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If you were asked what is polyurethane you may well have a succinct answer. We throw the spotlight on some lesser-known facts about this highly versatile and prolifically used polymer.

Polyurethane now plays a massive role in everyday life – featuring in everything from cushions to aircraft. It’s also a much-favoured substance for moulding manufacturing and engineering parts and components to enable the ‘wheels of industry to keep turning’. In fact, it’s literally used for wheels, runners and stops!

Yet sometimes Polyurethane is still a bit of a mystery.

To help illuminate this increasingly valuable synthetic substance, here are ten facts about polyurethane that may well surprise you.

1. It was developed in WW2 to replace rubber

Polyurethane can be shortened to either PUR or PU, and its inventor was Professor Otto Bayer (1902-1982), often referred to as the “father” of the polyurethanes industry.

During the second world war, rubber was scarce, and this new organic polymer was the perfect alternative. It was used for everything from mustard gas resistant clothing to high-gloss aeroplane finishes.

2. Foam versions came in the 1950s

By the mid-1950s polyurethane was being mass-produced to use as a coating, adhesive and rigid foam. In the same decade, the option to vary its composition to create a soft foam was discovered. This led to its use in the construction of all sorts of seats and cushioning components, and ultimately to its popularity as a low-cost polyether polyol for use in contemporary upholstery and automotive applications.

3. Polyurethane can be impenetrable, even against heat

What is polyurethane made of? It’s a combination of polymers (which have a long chain of molecules) and urethane (which is a manmade synthetic crystalline). When mixed, they bond in a way that even makes them heat, energy and moisture resistant.

4. It has a unique ability to be in any form

There really is nothing like PU when it comes to versatility and by varying its mix and moulding it can take on a vast range of forms. This includes everything from liquids and foams, to super-strength parts that defy immense pressure and constant friction.

5. Stable Polyurethane is safe and environmentally-sound

Many of the uses of polyurethane are linked to creating parts for machinery and to reinforce processes such as rollers for conveyor lines. However, when it is mixed to be a stable material and dried properly, polyurethane is safe enough to use in everyday situations in your home too.

Even under environmental pressures, the stable versions release no toxins and or smells. Polyurethane does not alter PH in soil or water either. Though it is recommended that it is not used to mould eating implements, and the liquid form is highly poisonous.

6. Polyurethane protects electronics and electricals

This is possibly one of the less obvious ways to use polyurethane. The most obvious applications are solid and substantial forms of PU. This includes the exterior casings or covers of electrical items. However, it can be mixed and moulded to seal and insulate even the most fragile of components, including delicate wiring. So, it could be used as electronic instrument bezels as well as forming a protective exterior.

7. You might be wearing polyurethane at the gym!

One superb illustration of just how versatile polyurethane comes in the form of human exercise. Gym equipment often incorporates PU moulded guards, stops or wheels. However, you might also be wearing clothes made of spandex, which is a highly elasticated type of polyurethane mix!

8. Polyurethane is revolutionising construction

The creative manufacturers of polyurethane products are constantly finding new ways to mould its strongest and most dense form into highly energy-efficient construction materials. PU can be used to create seals and insulation products that herald ever-more sustainable buildings, such as rigid foam insulation panels.

9. Polyurethane is a great binding agent

Various types of particles and fibres can be bound together using polyurethane. A great example of this is rebound carpet underlay. In some cases, a form of this incredibly versatile material is used to manufacture foam. Another form binds scrap pieces of that foam together to produce the protective and insulating material that goes under carpets.

10. Medical applications are expanding

One application of polyurethane may particularly surprise you. It is commonly used to manufacture medical instruments and fittings, including items for hospitals such as catheter tubing, surgical drapes, wound dressings and bedding.

Will polyurethane be best for your project?

These facts about polyurethane show just how widely it is used, and in so many different forms!

Which leads to the question, can PU create the part you need for your project? Contact Custom Moulded Polyurethane as ‘the fact is’ that this is a universal solution to match any industrial need.