The Growth of TPUs

Posted on: 2nd Sep 2016

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Huntsman Discusses the Crossover of TPU Applications

Chemical company explains that pace of innovation for sports and leisure goods crosses over to other sectors


Dusseldorf, Germany – The speed of material innovation needed to satisfy footwear, leisure equipment and apparel manufacturers is helping to drive forward the use of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) in new industrial applications – that was the message from the team at Huntsman, who were speaking at the K2016 preview in Dusseldorf on Tuesday 28 June.


Huntsman is a leading developer of TPU and operates across a variety of industrial and consumer markets. In the sports, leisure and apparel sector, Huntsman works closely with some of the world’s best-known brands, developing novel thermoplastic materials with specific processing and performance properties.


At K2016 in October, Huntsman’s TPU team will focus on the benefits that its products and systems can bring to the design and manufacture of everyday items – from consumer goods to highly specialized industrial applications that help to keep the world’s population active, healthy, mobile and connected. During the K2016 preview, Huntsman discussed how continuous innovation in the sports, leisure and apparel sector is driving forward the development of materials that ultimately find application elsewhere. Citing specific examples, Huntsman explained that:


  • A selection of transparent, UV stable TPUs – originally developed for the footwear sector – are now being used in the food industry to create conveyor belts that have to be resistant to UV light, which is often used to clean them
  • Super soft, elastic TPUs, used to create water bladders and inflatables for the sports equipment market, are now being used to create a new generation of smart clothing, embedded with electronics
  • The growing market for high energy return TPUs, which put an extra spring in sports shoes, will create new opportunities outside of the footwear industry – for example in resilient flooring applications and in car seating systems, where there is a need for thin, lightweight materials that are uncompromisingly comfortable
  • TPUs with anti-static properties – typically employed in the production of safety shoes – are now being used to create industrial hoses for the transportation of powders or sensitive materials such as color pigments, which can sometimes stick
  • The hardwearing characteristics of abrasion resistant TPUs – used in football boots – are being harnessed in the manufacture of heavy duty construction equipment such as whacker plates, which flatten out road and pavement surfaces
  • The use of TPUs in the 3D printing of custom-made shoes is now growing beyond the footwear industry into other application areas where there is a need for functional parts with specific performance properties.


Commenting, Craig Roberts, Marketing Manager Europe TPU at Huntsman, said: “At Huntsman, whenever we develop a new material, we think about the bigger picture; about challenges in other sectors; and if the materials we’ve developed – and their performance properties – might be transferable. Taking TPU materials, developed for the sports, leisure and apparel sector – where innovation is frequent and rapid – and adapting them for other applications, can be hugely beneficial.”


“At Huntsman, we pride ourselves on using lateral thinking and our knowledge of the material requirements of specifiers in different market sectors, to maximize the value of our TPU technologies. There are few materials that are as versatile as TPU, a fact which is underpinned by the countless examples of this innovative material cutting across different industries.”

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