What is a Thermoplastic Elastomer?

Thermoplastic elastomers 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


TPE is 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.


TPE is 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.


TPE contains no latex or latex proteins and is 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.


TPE takes 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.

What Can TPE Be Used for? 

Thermoplastic elastomers have many applications, from everyday consumer items to specialty products and behind-the-scenes processes.

The automotive industry consumes a high volume of TPE every year, and the material can be found throughout the vehicle. Tires, seals, and hoses are just a few examples of automotive components that may be made with TPE. Plus, as consumer demand grows for electric vehicles (EVs), TPE usage throughout the automotive industry is likely to increase. EVs are powered by extremely heavy batteries, and automotive OEMs are looking for ways to compensate by replacing traditional materials with lightweight alternatives, including TPE.

Similar to the automotive industry, the construction industry uses a lot of TPE for its durability and excellent sealing properties. TPE may be used in the seals around windows and doors, as well as piping throughout the home.

Many consumer products, such as shoe soles, brush handles, and baby teething toys, contain TPE. Plus, TPE’s durability and reasonable price point make it a popular choice for some unexpected applications, such as dog toys.

The food and beverage industry tends to favor TPE because it’s easy to sterilize and quite durable. Additionally, TPE is impermeable to air and moisture, providing superior protection to whatever product or substance it contains. For example, TPE tubing is commonly used to store and transport liquids.

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, and drug delivery.

TPE Tubing from Kent Elastomer Products

KEP has years of experience manufacturing top-quality thermoplastic elastomer tubing for a wide variety of applications. Our facilities are equipped to deliver a highly customized final 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 > 

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