What are Thermoplastic Elastomers?
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are a relatively new polymer material, first made commercially available in the 1960s. Many consider TPE the best of both worlds, combining the desirable performance properties of rubber with the excellent processability characteristics of plastics. Many industries, from healthcare to automotive to consumer products, are choosing TPE over traditional materials due to its many desirable benefits.
Key Benefits of Thermoplastic Elastomers
Thermoplastic elastomer materials are highly customizable in terms of hardness, sizing, and other characteristics. TPE can be rubbery and soft to the touch, smooth and hard like traditional plastic, and everything in between. TPE is also ideal for products that must adhere to incredibly tight dimensional tolerances, such as surgical or medical tubing.
Processability and Waste Reduction
One of the many advantages of thermoplastic elastomers is excellent processability, comparable to traditional plastic materials. TPE performs well in a manufacturing environment, resulting in a consistent final product with very little—if any—variance. Additionally, because of how TPE is utilized, the manufacturing process produces far less waste when compared to other materials. This can translate to cost savings and less hassle for manufacturers.
Thermoplastic elastomer materials are quite resilient against a wide range of environmental factors. TPE holds up well against a variety of substances, including chemicals, cleaners, and oils. TPE is also quite resistant to a wide temperature range and is especially durable at low temperatures. TPE’s impact resistance at low temperatures is especially noteworthy.
TPE can handle repeat flexing and twisting, too. This type of resilience makes TPE an especially beneficial choice for surgical and medical tubing, which must be able to perform consistently in the intense, high-speed environment of healthcare.
Thermoplastic elastomers contain no latex or latex proteins and are not dangerous for people with latex allergies or sensitivities. Because of this, TPE can be an excellent alternative to natural rubber latex when manufacturing any product that comes in contact with the skin, such as medical and surgical components, baby items, handles, and more.
Thermoplastic elastomer materials take on color incredibly well and can be manufactured to match a wide range of custom swatches. TPE can also be made frosted, translucent, or water clear. Clarity is especially critical for medical and surgical tubing, since healthcare providers often need to see the fluid inside the tubing while at work. For this reason, a lot of medical and surgical tubing is made with TPE.
Thermoplastic elastomer materials can be thermally welded and heat sealed, or crimped, for storage and transit purposes. This is especially valuable for thermoplastic elastomer tubing used in a wide variety of applications.
What Can TPE Be Used for?
Thermoplastic elastomers have many applications, from everyday consumer items to specialty products and behind-the-scenes processes.
Thermoplastic Elastomers in Food & Beverage Industry
The food and beverage industry is a major consumer of thermoplastic elastomer tubing because TPE materials are durable and easy to sterilize. Additionally, TPE is impermeable to air and moisture, providing superior protection to whatever product or substance it contains. Because of this, food and beverage tubing used to store, transport, and dispense liquids is often made from TPE.
Thermoplastic Elastomers in Medical Applications
Like the food and beverage industry, the healthcare industry often chooses TPE for its purity characteristics and barrier properties. TPE is also biocompatible and free of latex, so it’s a safe choice for both patients and healthcare providers who may be sensitive or allergic to the proteins found in natural rubber latex.
Medical applications for thermoplastic elastomers include syringe gaskets and medical masks. TPE is also used for a wide variety of medical and surgical tubing, such as blood pressure tubing, fluid pathways, wound drainage, drug delivery, and peristaltic pumps.
Thermoplastic Elastomers in Biopharmaceutical Applications
Thermoplastic elastomers are a popular material choice for biopharmaceutical tubing. TPE tubing may be used for a wide variety of biopharmaceutical applications, including pharmaceutical production, processing, and filling, pharmaceutical sampling and delivery systems, fluid transfer, and single-use systems.
Thermoplastic Elastomer Tubing
The applications of thermoplastic elastomer tubing are virtually limitless, thanks to the material’s many desirable properties. Other examples of TPE tubing include:
- Laboratory tubing, such as connections between glassware and instrumentation or tubing for chromatography
- Sports and leisure tubing, such as slingshot and launching systems, spearfishing equipment, and resistance tubing
- Dental and orthodontic tubing
- Automotive tubing
- Industrial tubing
TPE Tubing from Kent Elastomer Products
KEP has years of experience manufacturing top-quality thermoplastic elastomer tubing for a wide variety of applications. We offer three different proprietary thermoplastic elastomer compounds that meet the stringent requirements of the FDA and USP. All of our TPE tubing is BPA- and phthalate-free.
Our facilities are equipped to deliver a highly customized final TPE tubing product that matches the exact specifications you’re looking for. Our experts will work with you to learn the specifics of your project’s intended use and service environment so we can deliver a final product that meets your needs. Talk to one of our experts to learn more about the advantages of thermoplastic elastomers >