CHICAGO — The thermoplastic elastomer business at Teknor Apex Co. is growing in leaps and bonds.
The Pawtucket, R.I.-based firm introduced its new line of Tekbond TPEs at Plastics USA, held Oct. 6-8 in Chicago. The materials, based on styrenic block copolymers, are designed to be overmolded directly onto most rigid thermoplastics for ``soft-touch'' grips and multicomponent parts.
Unlike other TPEs, the Tekbond line easily can be overmolded onto dissimilar engineering plastics, such as polycarbonate and nylon.
``Overmolded products represent an emerging new market for TPEs and a new variation for design engineers,'' said TPE marketing manager Phil Morin.
Potential Tekbond applications include overmolding on small appliances, power tools, personal-care products, hand tools, lawn and garden tools and writing instruments. In those and other applications, Teknor officials said, Tekbond offers consumer comfort, safety, energy absorption, slip resistance and vibration dampening.
Tekbond's ability to adhere to a variety of engineered materials is important because it will allow molders to streamline their material management, Morin said.
``Rather than go rifle-shot to one TPE that's compatible with nylon and one that's compatible with polycarbonate, a molder can go with one,'' he said. ``With this product-design flexibility, you can make a material change very quickly.''
Teknor Apex also is working on moving TPEs into soft-touch housings for small appliances and high-performance gaskets. Additionally, the company is in preliminary supply discussions with an engineering resin maker, according to Vice President Bertram Lederer.
Lederer declined to identify the other company, saying nothing was official as of Oct. 7.
Officials also declined to say whether the Tekbond materials are made with Kraton-brand styrenic block copolymer technology licensed from Shell Chemical Co.
Teknor Apex has the capability to make Tekbond products at compounding facilities in Pawtucket and Brownsville, Tenn., as well as at QST Inc., its recently acquired TPE business in St. Albans, Vt.
Tekbond TPEs are off-white in natural grades and can be colored easily. The materials are expected to sell for about $3.50 per pound.
Styrenic block copolymers are the largest-volume segment of the TPE market, with North American demand expected to increase 7 percent annually to a total of 660 million pounds in 2000, according to industry estimates.
Overall TPE growth is expected to rise at the same pace, reaching totals of 1.4 billion pounds and $4 billion in sales in 2000.