The technical coated-fabrics that are used to construct inflatable boat bladders require strength, flexibility, wear resistance, puncture resistance, and, of course, ease in welding and handling, among other attributes. Most modern, certified options are nylon or polyester fabrics coated with either Hypalon (CSM), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), or Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). However, TPU-coating dominates the market for good reasons. Let’s explore a few.
TPU as a Manufacturing Material
Discovered in 1937 by Otto Bayer in Leverkusen, Germany, TPU as a textile-coating elastomer is fully thermoplastic, i.e., elastic and melt-processable. It has properties between the characteristics of plastic and rubber. So, it is flexible without plasticizers, and its flexibility does not affect the design or its strength and durability. TPU can meet a broad range of manufacturers’ needs because it is easily colored, and slit. And, it is readily customized to gain advantages in desired material characteristics. This includes using additives that can increase UV, fungal, and hydrolysis resistance, increase dimensional stability and flame retardancy.
Superior Material Characteristics
While there are innumerable polymers on the market and each has its strengths, TPU coatings offer superior performance in many areas. For example, though PVC technology is advancing every day, TPU is still more abrasion resistant and is lighter and more elastic than PVC. TPU offers a long list of other characteristics that make it worth the slight bump in price point (over PVC) that the material commands, including:
|· Abrasion resistance||· High strength and high tear strength|
|· Excellent bending strength||· High flexibility and high softness|
|· Strong tensile strength||· Low compression deformation|
|· Large elongation break||· Low long-term deformation rate|
|· Resistance to O2 and ozone||· Chemical Resistance|
Characteristics Important to Inflatable Boats
TPU-coated fabrics are waterproof and stand up longer to harsh weather and marine conditions, and maintain their flexibility, even in low temperatures. Aliphatic TPU, in contrast to aromatic TPU, holds its color over time even with the constant UV exposure that is expected in boating applications, and will not yellow over time. Erez uses only aliphatic TPU coating for boating applications.
TPU is easy to print on, too. So, all required stamps, logos and markings can easily be printed on the product by the boat manufacturer.
The TPU Gold Standard
All of this means that inflatable boats manufactured with TPU-coated materials will exhibit superior field and test performance, making them a popular choice.
With over 30 years of experience, Erez is a world leader in the manufacturer of boat bladder fabric, supplying most manufacturers in Europe. To learn more about TPU and other coated fabrics and explore the best coated textiles for your boating – or other – application, schedule a call now with one of our technical textile experts.