by Cindy LeClair Cindy LeClair No Comments

Compare TPE vs. EPDM for sealing and insulation. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) include TPV or thermoplastic vulcanizate for tough shapes and outdoor environments.

 

Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber both provide sealing and insulation in outdoor environments. They can be molded into custom shapes or fabricated from sheets and extrusions made of sponge or solid materials. TPE and EPDM have many similar characteristics, including resistance to freshwater, saltwater, weather, ozone, and sunlight (UV). They also have good processing properties and support the use of adhesives. Pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSA) are used with EPDM. Hot melt adhesives such as 3M hot melt tape are used with TPEs.

Increasingly, thermoplastic elastomers are replacing EPDM rubber for hard-to-achieve shapes that are subject to specific temperature and application conditions. By comparing TPE vs. EPDM in terms of material properties, product designers and engineers can make the right choice. Depending on the application, materials that meet specific standards may be needed. Ease-of-processing and recyclability are also considerations. Plus, it helps to partner with an experienced provider of rubber manufacturing and plastic manufacturing services that can offer expert advice about which type of TPE to consider. 

TPE vs. EPDM: Properties and Comparisons

TPEs are blends of plastic and rubber materials that have both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. That’s why they’re sometimes called thermoplastic rubber (TPR) instead. Like a thermoplastic, TPRs soften when heated but harden when cooled. Like an elastomer, they compress under stress but return to their original shape when this stress is released. Because there are different classes of thermoplastic rubbers, choosing a TPE or TPR also means selecting a specific type.

ISO 18064:2014 establishes six classes of TPEs based on their main ingredients.

  • Styrenic block copolymers, TPS (TPE-s)
  • Thermoplastic polyolefinelastomers, TPO (TPE-o)
  • Thermoplastic Vulcanizates, TPV (TPE-v or TPV)
  • Thermoplastic polyurethanes, TPU (TPU)
  • Thermoplastic copolyester, TPC (TPE-E)
  • Thermoplastic polyamides, TPA (TPE-A)
  • Not classified thermoplastic elastomers, TPZ


TPEs are available in grades that can meet FDA, NSF, RoHS, UL 94, and other industry standards and regulatory requirements. EPDM also comes in grades that can meet standards and requirements, but EPDM rubber generally lacks the robust options of thermoplastic elastomers. Plus, EPDM can be vulcanized only once and is more labor-intensive to process. By contrast, TPEs can be recycled back into production.    

TPEs support a vibrant array of color matching options. EPDM rubber is available in fewer colors but provides greater abrasion resistance. EPDM also has a higher heat resistance than thermoplastic elastomers (160°C vs. 100°C). Compared to EPDM, however, TPEs offer greater design flexibility and lower fabrication costs for hard-to-achieve shapes. TPEs are also available in a wide array of hardness options (durometer) with good compression set.

Thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV), a type of TPE, is especially notable because of its excellent low-temperature performance and resistance to oil and flex-fatigue. EPDM rubber can resist colder outdoor temperatures but won’t withstand petroleum products and doesn’t offer flex-fatigue resistance. In addition to industrial seals, TPVs are used in the automotive, HVAC, appliance, and building and construction industries.    

In the automotive industry, applications include hose coatings, gaskets, window gaskets, vibration absorbents, and components of firing mechanisms. With architecture and construction, these materials are used for ceiling and floor decoration as well as for window glazing profiles. Other applications include office equipment and elastomeric commodities in the medical and food sectors.     

TPE vs. EPDM: Make the Right Choice

Are you comparing TPE vs. EPDM for your next project? Vip Rubber & Plastic can help you with material selection, including which type of thermoplastic rubber to use. We can provide you with the sheets and extrusions that you need and can cut or mold products for you. You’ll like our custom compounding services, too.  Click here to request a quote, or contact us to learn more about the advantages of TPEs like TPV.  

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