This year’s top trends in Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) technology offer opportunities for responsible sustainable application development, customizable looks and feel, and enhanced manufacturing solutions. Traditionally elastomers have offered designers the opportunity to set their creations apart. 2021 will present some new material platforms and chemistry that will challenge the old way of thinking.
Talk of sustainable solutions has been heard of for decades in the plastic industry. What’s different now? The final end-user…the person using that toothbrush or phone case or ketchup bottle is demanding sustainable alternatives on their store shelves. Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs) offer designers materials that can differentiate their applications, draw attention to a feature, or add mechanical function. New materials are quickly becoming available that offer a sustainable component to this compound and final product. Options with marine, post-consumer, post-industrial, and bio content can help reach sustainable goals in ways not previously considered.
Unique looks and feel are key to many consumer-oriented applications. TPEs for decades in the past have been using to upgrade features in many applications. Look for TPE materials that can bond to nearly any substrate including PETG, POM, ABS, and many others adding another tool to the design toolbox. These materials will have customizable haptic features allowing Grippy, Soft, Silky, Wet Grip, Snappy, Supple among others. Color has always been one of the first attributes in the design process. Look for filled TPE materials with the clarity of unfilled materials allowing for bright vibrant colors at a low cost. TPEs are getting softer…000 shore A soft. These gels are used in a variety of applications. Look for more creative designs this year. Imagine injection molding a TPE that has a very large surface area very thin…. <1mm thin! That’s like a textile fabric. These skin-like TPE materials will be used for instrument panels in cars, laptop clam shells, and more.
Part design and processability will be key for the new and expanding slate of TPE materials. Process engineers will use proven know-how coupled with some new tricks to ensure good looking parts produced efficiently with little waste.
Get more information on these trends and materials from Audia Elastomers.