All About Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a polymer that is made up of a chain of organic units, which are joined together by carbamate links. You’ll find that most polyurethanes do not melt when they are heated as they are thermosetting polymers, but there are also thermoplastic polyurethanes that do melt. Polyurethanes are often simply referred to as urethanes, and are usually used in the fabrication of non-flexible and high-resilience foam seating, foam insulation panels, foam seals and gaskets (microcellular), electrical potting compounds, high performance adhesives, surface coatings and sealants, carpet underlay, hoses, and hard plastic parts.

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The nature of polyurethane’s chemistry means that it can be adapted to solve challenges and problems, and to be moulded into unusual shapes with the aim being to enhance consumer and industrial products alike. You can find polyurethane being used widely in the world, and this is but a small look at some of the different uses and types of polyurethanes that you can find being used widely in commercial and home environments.

Types of Polyurethane

Flexible polyurethane foam — Flexible polyurethane foam is used to provide cushioning to a wide range of consumer and commercial products, including beds, furniture, automotive interiors and to carpet underlays. This flexible foam can be made in almost any variety and shape, and while it is firm it is also light, durable, comfortable and very supportive.

Rigid polyurethane foam — this foam is one of the world’s most popular and energy efficient insulations. You will find that this foam significantly cuts down on energy costs, while at the same time making commercial and residential properties much more comfortable and efficient.

Coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) — polyurethanes have been used widely in the coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) market very widely and offer a very broad and varied range of applications and benefits. These polyurethane coatings can enhance the appearance of a product and can also work to lengthen its effective lifespan and usefulness. There is also the option for strong bonding advantages, and polyurethane sealants provide tighter seals and can be moulded into almost any kind of shape, which makes for a strong, versatile and efficient product.

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) — the product offers a huge range of physical property combinations and possible applications for use. Its elasticity and flexibility means that it is resistant to abrasion and impact, as well as being weatherproof. You can colour the TPU or make it in a wide range of methods, and you’ll find that TPU will increase the overall durability of a product.

Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM) — the polyurethane here is used to make things like car bumpers, electrical housing panels and computer equipment — among other items — and these items are produced with polyurethane using reaction injection moulding. These products add design flexibility and this process allows manufacturers to produce parts that may not usually be achievable using a standard or typical injection moulding process, like thick or thin walled parts or foamed cores.

Binders — the polyurethane binders are generally used to adhere various kinds of fibres and particles to each other. You would usually see these being used in the manufacturing of wood panels, rubber and even elastomeric flooring surfaces and casting to be used in the foundry industry.

From looking at this it’s clear to see that polyurethane products have many types of uses, and over three-quarters of the global consumption of polyurethanes is done in the form of polyurethane foams. It’s found that flexible and rigid foams have a pretty equal share in terms of market size. In most of the cases the foams are found behind other products and provide reinforcement or cushioning.

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