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Urethane Elastomers Explained


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. 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.

Are Elastomers and Rubber The Same?

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 oWer significant advantages over rubber when it comes to environmental stability, abrasion resistance, and ease of processing.

Most simply defined, an elastomer is an elastic material that can be stretched and will rebound to its original dimension and shape when tension is released. An elastomer has both viscosity (resiliency) and elasticity.

What Is A Urethane Elastomer?

One base polymer that can be used to manufacture elastomeric products is urethane. 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. While most elastomers typically fall into the thermoset category, urethane elastomers can be either.

Thermoset vs. Thermoplastic Urethanes

While urethanes can fall into thermoset or thermoplastic categories, thermoset urethane is the more common choice for its superior durability. Thermoset urethane cannot be melted and reformed. When it cools from a liquid to a solid state, it sets to a final shape- hence the name. It has high resistance to abrasion, performs well in temperatures of up to 250°F, has a wide range of durometers, and can hold a higher weight per square inch than thermoplastic urethane.

Advantages of Urethane Elastomers

Urethanes 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 highly stressed parts are subject to wear. Below are a few advantages of urethane elastomers:

Performance in Range of Temperatures

Urethanes are excellent at retaining their properties at low and high temperatures, even up to 250°F.

Shape Memory

Urethane’s elastomeric properties include shape memory, allowing the material to return to its original shape after use. This is especially beneficial in metal forming applications like hydraulic press bed liners.

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

When compared to conventional elastomers of equal hardness, urethanes have a higher tensile strength, tear strength, impact resistance, and greater load bearing capacity.

How Are Polyurethane Elastomers Used?

Polyurethane elastomers can have an innumerable number of applications depending on the urethane formula, product, and industry, a few of which we’ll detail below:


Urethanes 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.

Mold Making

Due to their flexibility and durability, urethanes are perfectly suited for mold making. They can produce seamless molds in numerous shapes and at various hardnesses.

Marine Applications

In offshore applications, urethanes are chosen for their resistance to hydrolysis and microbial attack. This allows them to deliver reliable performance at low ocean temperatures and at 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, and for protecting pipes and cables.

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 (866) 823-2580 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 blend custom polyurethane formulations to achieve your specific physical properties. Get a quote online or call today to learn more!

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