Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are a class of polymers that behave like thermoset rubber, but can be processed like a thermoplastic. There are varying approaches to achieving this combination of properties, but each approach includes a multi-phase polymer system with a hard phase and a soft phase. Any material that fits that criteria is generally referred to as a thermoplastic elastomer or a TPE.
Styrenic block copolymers (SBC) are one widely used material based on a styrene rigid phase and butadiene or isoprene soft phase. These materials are often used as a building block for other TPE compounds when blended with polypropylene, thermoplastic urethane, or copolyester. Other reactor grade resins that are TPEs are thermoplastic urethanes (TPU) and copolyesters (TPEE, TPC-ET).
- A compound based on polypropylene and a styrenic block copolymer will generally be referred to as a TPE or TPE-S.
- A compound based on thermoplastic urethane and a styrenic block copolymer will generally be referred to as a TPE or TPU, or TPE-U.
- A compound based on a copolyester and a styrenic block copolymer will generally be referred to as a TPE or TPE-E.
Thermoplastic vulcanizates, or TPVs, constitute another approach to creating thermoplastic elastomer materials. TPVs are created by dynamically cross-linking a rubber while dispersing it in a rigid design through reactive extrusion.
Each of these approaches offer performance and cost trade-offs. The experienced team at Audia Elastomers can help you decode the TPE alphabet and identify the best solution for your application.