubber since they have better wear and tear resistance. Although this is what TPEs is mainly used for, it is not restricted to just the automotive industry.

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