FAQ - Elastomer Definitions, Products, & Compounds | KEP

Elastomer Compounds

What is TPE?

TPE stands for thermoplastic elastomer. Thermoplastic elastomers combine some of the best qualities of rubber and plastics: TPE exhibits the desirable flexibility and soft feel of rubber, with the fast and inexpensive processing of plastics, requiring no curing or vulcanization.

Thermoplastic elastomers have many excellent properties, including:

  • Resistance to heat and chemical exposure.
  • Elasticity, flexibility, and elongation.
  • Tensile strength and tear resistance.

Additionally, TPE is latex-free, easy to sterilize, and has great cleanliness properties. These particular attributes make it a popular choice for medical and surgical applications, as well as the food and beverage industry.

Learn more about TPE > 

What products are latex-free?

Virtually any product that can be made with synthetic compounds—in other words, materials other than natural rubber latex—can be made latex-free. Latex-free compounds are especially popular for medical tubing, surgical tubing, tourniquets, and other healthcare products that come into contact with the skin while in use. This is to reduce the risk of exposing a person with a latex allergy or sensitivity to the latex proteins found in natural rubber latex. Latex-free options present no risk to these individuals.

What is the difference between TPE & TPU?

Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) are actually a subset of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), so these two materials have quite a few similarities. TPE and TPU share many desirable properties, including flexibility, elasticity, clarity, and colorability, and both maintain their structural integrity during reprocessing, which makes them more recyclable in a production environment. Additionally, TPE and TPU are both popular in a few key industries, including the automotive and medical device industries.

There are a few key differences between TPE and TPU. TPE has been around a few years longer than TPU and is softer to the touch, lighter, and more flexible. Additionally, while both materials are recyclable, recycling TPE is marginally easier. TPU is superior to TPE in terms of resistance to extreme temperatures, abrasion, ozone, oils, grease, and chemicals. TPU also boasts a more impressive load-bearing capacity.

Because of these differences between TPE and TPU, TPE is slightly more popular for medical applications and household items, especially soft products such as handles and toys for children and babies. TPU is in demand for more rugged applications, such as high-pressure tubing, protective casings, automotive components, and more.

Read more about the difference between TPE and TPU > 

Is rubber an elastomer?

Yes, rubber is an elastomer.

An elastomer is broadly defined as a rubber-like solid with a few key attributes:

  • Elastomers are composed of long, chainlike molecules.
  • Elastomers recover their original dimensions, size, and shape after being stretched.

These attributes are a large part of what differentiates elastomers from plastics.

Because elastomers are largely defined by their properties, not their origins, the term “elastomer” can refer to both synthetic and natural materials. For example, both natural rubber latex and synthetic polyisoprene are classified as elastomers.

It’s worth noting that while all rubbers are vulcanized, not all elastomers are vulcanized. Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) is a great example of a non-vulcanized elastomer. So, while all rubbers are elastomers, not all elastomers are vulcanized rubber.


What is Elastomer Tubing used for?

Elastomer tubing has an incredibly wide variety of applications, spanning a range of industries. Some examples include:

  • Food and beverage tubing. Elastomer tubing may be used to dispense food and beverage products, such as ketchup, nacho cheese, or coffee creamer.
  • Sports and leisure tubing. A prime example is resistance tubing used for exercise, slingshots and launching systems, and even speargun tubing.
  • Medical and surgical tubing. Wound drainage, drug delivery, and other fluid pathway tubing is often made from elastomer materials, as is the tubing used in peristaltic pumps. Dental and orthodontic practices may also use elastomer tubing.
  • Laboratory tubing. Elastomer tubing is often used to connect glassware and laboratory equipment, everywhere from classrooms and universities to clean rooms and production laboratories. Elastomer tubing is also suitable for chromatography.

What types of medical tubing are available?

Many varieties of tubing used in healthcare settings are made with elastomer materials. This includes:

  • Medical tubing, such as the tubing used in blood pressure cuffs and peristaltic pumps.
  • Surgical tubing, such as drug delivery system tubing, wound drainage tubing, and fluid pathway tubing.
  • Dental and orthodontic tubing, such as suction tubing, handpiece tubing, and saliva ejector tubing.

Most medical tubing must be made with materials that meet FDA and USP requirements. Depending on the application, medical tubing may also be required to be free of phthalates, DEHP, and BPA. Kent Elastomer Products is proud to offer a variety of high-quality compounds that meet these stringent requirements.

About Kent Elastomer Products

What types of Custom Orders are available?

Kent Elastomer Products can customize many different specifications of elastomer tubing, including the compound, size, length, inner and outer diameter, number of openings, and color of the tubing. Depending on your needs, we may be able to customize our elastomer compounds.

Our thermoplastic elastomer tubing can also be thermally welded and heat sealed or crimped. This is an excellent customization option for products that must remain sterile during transportation.

KEP also offers extensive customization options at the packaging and shipping stage. We can cut elastomer tubing to custom lengths and ship in boxes or on convenient dispensing reels, depending on how you plan to use and distribute the product. We also offer custom labeling and shipping options on site, saving you the hassle of coordinating shipment to a separate facility for those services.

How do I contact KEP?

At KEP, we strive to be as accessible as possible to our customers. You can reach us however you want, depending on how you prefer to communicate. You can:

  • Call us at 800-331-4762.
  • Send us an email at sales@kentelastomer.com.
  • Send us snail mail at PO Box 668, Kent, OH 44240.
  • Fill out the contact form here.
  • Come say hello at a show or expo. Follow us on LinkedIn to see where we’re headed next.

Learn more about Biopharmaceutical Tubing from Kent Elastomer Products.