Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are plastics that behave similar to conventional elastomers at room temperature, but which can deformed plastically at increasing temperatures. Normal elastomers are chemically wide-meshed crosslinked polymer chains. The crosslinks cannot be solved without decomposition of the material.
Thermoplastic elastomers have partly physical crosslinking points,
which dissolve on heating without decomposing the macromolecules. So they can be processed on thermoplastic injection molding machines to moulded parts. The easier workability and good recycling capacity is conflict with a relatively high price for TPE compounds.
In recent years, the thermoplastic elastomers have been significantly optimized in their property profiles. They are now found in many soft-touch applications, such as handles or protective casings. The replacement of the elastic rubber by a TPE material is not possible in many cases.
By crosslinking (vulcanization) of the classical elastomer you achieve mechanical and chemical resistance values that are not obtained by thermoplastic materials. Therefore, TPE compounds are not used in the manufacture of vehicle tires.