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Glass Bubbles Lightweight New TPE Compounds

Glass Bubbles Lightweight New TPE Compounds
Foam-free and extremely lightweight weight-saving thermoplastic elastomers target sophisticated components with enhanced surface finish.

Kraiburg TPE has developed technology that enables the production of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) with very low density without the use of foaming. The new Thermolast grades incorporate glass bubbles supplied by 3M and are available with densities of between 0.7 and 0.9 g/cm³. Target applications for the new material include automotive and power tools.

Kraiburg TPE’s innovative new technology for thermoplastic elastomers with very low material density allows the production of lightweight thin-walled moldings by injection molding and extrusion that provide excellent surface quality and are able to withstand mechanical loads. (Image: © 2020 KRAIBURG TPE)

To further reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles and to improve the fuel economy and range of new models, automobile manufacturers are always looking for extremely lightweight solutions – particularly for unsprung weight in and on their vehicles. But lower weight and increased mobility also play a decisive role for the market success of products in other sectors such as power tools, aviation, drones, textiles, as well as sports, leisure and outdoor items.

Expandable materials including TPE are therefore often used, but they require strict process control procedures to achieve an even surface quality without surface waviness. In contrast, Kraiburg TPE’s glass bubble-based compounds allow the production of extremely lightweight thin-walled moldings that provide excellent surfaces and are able to withstand mechanical loads.

The microscopically small hollow glass bubbles are made of chemically stable borosilicate glass that is insoluble in water. They spread evenly in the TPE matrix and help increase the dimensional stability.

The new lightweight TPEs can be processed cost-effectively using established injection-molding machines and extruders. In addition to significant weight savings and very homogeneous surfaces, they also provide excellent compression set values. Production waste can be recycled directly.

Kraiburg TPE is initially offering three specific series of the world’s first TPEs of this type:

  • Thermolast K LW/UV (lightweight + UV resistance) specifically for exterior vehicle components.
  • Thermolast K LW/CS/UV (lightweight + increased compression set + UV stability) with excellent resilience and adhesion to polypropylene, making this product series particularly suitable for various sealing applications.
  • Thermolast K LW/PA (lightweight + adhesion to polyamides), also with HB nonflammability classification in accordance with UL94; ideal for power tools, for example.

“3M Glass Bubbles have been tried and tested as weight-saving fillers in various ‘hard’ thermoplastics, but our new lightweight technology is using them in TPEs for the first time,” emphasizes Martina Hetterich, Project Manager Advance Development at Kraiburg TPE. “Thanks to the collaboration with our partner 3M, we have been able to develop formulations that not only meet current lightweight construction and quality requirements, but also open up completely new markets for the commercial use of our TPEs.”

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