WEB EXCLUSIVE: A new thermoplastic urethane with shape memory has been developed by Bayer MaterialScience (U.S. office in Pittsburgh) together with the BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin, Germany.

Click Image to Enlarge

WEB EXCLUSIVE: A new thermoplastic urethane with shape memory has been developed by Bayer MaterialScience (U.S. office in Pittsburgh) together with the BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin, Germany. The new TPU shape-memory polymer is designated Desmopan DP 2795A SMP. Parts made of this resin can be temporarily reshaped with heat and cooled to hold the new shape. When heating to the “switching temperature” of about 40 C (104 F), the TPU “remembers” its original shape and returns to it virtually unchanged. Bayer envisions potential applications in automotive, aerospace, toys, textiles, and sports and leisure products. For example, it might be possible to repair damaged or deformed automotive body parts with something as simple as a hair dryer. Other possibilities are remote temperature sensors, artificial muscles, hinges, self-loosening screws, packaging, and shrink tubing.

Bayer and the BAM recently submitted a patent application for a possible use in the area of functional film tunnels and self-erecting structures. Film tunnels in a field act like greenhouses and accelerate growth of vegetables so they can be harvested faster than if left under th open sky. While it is easy to lay flat films on a field, erecting a tunnel with films can be time-consuming and costly. However, supporting profiles made of the new SMP-TPU could be temporarily deformed to a flat shape and fastened to the transparent film. Then when brought into the field, the profiles could be heated to the switching temperature, causing them to spring back into their original bent shape and pop up to form a half-tunnel, lifting the films with them. The mini-greenhouses are then ready for use.

Another promising opportunity could be in product and brand protection. The BAM has used the new TPU to develop labels with engraved and colored quick-response (QR) codes. These codes can only be read if the labels are in their permanent shape. But the labels could be deformed and affixed to products, thereby storing information to mark and identify products n a way that is very difficult to counterfeit. The German Ministry of Education and Research is funding the project for labels with switchable readability.