Teknor Apex Co. is addressing one of the great questions of the plastics materials market: What exactly is a thermoplastic elastomer?
The Pawtucket, R.I.-based materials firm recently posted a slideshow on its website describing the six different types of TPEs: TPO, TPV, SBC, TPU, COPE and COPA. The blog entry appropriately is titled TPE Alphabet Soup.
These versatile materials have found their way into countless uses in recent years. "Each project is unique, and there are key performance requirements that define what TPE family is ideal for the application," officials said on the post.
"What's a TPE?" is a question I've been asked many times over the years. In terms of frequency, it's probably second only to "How does Plastics News compile its resin prices?"
The answer to that second question, of course, is by throwing darts at a board.
For many years, I used a wonderful TPE guide that was written for the Society of Plastics Engineers by industry veteran Viv Malpass. Viv did a great job of explaining the basics of the field.
The question also takes me back to conferences hosted by Balaji Singh and Chemical Market Resources in which both polyvinyl chloride and potential PVC replacements such as TPEs were discussed in great detail. These events featured debates between such legendary researchers as Paolo Galli and Emanuel Kontos. One mention of the term "plastomer" would send Kontos off on a rant lasting at least 10 minutes.
TPEs also have been quite successful in establishing brand names, something which has proven difficult for many plastic materials. The most successful name recognition has come from Santoprene TPVs made by ExxonMobil Chemical. Lubrizol Corp.'s Estane and BASF's Elastollan TPUs also are widely known, as are Kraton SBCs from Kraton, K-Resin SBCs from Ineos Syrolution, Tritan COPEs from Eastman Chemical and Teknor's own Sarlink TPVs.
The blog post will prove useful. But can Teknor answer other questions? Circumference of the moon? If a train leaves Buffalo at 8 p.m. traveling at 80 miles an hour and one leaves Rochester at 9 p.m. traveling at 90 miles per hour…