Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are widely used in healthcare for medical devices, but can also be found in other industries, such as for interior components in the automotive industry and domestic white goods.
TPEs are used in a range of applications, including blood transfer infusion kits and other fluid delivery uses like drainage bags. Commonly used TPEs include PVC and polyurethane, which can be formed into a variety of shapes for different uses, including tubing and reinforced hosepipes.
The advantage of TPEs are that they behave like conventional rubbers, but can be easily processed using common plastic processing technologies like injection moulding, whereas rubbers need to be cured or vulcanised.
Thermoplastic elastomers can be welded but, due to the flexibility and softness of the material, many common welding processes are not suitable. The best methods for joining TPE include heated tool welding, laser welding and non-contact infrared (IR) welding.
Although not all types of welding technology are suitable for joining TPEs, welding does provide several advantages over other methods, including fast cycle times, excellent joint strengths and no need to use additional materials such as adhesives. In addition, welding allows the flexibility of the elastomer to be maintained.
TWI has a wealth of experience with welding TPEs, including process selection for medical components, feasibility trials for healthcare parts, and the optimisation and validation of welding processes for TPE part manufacture. We have also undertaken mechanical testing and optical analysis of TPE welds, along with X-ray computed tomography analysis of TPE parts.
Contact us, below, to see how we can help you with your thermoplastic elastomer welding needs.