What is thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)? - TPU is a highly versatile elastomer with unique properties that offers both superior performance and processing flexibility. TPU is the ideal polymer for applications in a wide variety of markets, including footwear, wire and cable, film and sheet, compounding, adhesives and specialty molded parts. TPU has been providing benefits to designers, manufacturers and end users for over 60 years.
TPU is a unique type of plastic bridging the gap between rubbers and plastics. The key to TPU's versatility is that its hardness can be highly customized. TPU can be as soft as rubber or as hard as rigid plastics. The look and feel of TPU is just as versatile. It can be transparent or colored as well as smooth to the touch or provide grip.
A TPU is a block copolymer consisting of alternating sequences of hard and soft segments. Its adaptability is due to the presence of both these hard and soft segments in its chemical structure. The proportion of hard and soft segments can be manipulated to produce a wide range of hardness. A greater ratio of hard to soft segments will result in a more rigid TPU.
The hard segments are isocyanates, and can be classified as either aliphatic or aromatic depending on the type of isocyanate. The soft segments are made of a reacted polyol. In addition to the ratio of hard to soft segments in a given grade of TPU, the type of isocyanate and polyol are responsible for the properties of the resulting TPU.