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Connector Insights from iCONN

What Is Thermoplastic Polyurethane? Is It Right For Your Application?

Posted by Rick Regole on Mon , June 12, 2017

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) belongs to the materials family known as thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). It's known for its durability, even in the most extreme environments and under the most rugged mechanical demands. Thermoplastic polyurethane offers the same elasticity as rubber, but it can be processed like a thermoplastic and recycled. 

It's important to take a close look at thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) to determine if it’s right for your application.Your cable assembly and connector design are paramount to your product’s success. Exposure to water, fire, chemicals, frequent connecting and disconnecting and extreme temperatures can destroy a cable assembly if it’s not properly shielded using the right materials. If a cable assembly fails, so will the product.

That’s why customized cable assemblies with cable jacketing are highly recommended. Cable jacketing will help protect your interconnect solution from destructive elements. Jacketing can be manufactured using a variety of materials. The type you choose will depend entirely on the application. There are many types of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which means temperature properties, pliability and electrical properties will fluctuate. When examining which type of material is right for your application, always consider the following characteristics.

 

Flexibility

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) features a high rating for flexural fatigue strength and excellent mechanical properties. Because the temperature of the application’s environment will play a significant role in flex performance, it’s also worth noting that the temperature range for TPU is -40°C to 125 °C. In other words, TPU has an excellent low-temp flex life and performs equally well in high-temp settings.

Durability

As we mentioned above, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is extraordinarily rugged, with high resistance to:

  • Oil and chemicals
  • Humidity
  • Ozone
  • UV radiation
  • Microbes
  • Wear and tear
  • Flame

Common Applications

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is the go-to overmolding material for watertight applications or products that must survive harsh environments. Thermoplastic polyurethane also features good electrical insulation up to 1,000 V (exceeding the required 108 Ohm-cm by standard ISO6722). The automotive industry is the largest consumer of TPU cables. Other industries that are most likely to use TPU include:

  • Mechanical engineering (drag cables, robotics)
  • Industrial Construction (energy cables for machines and tooling)
  • Mining
  • Medical
  • Nuclear power

Because of the cost and features associated with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), it may be too much for some simpler applications. Your best bet is to seek a professional opinion before committing to a cable assembly design. Interconnect engineers are experts at assessing applications and pairing them with the exact cable assembly and connector fit. No more, no less. To learn more, download our whitepaper, Molded Cable Assemblies: Materials in High-Temperature Applications.

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