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Characteristics and uses of TPE plastic materials, advantages and disadvantages of TPE plastic

October 11, 2023

Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are generally elastic materials with a low elastic modulus that can be repeatedly stretched to more than twice their original length at room temperature and have the ability to almost completely return to their original length after the stress is relieved. Early materials with this property were thermoset rubbers, but a number of injection-moldable thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) families are replacing traditional rubbers. In addition to their use in their basic form, TPE are widely used in the modification of rigid thermoplastics, often to improve impact strength. This is fairly common for sheet and general molding grade composites.


Thermoplastic elastomer TPE is a kind of rubber with high elasticity, high strength, high resilience, and the characteristics of injection molding. It is environmentally friendly, non-toxic and safe, has a wide range of hardness, has excellent colorability, soft touch, and weather resistance. Fatigue resistance and temperature resistance, excellent processing performance, no need for vulcanization, can be recycled to reduce costs, can be secondary injection molded, coated and bonded with base materials such as PP, PE, PC, PS, ABS, etc, or can be molded alone .


Thermoplastic elastomer has both the processing properties of thermoplastics and the physical properties of vulcanized rubber. It can be said to be an advantageous combination of the advantages of plastics and rubber. Thermoplastic elastomers are aggressively occupying the territory formerly reserved for vulcanized rubber. In the past decade or so, the rapid development of the electronic appliances, communications and automobile industries has driven the rapid development of the thermoplastic elastomer market.


Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) has the physical and mechanical properties of vulcanized rubber and the processability of thermoplastics. Since no hot vulcanization is required, product production can be completed using general plastic processing equipment. This feature shortens the production process of the rubber industry by 1/4, saves energy consumption by 25% to 40%, and increases efficiency by 10 to 20 times. It can be called another material and process technology revolution in the rubber industry.


Advantages of TPE:


1. It can be processed by general thermoplastic molding machines and does not require special processing equipment.


2. Production efficiency is greatly improved. It can be vulcanized directly with a rubber injection molding machine, and the time is shortened from about 20 minutes to less than 1 minute; because the required vulcanization time is very short, it can be directly vulcanized with an extruder, and the production efficiency is greatly improved.


3. Easy to recycle and reduce costs. The waste materials (escaping burrs, extruded waste glue) and final waste products generated during the production process can be directly returned for reuse; used TPE products can be simply regenerated and then recycled, reducing environmental pollution and expanding the source of renewable resources.


4. Energy saving. Most thermoplastic elastomers do not require vulcanization or the vulcanization time is very short, which can effectively save energy. Take the energy consumption of high-pressure hose production as an example: rubber is 188MJ/kg and TPE is 144MJ/kg, which can save more than 25% of energy.


5. Wider application areas. Because TPE has the advantages of both rubber and plastic, it has opened up new application areas for the rubber industry.


6. Can be used for reinforcement and toughening modification of plastics. It has great self-reinforcement, simplified formula, little influence of compounding agents on the polymer, and easier control of quality and performance. However, the heat resistance of TPE is not as good as that of rubber. As the temperature rises, the physical properties decrease significantly, so the scope of application is limited. At the same time, the compression deformation, elastic recovery, and durability are poor compared to rubber, and the price is often higher than similar rubber. Despite this, the advantages of TPE are still very prominent, and various new TPE products are constantly being developed. As a new energy-saving and environmentally friendly rubber raw material, its development prospects are very promising.


Disadvantages of TPE:


The big problem with SBS and SIS is that they have poor heat resistance, and the use temperature generally cannot exceed 80°C. At the same time, its stretchability, weather resistance, oil resistance, wear resistance, etc. are also incomparable with rubber.


Based on environmental protection factors, environmentally friendly TPE materials have been widely used in toys, automotive supplies, medical supplies, daily products and other industries to replace non-environmentally friendly and toxic PVC materials. TPE materials With the development of science and technology, the uses of TPE will become more and more extensive. Because TPE has the advantages of both rubber and plastic, it has opened up new application areas for the rubber industry.