About Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), sometimes referred to as thermoplastic rubbers, are a class of copolymers or a physical mix of polymers (usually a plastic and a rubber) which consist of materials with both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. While most elastomers are thermosets, thermoplastics are in contrast relatively easy to use in manufacturing, for example, by injection molding. Thermoplastic elastomers show advantages typical of both rubbery materials and plastic materials. The benefit of using thermoplastic elastomers is the ability to stretch to moderate elongations and return to its near original shape creating a longer life and better physical range than other materials.
In order to qualify as a thermoplastic elastomer, a material must have these three essential characteristics:
- The ability to be stretched to moderate elongations and, upon the removal of stress, return to something close to its original shape
- Processable as a melt at elevated temperature
- Absence of significant creep
TPEs are used where conventional elastomers cannot provide the range of physical properties needed in the product. In 2014 the world market for TPEs reached a volume of ca. 16.7 billion US dollars. TPE may also be used in medical devices. You'd be surprised where you can find TPE being used these days.
TPE is porous whereas traditional silicone is not. Therefore you have to take extra care when cleaning the material.