What Are Urethane Elastomers?
Elastic & Resilient In Stressful, Demanding Applications
What Is An Elastomer?
Most simply defined, an elastomer is an elastic material that can be stretched and when released, it will rebound to its original dimension and shape. An elastomer has both viscosity (resiliency) and elasticity.
An elastomer is a long-chain polymer, meaning that it’s made of many large molecules strung together to form long chains. 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. You could say that 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. While the word “elastomer” is often used interchangeably with “rubber,” this isn’t entirely accurate. Some elastomers are rubber, but not all. Many are similar to synthetic and natural rubbers in character, but offer significant advantages over rubber when it comes to environmental stability, abrasion resistance, and ease of processing.
What Is A Urethane Elastomer?
Urethane is just one 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 or characteristics similar to thermosets or thermoplastics. Urethane elastomers can be either, though elastomers typically fall into the thermoset category.
Thermoset urethane cannot be melted and reformed. It has high resistance to abrasion, performs well in temperatures of up to 250℉, has a wide range of durometers, and can hold a higher weight per square inch than thermoplastic urethane.
Advantages of Urethane Elastomers
Urethane elastomers are stronger, tougher, and more durable than conventional elastomers and plastics. They are best suited for applications where flexibility, elasticity, and abrasion resistance are a necessity and especially where there are highly stressed parts subject to wear. Below are a few advantages of urethane elastomers:
Performance in Range of Temperatures
Urethane elastomers are excellent at retaining their properties at low and high temperatures, even up to 250℉.
Urethane’s elastomeric properties have shape memory, allowing the material to return to its original shape after use. This is especially beneficial in metal forming applications.
Resistance to Ozone and Oxygen
Urethane elastomers are resistant to oil, water, most weather conditions, as well as ozone and oxidation. Some formulations are even resistant to radiation, fungus and bacteria.
Greater Load Bearing Capacity
Urethane elastomers have a high tensile and tear strength, impact resistance, and greater load bearing capacity when compared to conventional elastomers of equal hardness.
How Are Urethane Elastomers Used?
Urethane elastomers can have an innumerable number of applications depending on the urethane formula, product, and industry, a few of which we’ll detail below.
Urethane elastomers are widely used in many stages of the mining process, including extraction, transportation, processing, and storage. Applications include mining screens, pump impellers, conveyor belts, rollers, and wheels.
Due to their flexibility and durability, urethane elastomers are perfectly suited for mold making. They can produce seamless molds in numerous shapes and at various hardnesses.
In offshore applications, advantages to urethane elastomers include their resistance to hydrolysis and microbial attack, as well as their reliable performance at low ocean temperatures and high pressure in deep water. They can be used to reduce strain on pipes and cables by flexing in the marine environment, and are suitable for encapsulating electrical components, protecting pipes and cables, and foam buoys and fenders.
When you want the performance advantages of high-tech plastics, ceramics, and metals along with the flexibility and resiliency of rubber, look no further than urethane elastomers. Call PSI Urethanes at (800) 888-5156 to see how we can meet your urethane needs today. From conception to production, our technical representatives are here for you every step of the way. We can custom blend urethane elastomer formulations to achieve your specific physical properties. Get a quote online or call today to learn more!