In the manufacturing industry, you may have heard the terms "urethane" and "polyurethane" used interchangeably, however, they are actually two different materials.
So, what's the difference between urethane and polyurethane?
It all boils down to the slight differences in their chemical formulas and toxicity levels. These differences determine their usability for certain purposes.
The scientific name for urethane is ethyl urethane or ethyl carbamate.
It's created by reacting isocyanate and polyol. Isocyanates have a low molecular weight and are highly reactive, making them perfect for use in coatings, foams, and fibers. Polyols, on the other hand, have different uses depending on their viscosity, temperature, and polarity.
Polyurethane is a relatively non-toxic polymer when compared to urethane. However, it is also made up of isocyanates and polyols that are linked together by urethanes.
The urethanes in polyurethane are linked by polymerization, which occurs when small monomers combine to make a larger one (a polymer). These monomers can be made up of either differing or similar compounds.
Typically, over 100 are combined to create the viscosity, elasticity, tensile strength, and other vital properties needed for certain products.
Polyurethane behaves like a combination of plastic and rubber. It is harder and more durable than rubber, but more flexible than plastic. This makes it stronger and more resistant to impact than plastic or rubber.
Polyurethane also remains stable when it’s exposed to chemicals, oil, and water. It can be manufactured in a variety of colors, is incredibly resilient, and maintains its shape over time. It also has incredible bonding properties, making it the ideal material for bonding to plastic and metal.
What are the main differences between urethane and polyurethane
The first (and most obvious) difference between urethane and polyurethane is in the name itself.
Because "poly" means "many," polyurethanes are essentially full of many urethane compounds/groups.
Urethane, on the other hand, is its own chemical group. It can be either rigid or soft, giving it a range of different uses that polyurethane is not suited for. For example, insecticides and pesticides.
Polyurethane's rigidity makes it better for use in solid products, such as assembly line parts and rollers. As a thermoset polymer, it also does not have a melting point, making it able to withstand extreme temperatures.
At Mark Tool & Rubber Co, Inc., we specialize in manufacturing custom urethane and polyurethane products including pipeline supports, pipe spacers, rollers, forklift pads, towline protectors, and more. We've been in business for over 50 years and have the experience and expertise to get the job done right. Contact us today to request a quote.