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Setting the pace for the future

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 27 April, 2004  (Company News)
Optimum design freedom and enhanced comfort combined with low weight - these increasingly important shoe features can only be achieved through the use of quality polymer materials. The versatile polyurethanes have earned a particularly good reputation.
The polyurethane manufacturer with the world's greatest store of experience in the development and use of these artificial materials, Leverkusen-based Bayer MaterialScience AG, will once again be represented at SIMAC 2004, where it will be exhibiting its full product portfolio of tailor-made polyurethane raw materials and systems for the shoe industry. Under the motto 'Always one step Ahead', the focus of its trade show presence this year will be on important developments in the polyether and polyester polyurethanes in the Bayflex® family, the thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) of the Desmopan® range and the polyurethane raw materials for polyurethane leather.

For example, the polyurethane midsole material Bayflex® lightweight has been significantly improved and optimized for cost-effective direct soling and other applications. The superior material characteristics of the polyurethanes mean that they are now a serious rival to ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The density of this polyester polyurethane can be as low as 200 grams per liter, significantly below that of comparable polyurethane sole materials. Bayflex® lightweight continues to offer the outstanding shock absorption typical of polyurethane and excellent resilience. Despite the low density, it displays lower setting loss than EVA and has much softer shock absorption properties over a long period of time.

The long life of the sole material is another key element in the development work of Bayer material researchers. Bayflex® longlast is a polyester polyurethane that has been designed primarily for manufacturing safety shoes and stands out from standard-grade polyurethanes thanks to its greatly increased lifespan. The new material, in which the natural aging reactions have been slowed down significantly, is suitable both for manufacturing soles using the casting process and for highly productive direct soling. Adhesion to other sole materials such as rubber, TPU and leather is as good as ever, meaning that here too an additional bonding stage is unnecessary. In terms of its physical properties, too, the new material is on a par with 'simple' polyester polyurethanes.

Until now, solid sole materials have frequently been used for producing particularly robust footwear. The use of polyurethane integral foam already makes a marked contribution to weight reduction. Bayer MaterialScience has now made further significant progress in this development. Soles made from the new polyurethane sole material Bayflex® Integral Plus have a thick 'skin' up to two millimeters thick only where it is really needed - on the underside. The additive responsible for this effect can be added in paste form to the other components of the polyurethane sole mixture. It is also suitable for use in polyester polyurethanes and polyether polyurethanes and can naturally also be utilized for direct soling.

Bayer MaterialScience AG has also made significant progress in the field of thermoplastic polyurethanes. For example, new plasticizer-free varieties of Desmopan® can now be combined with ether polyurethanes in the midsole to achieve even better results. And avoiding using plasticizers should even pay off when it comes to safety shoes, as premature brittleness of the sole material resulting from the migration of plasticizer is prevented. Bayer MaterialScience also has plans to offer an anti-static variant for this particular market.

The Desmopan® product family can now also offer transparent aromatic types of TPU, excellent abrasion resistance and aliphatic lightfast product versions which are suitable for producing all types of sports and leisure shoes. The new aliphatic polyether TPUs are lightfast and can therefore be produced in bright, fashionable colors. They also combine low density, high elasticity and flexibility, making them ideal for producing thinner, lighter soles. Moreover, their excellent adhesion properties to most popular shoe materials mean that they represent a new, superior alternative to polyether block amides.

New types of Desmopan®, in which loss due to abrasion is reduced by up to 30 percent, have been specially designed for injection molding sports shoe soles and toe areas. Due to the fact that they can be easily removed from the mold, the UV-stabilized and hydrolysis-resistant polyester-based TPU variants facilitate cost-effective shoe production with short cycle times. The polyester- and polyether-based transparent, aromatic grades are another new feature. These allow the production of transparent products which display no visible clouding even at wall thicknesses of up to six millimeters. Their outstanding low-temperature impact strength and flexibility at low temperatures make them ideal for manufacturing ski boots and ice-skates.

Polyurethane leather is currently a popular alternative to the natural material. It is now very difficult to differentiate between polyurethane leather and real leather, but the artificial material offers benefits in terms of durability. At SIMAC, Bayer MaterialScience will therefore be exhibiting a broad portfolio of polyurethane raw materials for textile coating and coagulation. The focus will be on VOC-compatible developments and systems based on the Impranil®, Impraperm® and Desmoderm® product ranges which are characterized by high abrasion resistance, elasticity, low-temperature flexibility and, if required, excellent moisture vapor transmission rates. Bayer MaterialScience will also be exhibiting lightfast products with high resistance to hydrolysis. In polyurethane leather manufacture, the systems are suitable as finishes, topcoats, intermediate coats and adhesion coats on textile substrates.
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