Important Facts about Urethane Sheets: Applications, Benefits, and More
For several years now, urethane has become one of the leading materials of choice when it comes to industrial applications that are driven by performance. There are many reasons why, including the fact that urethane exhibits remarkable mechanical and physical qualities that other materials cannot seem to match.
Urethane is known for being particularly resistant to tearing, cutting, and abrasion. But that is not all; it is praised for its tremendous flexibility as well. Polyurethanes vary in durometers or hardness, and they also come in different densities. This means that the completed urethane components can be as tender as gum or as solid as a bowling ball.
Urethane vs. Other Materials
Compared to other materials, such as rubber, metal, plastic, neoprene, and silicone, urethane consistently shows that it has a longer life. This, therefore, translates to reduced costs in labor, fewer replacements of parts, and less downtime for the equipment.
Needless to say, the most efficient designs start with the use of the right materials. If a person is looking to build an assembly or a component that lasts longer, performs better, and is sure to have conductive properties, urethane is the material to go for.
Urethane Sheets and Their Properties
The main use of urethane sheets is to decrease wear from materials that are abrasive. The sheets come with different backings or support and wear characteristics. Also known as urethane film, these sheets are ideal for people who want to produce inexpensive parts with defined thickness compared to the traditional methods of molding.
In many applications, just one urethane sheet can yield almost a thousand parts, make it a valuable way to create replacement OEM parts but with better quality. The sheets are quite popular for customers with a project whose key component is to resist abrasion or chemicals. It is therefore important to choose best in class urethane from a reliable supplier that should be able to provide choices for:
- Hardness or durometer
Sizes (both standard and custom sizes should be available)
Thickness (standard and custom)
Formulas for dry and wet application that are approved by the FDA
- Can be bonded to different surfaces
The sheets should be manufactured with precise tolerances or within +/- .010". The standard sizes may vary, but it often starts at 12” x 12” while the thickness of the sheets may be anywhere from 1/16" up to 3/8".
More Reasons Why Urethane Components are Important to Industrial Applications
For decades, urethane components, including urethane sheets, have become the best choice for various industrial applications. As mentioned, the material offers properties that cannot be compared easily when it comes to its physical and mechanical attributes. Truthfully, urethane can be devised to become stronger, lighter, quieter, faster, and cheaper than other materials. Its biggest asset is probably its potential for various formulations to make it more flexible and resistant to cutting, abrasion, and wear.
There are many other qualities and traits of urethane components, but some are more valuable to applications in the industry. The following benefits and uses solidify the importance of the material when it comes to the infrastructure of the country:
- It can resist ozone. A urethane sheet can resist ozone, which makes it useful for long-term applications. There have been tests where ozone levels have reached over 1,000 PPM and yet polyurethane received high marks, which denotes that it can resist ozone’s effects. Ozone is a forceful oxidant, meaning it can damage materials after exposure for a specific period of time. There will be visible cracks in softer materials, such as rubber, while there will be gradual oxidation for materials like metals which are harder. Polyurethane, on the other hand, has the ability to withstand the effects of ozone, so it is the ideal material to use particularly since it can be exposed directly to air and outside elements. This is why urethane is used for weather-proof seals, coatings, and gaskets among others.
- It can resist corrosion. Most of the time, exposure to chemicals is inevitable. In this case, there needs to be a material that can resist chemical corrosion. Urethane has several formulations available, which allows the material to be chemical resistant. One common application that requires this property is a slush pump, which is used in petroleum engineering. The mentioned pump is for circulating drilling fluid and therefore it requires high levels of resistance to chemicals so as to avoid corrosion. The slush pump’s propeller can be coated in polyurethane, which can provide the metal structure within with protection. In turn, this results in extension of the life of the pump, while minimizing the need for replacement or repair.
- It can resist fungi, mold, and mildew. For those who have helped renovate a bathroom, they have come in contact with one of the popular applications of urethane. The material presents the ability to resist fungi, mildew, and mold quite impressively. A foaming liquid, which is one of the formulations of urethane, known as caulk, is used to fill the gaps between surfaces. For instance, in wet environments such as swimming pools and bathrooms, caulking is needed to seal walls and different seams to prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and fungi between the spaces. The use of this urethane component in bathrooms is responsible as to why this part of the house is easy to clean. Plus, without urethane, both swimming pools and bathrooms would be too moldy and therefore would be unsafe environments.
The potential is endless. The many urethane formulations allow the material to be used in various applications. There are everyday benefits that people may not even notice. For instance, because it is resistant to abrasion, urethane can outwear metals and plastics. This is why it ideal for use in machine mounts and wheels. Urethane also has a superb electrical insulating capability, which makes a urethane sheet ideal for cable harnesses and molded wire, which are utilized in electrical assemblies. Urethane components, such as urethane sheeting, could work in various applications. With various formulations, it is no wonder that this innovation offers numerous uses in a variety of industries.
Preparing for a Urethane Supplier
Discussing with a urethane supplier is important to the success of the application of the material. It is likely that during the process of creating or developing a product, a customer typically has considered what to say to the company he wants to work with. To have a fast turnaround time when contacting polyurethane manufacturers, the following information should be ready:
- The environment the material will be in – It is a simple piece of information, but many customers forget that there are unseen forces in the environment in which the sheets will be used in, such as moisture and humidity. These forces can have a huge impact on the machines of the manufacturers, which is why this particular information should be provided by the customer. Oftentimes, this also helps to know whether the company will use ether for humid environments or an ester for dryer surroundings.
- The purpose of the sheets – This piece of information should be provided by the customer so that the polyurethane suppliers will be able to shape the entire process of creating the urethane component. It is helpful to provide the details as to where the sheets will be used and what they will be used for. More specifically, the customer should provide information as to whether or not the sheets will be exposed to high temperatures.
- The medium – The information provided by the client regarding the medium the sheets will be subjected to will have a direct effect on the urethane’s formulation that is being produced. For example, if the sheets will be used on business machines such as a printer, the medium is typically ink and other chemicals. Custom urethanes are generally polymers; this means other chemicals can affect them, especially after long periods of time from everyday use. If the customer is specific about this, the materials that will be used for the roller of the printer will be customized so as to produce a product that will last longer despite the everyday exposure to that medium.
- Estimated life – Manufacturers want to know the estimated life of the equipment where the sheets will be used. This way, they can develop the sheets with a lifespan that corresponds to the average life of the machine. It is just like a tire on a car, since it is not wise to put new 80,000 mile tires on a 20-year-old Chevy. Providing this simple piece of information can help the manufacturers formulate a urethane component that will last as long as the machine of the client.
Choosing a Urethane Supplier
As with preparing for the manufacturing process, choosing from polyurethane manufacturers is also crucial. With so many choices available, it can be quite confusing as to which company to go for. Here are some tips on how to pick the suitable option:
- Expertise: This is something that does not just fall into the laps of any company. It comes with hard work over the years, where serving a variety of clients from different industries can help in achieving this trait. The company should have the passion to innovate and set industry standards while developing cutting edge processing technologies and new formulations.
- Quality Assurance: The company should stand by a firm commitment to produce only high-quality products. Quality definitely starts when they discuss with their clients regarding their specific requirements. It is common knowledge that every client is unique with different needs. Therefore, each application has its own specifications and the suppliers should take time in getting to know each and every detail possible. This way, producing an end product that will make the clients happy will be easy to attain.
- Ability to Handle Any Size of the Project: Other suppliers may not be willing to work on a huge project, especially those with time constraints. A good company should be able to handle any size of the project, which can give the customers flexibility in terms of customizing the smallest and largest components and parts.
Of course, a good manufacturing company should be able to provide high-quality custom sheets for their clients, such as:
- Precision Cast Polyurethane Sheeting: There are different ways to make this type of custom urethane film, but one unique method is through the use rotational force. This method allows for the most challenging tolerances and there are no secondary processes involved whatsoever. The latter is essential in creating inexpensive replacement OEM parts. Although the specifications and sizes may vary, it is common to find precision cast polyurethane sheeting that is 20’’ by 70’’ long. The tolerance is normally within the range of +/-.010 on sheet thickness up to ½’’.
- Precision Sheets: The sheets are cast with the use rotational force to meet even the most demanding tolerances. This type of custom urethane film is recommended for applications with high demand and therefore whose requirements cannot be met by materials, such as normal rubber. Because this also does not require any secondary process, creating replacements for OEM parts has become more affordable.
- Urethane Sheet Stock: In this type of custom sheets, customers can expect high-performance cast products that use urethane as the material. The sheet stock should be available in various dimensions and as much as possible, have excellent lead times.
- Precision Cast Sheets: The specifications are similar to that of the precision cast polyurethane sheeting. This custom sheet though may use water jets and will be able to yield about a thousand parts for inexpensive creation of replacement OEM parts.
Popular sheet sizes are typically available from the suppliers’ stocks, but some clients require sheets that are custom molded. In this case, the compound, size, and color should be available upon request. As for the hardness range, the standard will depend on the company. However, it is normal to see 45 Shore ‘A’ durometer as the minimum to 60 Shore durometer as the maximum.
As for the colors, tan is often the primary color, although red, black, yellow, and even “unpigmented” or natural colors may also be available. Customers should also be aware of FDA food handling, which should be met by the sheets that will be ordered especially if the urethane sheet will be used as a contact surface for dry and wet food.
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