When working with polyurethane materials and formulations, it is important to understand the difference between thermoplastic and thermoset. Both polymers are advantageous to OEMs and are used in a wide range of applications across a variety of fields; however, because of their unique properties, each is best suited for specific applications. In order to better understand thermoplastic and thermoset materials, it is first useful to understand the chemistry of elastomers.
What is an Elastomer?
An elastomer is a long-chain polymer, meaning that it’s made of many large molecules strung together to form long chains. In simple terms, an elastomer is an elastic material that can be stretched and when released, it will rebound to its original dimension and shape.
Each chain is made of smaller units linked together by covalent chemical bonds. These chains can easily reconfigure themselves, allowing the elastomer to return to its original shape after being stretched or put under stress. If these chains were not reconfigurable, the applied stress would result in permanent deformation. Elastomers are “spring-like” in nature, in that they can be compressed, stretched, or pulled, and recover quickly without deformation or abrasion.
There are many types of elastomers, and urethane is just one example of a base polymer that can be used to manufacture elastomeric products. Depending on the distribution and degree of the chemical bonds of the polymer, an elastomer can have properties similar to thermosets or thermoplastics.
Thermosets are polymers that, after the initial forming, cannot be melted and reformed. For this reason, thermosets have excellent durability. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, are polymers that can be melted and reformed, resulting in material that is more elastic and highly flexible. As previously noted, the unique properties of thermosets and thermoplastics make each of these types of polymer useful for specific applications.
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Properties of Polyurethane Thermoplastics and Thermosets
Based on the descriptions above, you may be wondering – is polyurethane a thermoplastic or thermoset? In short, polyurethane can be a thermoplastic or thermoset elastomer.
Below is a summary of the physical properties and abilities of thermoset polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane. Visit our website to learn more about the properties of PSI Urethanes’ thermoset and thermoplastic polyurethanes.
|Thermoset Polyurethane||Thermoplastic Polyurethane|
|Abrasion Resistance||Excellent for abrasive applications because of its high resistance to abrasion and cutting.||Will tear with abrasive applications.|
|Heat Resistance||Able to withstand temperatures of up to 250° without problems.||Have a lower melting point and will soften, deform, and degrade in temperatures above 250°.|
|Hardness||Has a wide range of durometers available in A & D scales.||Has a very small range in “A” scale only.|
|Load Bearing Capacity||Able to hold a large amount of weight per square inch.||Unable to hold a large amount of weight without destroying the material.|
About PSI Urethanes
With over 50 years of experience delivering the highest quality urethane products, PSI Urethanes stands unequaled in helping companies in hundreds of industries around the world apply urethane products to their critical business applications. Since 1966, through our own independent research and activity in the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association, PSI Urethanes has stayed on the leading edge of urethane technology – including developing advances in new materials, comprehensive designs, and processing technologies. Today we are among the most respected and trusted suppliers of custom cast urethane products.
We operate from our 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, which houses an extensive stock of polyurethane products. Our fully equipped manufacturing facility includes a versatile range of processing machinery, which allows us to work on unique, one-of-a-kind projects, as well as high volume components. Our in-house engineering, tooling, and custom mold shop, produces custom and stock production orders with exceptionally fast turn-around times. From conception to prototyping, to final production runs, our technical representatives and design engineers will work closely with your staff to meet your critical tolerances and specifications. You are guaranteed to receive experienced, professional, and personalized service from the first contact through your on-time delivery, with complete confidentiality and dedication to protecting your good name.
PSI Urethanes specializes in custom urethane projects. Contact us today to see how we can help with your next project, or give us a call at 1-800-888-5156.