Polyurethane 101

custom urethane products, polyurethane resistance to chemicals

Polyurethane is one of the most versatile materials for making parts. It is available in a variety of sizes, durometers, formulations, tolerances and colors for use in a wide range of applications. In addition to its unmatched versatility, polyurethane is also one of the strongest, toughest and most durable materials. In fact, urethane parts are commonly viewed as a better value because parts made with other materials often crack, break, tear, swell, deteriorate and abrade. The following is an overview of polyurethane including the chemistry, applications, and reasons urethanes outperform the competition.

Polyurethane Chemistry

Material selection is a key consideration when designing a part or upgrading an existing design – and there is no shortage of material options to choose from. Many industries prefer polyurethane as it offers many advantages over conventional materials like metal, plastic, and rubber. Many OEMs rely on urethane tubes as they offer outstanding properties including:

The team at PSI are experts at creating custom urethane formulations that deliver the specific properties required for each customer – offering unparalleled versatility and making urethane an excellent option for a myriad of applications. To fully appreciate polyurethane’s versatility, it is helpful to better understand its chemistry. Polyurethane is an elastomer that is formed by the reaction of isocyanate and polyol. The polyol is combined with an isocyanate to create a pre-polymer. The most common isocyanates are TDI and MDI, however, there are several others that are used in specialty applications. Generally speaking, TDI delivers good properties at high temperatures while MDI delivers good properties at low temperatures.

There are also two common types of polyols: polyether and polyester. The properties and performance of the polyurethane depend on which polyol is used. Polyester urethane and polyether urethane are both elastomers, which means they possess elastic properties. Both polyester and polyether are highly effective in a diverse range of industries and offer unique performance properties. For example, esters often exhibit greater abrasion and chemical resistance whereas ethers provide excellent shock absorption and are more UV and wear resistant. Additionally, esters can endure higher temperatures for longer periods of time while ethers are often the best choice for extreme cold temperatures.

Depending on the distribution and degree of the chemical bonds, an elastomer can have properties similar to thermosets or thermoplastics. Most elastomers fall into the thermoset category. Thermoset elastomers are polymers that cannot be melted and reformed and are generally more durable than thermoplastics. For example, thermoset polyurethane is a versatile material that, depending on how it is formulated, can range in physical properties from soft and malleable to tough and hard.

As you can see, urethanes are an extremely versatile material and several decisions regarding chemistry are necessary when creating a custom urethane formulation. At PSI, we guide customers through the custom formulation process to ensure the best polyurethane is created to achieve the desired performance and durability.

Would your project benefit from the longevity and performance that a custom urethane part delivers?

Contact the team at PSI to learn more about our custom urethane solutions and the range of markets we serve.

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Urethanes Stand Out from the Competition

Many industries prefer polyurethane as it offers many advantages over traditional materials like metal, plastic, and rubber. Urethane properties are often superior to conventional materials, enabling polyurethanes to stand out from the competition. The following are the benefits of using a urethane part from PSI:

  • Superb Abrasion Resistance: polyurethane has great abrasion and wear resistance, resulting in longer product life cycles. In fact, when severe abrasion is a factor, urethane has been known to outwear other materials by a factor of five-to-one to ten-to-one. In cases where urethane products experience a great deal of abrasion from combining dynamic loads and high friction, polyurethane surpasses conventional materials like natural rubber.
  • Strong Chemical, Ozone, and Corrosion Resistance: polyurethane can be customized to handle a variety of applications including water, ozone, and chemical environments. Urethane has excellent resistance to mineral-based oils, hydrocarbons, fats, greases, petroleum products, and specific solvents.
  • Excellent Strength & Impact Resistance: plastics often crack or break under impact loading or stress, especially at higher durometers (hardness). Conversely, urethane is not brittle and will maintain its strength and impact resistance over a range of durometers. At PSI, we have a full range of durometers on the “A” scale to 70 on the “D” scale, whereas plastics are much more limited in their durometers.
  • Outstanding Sound Dampening: polyurethane products offer great shock absorption and noise reduction, resulting in a much quieter operating environment – especially when compared to metal parts.
  • Superb Elasticity: polyurethane can be compressed up to 25% of its normal size and still rebound back to its original size. Conversely, metal is not an elastomer and has no ability to flex. On the other hand, plastics tend to stretch and either break or deform, unable to return to their original shape. Urethane has incredible elasticity and is able to be stretched and regain its shape without sacrificing strength or integrity.
  • Non-Marring: polyurethane does not mar material it comes in contact with whereas a conventional material like metal often marks or damages materials it contacts.
  • Lighter Weight: it is not surprising that polyurethane parts weigh less than metal. This offers a huge advantage in many sectors like the automotive industry where manufacturers are constantly looking for opportunities to reduce weight.
  • Self-Healing: polyurethane is self-healing, which can be a crucial differentiator for products such as cutting surfaces for work benches or tabletops.
  • Incredible Tensile Strength: polyurethane has a higher load-bearing capacity and is able to handle more pounds per square inch than conventional materials, such as rubber, without rupturing and breaking apart.
  • Withstand Extreme Temperatures: polyurethane remains flexible at low temperatures. The professionals at PSI can formulate urethane to remain flexible in Arctic-like conditions or temperatures as high as 250° Fahrenheit – all without sacrificing performance.
  • Excellent Grip: one of the functions of urethane parts, such as conveyor rollers, is to provide a proper level of grip and traction as products are processed. Some materials have difficulty gripping whereas polyurethane has great grip capabilities and can transport products without disruption.
  • Broad Range of Formulations, Durometers, and Colors: urethane is versatile and can be customized to your specific requirements. Unlike some conventional materials, the team at PSI can create custom urethane formulations across a range of durometers.
  • Cost-Effective: polyurethane parts are typically a more cost-effective solution than plastic and are usually less expensive to mold than metal, especially for low volume runs.
  • Superior Longevity: most of the properties mentioned above lead to a longer life span for urethane products. A longer service life results in fewer downtimes for maintenance, yielding operational efficiencies and lower manufacturing costs – further making the case that polyurethane is superior to conventional materials.

Various Applications of Polyurethane Products

With over 50 years of experience delivering the highest quality urethane products, PSI stands unequaled in helping companies in hundreds of industries around the world apply urethane products to their critical business applications. Due to its extreme versatility and durability, polyurethane products can be used across a variety of applications, providing the reliability and strength to outlast the competition. Below are some of the most common urethane applications visit our website for even more applications.

About PSI Urethanes

The team at PSI 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 products. Contact us today to see how we can help with your next project, or give us a call at 1-800-888-5156.