Soft and flexible plastics offer the consumer many options for their product. Using a “softer” plastic benefits more than just the textile enjoyment of the smooth feel. You may be familiar with the textile benefits of soft plastic, like that of a soft-grip handle of a hammer. These “softer” plastics also offer high impact resistance and shock absorption. Additionally, they have incredible durability, making them a great option for seals and lining bottle-caps. Here are a few popular “soft” plastics that we love using at Nylacarb.
TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) are commonly used for soft-touch grip products like that you would find on the end of a hammer or toothbrush. Food contact approved TPE’s are used for bottles and baby spoons. Additionally, with its ability to easily adjust the “soft” texture, TPE’s are commonly used for seals or bottle-cap liners. TPEs can be melted down and returned to its solid form repeatedly, making it a recyclable option. TPEs are often the more economical choice over TPRs because their processing time is shorter, and thus it is more efficient to produce. TPE’s are incredibly versatile. They offer the consumer many options for various textures, all surprisingly comfortable plastics.
TPR (Thermoplastic rubbers) belongs to the thermoplastic elastomers group and has many of the same properties. Both are highly durable and impact, weather, and chemical resistant. Both are resistant to tears and abrasions, and are fatigue resistant. As opposed to TPE, which does not work well with adhesives, you will find TPR used in products like tubing, wire and cabling, automotive trim, footwear, toys, packaging, etc.
TPE and TPR type plastics have many things in common, but here are some differences to be aware of:
|FDA approved as food safe (I.E. Baby Bottles)||Used with products with adhesive use|
|Matte, smooth appearance||Somewhat more tacky in feel; and more glossy appearance|
|Reusable||Higher percentage of material wasted|
|Rapid Fabrication (seconds)||Slower Fabrication (minutes)|
PUR (Polyurethanes) have a wide variety of uses. With the capability to be rigid or flexible, hard or soft, this plastic has been used for many different products. Particularly in the automotive industry, PURs have been used for headrests, car bumpers, steering wheels, arm rests, door paneling, sealants, and synthetic fabrics.
Knowing more about the options for textile plastics helps the consumer make a more educated decision with their manufacturer as to which plastic type best suits the desires for the finished result of the product. TPE, particularly, is an example of an incredibly versatile plastic that blows the roof off the limits for design optimization.