Rules of Thumb

A Quick Guide to Thermoplastic Elastomers

coloured polymer compounds

Thermoplastic elastomers are copolymers that are created to combine the advantages of plastics with the performance of elastomers. These copolymers are made up of hard plastic and soft elastomeric molecular regions, each one contributing key characteristics to the final material. 

Key Uses

Thermoplastic elastomers are a favorite of the automotive, appliance, and aerospace industries. A few examples of products they’re used in are:

  • Bumpers 
  • Bellows
  • Vibrational dampers
  • Couplers
  • Grommets

Features

Thermoplastic elastomers offer significantly increased production speeds and the ability to reuse clean scrap without a loss in physical properties compared to traditional thermosetting materials. This results in the quick production of key products at a reduced cost due to the minimization of scrap loss.

These copolymers are highly customizable, with the following options available:

  • Durometer range
  • Color selection
  • Physical properties 

For example, if the styrene content of a given thermoplastic is increased using polystyrene elastomer block copolymers, it will become a much stronger elastomer.

Limitations

The physical properties of thermoplastic elastomers greatly depend on the properties of the plastic and elastomeric parts of the copolymer. These properties can have a major impact on how a thermoplastic will perform under different temperature conditions. At lower temperatures, the elastomer may become brittle, or become soft at higher temperatures, both of which may increase the likelihood of leaks occurring. Additionally, thermoplastics have higher compression set values, especially at elevated temperatures.

Looking for more information on thermoplastic elastomers?

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