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Actega  

TPE in everyday life: a playground for designers

Wherever we look and whatever we touch, we can find products manufactured on the basis of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) – in everyday life and at every turn: your new toothbrush is easier to hold, the chopping board no longer slips and slides thanks to anti-slip features, your bike grip is multicolored and ergonomic, thereby offering added safety. And in winter in particular, many products can be found which have been manufactured with TPE compounds from the Specialty Consumer Goods segment at Actega DS – whether they are everyday aids such as ice scrapers or sports equipment like ski poles.

Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) permit cost-effective processing for a wide variety of markets while creating advantages in terms of design and product function. In fact, complex design solutions can often only be realized feasibly using TPE. Not least thanks to their haptic and aesthetic advantages, TPE have triggered a boom in new design-oriented products. Regardless of the application – kitchen items, sports goods, toys, baby items, medical technology or packaging – TPE are here to stay, whereby a clear trend toward flexible materials has emerged in the consumer goods industry in particular as well as in the areas of recreation and sports.

When buying ski poles, for example, particular attention should be given to the grip. Various materials are used for this, e.g. wood, fiberglass, aluminum, or plastic, all of which display varying degrees of hardness and grip properties as well as providing more or less insulation from cold conducted through the pole to the grip. Many manufacturers also use material mixes to combine the good properties of all materials in their respective product. The more so as manufacturers are always intent on offering skiers the best possible benefits while simultaneously improving comfort. Flexible, adhesion-reinforced and UV-resistant TPE such as the SOFT EST.® TPE portfolio offered by Actega DS represent a pleasant and non-slip grip. A safe grip and improved ergonomics can also prevent sports injuries while optional UV stabilization ensures that the color of the grip remains unchanged and its mechanical properties are retained over time. UV-stabilizing TPE filter the harmful UV light and act as free radical interceptors. This prevents a reduction in recovery or compression set, for example, which could possibly impair the function of the end product – a key aspect for skis and ski poles which are subject to higher usage under the effects of weather.

Back to everyday aids and a device which may be required on a daily basis if the winter lives up to its name and is marked by the corresponding temperatures. In such cases, it is impossible to simply dismiss the importance of an ice scraper. And here's another one: manufactured from TPE in a two-component injection-molded process – in this case, a combination of thermoplastics such as PP or ABS, and TPE. In a first step, the substrate is manufactured from the hard component in a horizontal injection unit. After turning across a vertical injection unit, the TPE component is injected to form a functional ice scraper with an ergonomic grip.

TPE seals are true classics. Having already been used in the food and beverage industry for decades, they are increasingly being deployed in the area of household items and consumer goods. For example, in bread bins and food storage boxes as well as in thermos flasks. One particularly important aspect here concerns food safety in accordance with EU 10/2011 and FDA regulations. SOFT EST.® TPE compounds from Actega DS are reusable and food-safe. Furthermore, the material displays good flow properties and demolding characteristics in injection-molding tools. And another key criterion – particularly in the consumer goods market – concerns the individual coloration properties of the TPE material.

The last few months have not been blessed with good fortune and this ill fate has recently been reinforced by a second lockdown. Once again, our lives are being determined by AHA (German acronym for space, hygiene, mask) and AHAL rules (AHA + airing), travel restrictions, quarantine, warning apps, and incidence rates. Many people have been hesitant to leave their homes, putting off doctors’ appointments, eating out or traveling, and are now obliged to do so all over again. Those who still wish to take a break need to concentrate on the few possible alternatives as determined by the EU Corona traffic light system, for example. But it is impossible to avoid coming into contact with bacteria and viruses even just by using buses, trains or planes. They can be found on dining tables, pouches on the seats in front of us, seats on trains, the buttons on drinking water dispensers, the air vents in airplanes, flush buttons on toilets, locks on toilet doors, buckles on safety belts in airplanes as well as the straps in trains. According to a study by Auburn University in Alabama, some of these bacteria can survive there for many days or even weeks. Protection is therefore of the essence and not only in the form of impeccable hygiene. Winter, in particular, is regarded as the cold and flu season and this is exactly where TPE products with microbial properties can provide optimal support, e.g. where all grips and surfaces potentially coming into contact with skin feature these antimicrobial TPE plastic compounds.

In the form of PROVAMED ®1158 AB, for example, Actega DS offers an antimicrobial TPE which combats microbes permanently. Its antimicrobial properties are achieved during the compounding process, whereby the germ-resistant effect is not restricted to the surface, but applies for the entire product. This also means that these properties are not affected by external impacts such as scratches, excessive use or wear. Extensive tests have provided evidence of lasting biocidal effectiveness for products manufactured from PROVAMED®1158 AB.