Published December 2014
Thermoplastic polyamide elastomers (PAE, TPA, TPE-A, PEBA, COPA) are high-performance thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) block copolymers, based on nylon and polyethers or polyesters. PAEs consist of alternating hard and soft segments joined by amide linkages. They are used mainly in areas where other thermoplastic elastomers cannot compete or perform, especially at lower temperature. Moreover, PAEs can be processed by usual melt-processing techniques, such as injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, rotational molding and thermoforming.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of thermoplastic polyamide elastomers:
Thermoplastic polyamide elastomers compete with other elastomers, such as thermoplastic polyurethanes, thermoplastic copolyester elastomers and (thermoplastic) silicones. PAE has superior characteristics: very low density (lightweight) among thermoplastic elastomers, superior mechanical and dynamic properties (flexibility, impact resistance, energy return, fatigue resistance) even at low temperatures (below –40°C), good chemical and abrasion resistance, UV resistance, transparency (some grades), tolerance to high service temperatures (up to 200°C), good barrier properties (some grades), great antistatic properties, and are free of volatile or migrating plasticizers. The most common polyamide elastomers are PA12-block-PTMEG polymers.
Applications for thermoplastic polyamide elastomers include sporting and leisure goods, automotive parts, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment, polymer modification (for example, as an antistatic additive), wire and cable jacketing and tubing, medical applications and miscellaneous consumer products.
The European region continues to be the largest producer and consumer of PAEs, as well as the largest exporter. European exports are mainly destined to Asia. World consumption of PAE is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3–4% during 2014–2019, driven by fast growth in China and Other Asia/Pacific. Major end uses that will enable this growth include sporting goods, electrical/electronics and automotive parts.