What is a Polyurethane Composed Of?

Polyurethane is an environmentally-friendly plastic material that exists in products all around us every day.

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It can take various liquid, foam or solid forms, some rigid and some flexible. It can act in place of metal, wood, rubber, cotton or paint in thousands of completely varied applications. As it shows up in a variety of end-user items to make our lives more comfortable and convenient, the uses of polyurethane are seemingly endless. Just a few products with the material include:

  • furniture cushions
  • building insulation
  • refrigerator and freezer insulation
  • mattresses
  • toys
  • shoe soles
  • sportswear
  • composite wood panels
  • airplane wings
  • vehicle parts
  • varnishes
  • adhesives

The Different Forms of Polyurethane

First invented in the 1940s, polyurethane has become a modern and safe material that can take many forms in order to meet any number of specific requirements. Contemporary technology continues to adapt the material to fit our constant inventions. The current forms are:

  • Thermoplastics: This version of polyurethane resembles other kinds of plastic, fiberglass or metal and has a rigid and smooth appearance and feeling. The surface is sealed and impermeable to water. In applications that need strong, resilient, durable components, this is an ideal material.
  • Elastomers: The elements of this polyurethane make it an ideal component for items that need to absorb shock like dolly wheels or stay soft like the material in cushions. Elastomer polyurethane has elastic properties, but still maintains some of its rigidity. Construction applications often use it as a foam insulator. It has a structural memory, which means it can deform and still maintain its starting shape.
  • Liquids: As a true testament to its versatility, polyurethane can show up as an oil- or water-based varnish or adhesive in addition to its other forms. As a varnish, it seals wood, metal and paint surfaces to protect them from decay processes like corrosion, rot and fading. Applied as an adhesive, it can resist moisture, heat and other elements so that the product can be underwater or in the sun with minimal damage. The two main types of liquid polyurethane are:
  • Solvent-based: Also called oil-based, this type is less eco-friendly, but resists wear and tear more. It is more durable and can handle heat. It adds a slight color where applied. For safety, always use a respirator in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when working with this type of polyurethane.
  • Water-based: Environmentally friendly and safer than the solvent-based version, this type has little odor and low toxicity. It goes on clear without any color, and it dries faster than oil-based polyurethane. It doesn’t hold up well to heat, chemicals or water, but works for any furniture, flooring or other product that will not be exposed to outside conditions frequently.

W.N. Shaw & Co. for Polyurethane Mold Release Agent

W.N. Shaw & Co. is a chemical specialty company based in the United States. We specialize in bringing companies high-quality mold release agents for polyurethane molding. To learn more about our products and find a release solution right for you, contact us right away.