Polymers in sporting goods & footwear
Author Robin Conrad
High wearing comfort, good cushioning properties and grip as well as safety of the end products are central issues for manufacturers of sports articles and shoes. Modern materials must meet the high demands of the industry – for example, in terms of mechanical resilience. At the same time, they should be based on sustainable raw materials to ensure a value-added supply chain – from the raw material to the end consumer.
With thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) based on styrene block copolymers such as its SEPTON™ BIO-series, Kuraray – a leading manufacturer of these materials – offers a range of highly elastic bio-based TPE raw materials with very good flow and adhesion properties, high grip performance and better damping behavior than conventional hydrogenated styrenic block copolymers (HSBC) materials. The products meet high safety standards and quality requirements, show high energy return and exhibit good grip even under wet conditions. In addition to our SEPTON™ styrene block copolymers, Kuraray also manufactures HYBRAR™ styrenic block copolymers with its exceptional comfort and damping properties, as well as KURARAY LIQUID RUBBER, a high viscosity synthetic rubber to enhance the properties of rubber-based shoe soles.
Features and benefits
- High grip performance
- Good surface finishing and comfort
- Abrasion resistance
- Soft touch
- Grips & swimming equipment
Applications for sporting goods and footwear
Kuraray materials for sporting goods and footwear enhance product performance such as shock absorption by the use of HYBRAR™, provide high comfort and grip, and improve surface properties, such as abrasion resistance. SEPTON™ BIO-series can be used in all segments in the sporting goods and footwear sector. Last but not least, it meets manufacturers’ demands for more sustainable raw materials. Soft-touch properties further extend customer benefits.
Below you will find application examples for Kuraray materials for the production of sporting goods and footwear. If you have any questions about other possible applications, please contact us.
Shoes should be comfortable, attractive and stylish, while providing optimal grip under wet and icy conditions. Good shock absorption, elasticity and soft-touch properties are important comfort criteria. Until now, petrochemical-based elastomers have been essential to meet these requirements. But consumers are increasingly looking for more sustainable products.
With SEPTON™ BIO-series, Kuraray offers a new range of sustainable styrenic block copolymers that significantly raises the environmental profile of footwear. SEPTON™ BIO-series is made from beta-farnesene, which is derived from sugar cane and contains up to 80 percent natural, renewable raw materials. These TPE materials are compatible with bio-based PP, PE and oil – maximizing the bio content of the products.
SEPTON™ BIO-series is versatile: it can be used in soles, foam pads and synthetic leather uppers. The materials offer benefits for many components of footwear thanks to their excellent properties, which include high elasticity and vibration damping. As a starting product for shoe soles, these copolymers offer very good grip. Their wet grip and behavior at cold and room temperatures are far superior to conventional TPEs. In addition, the products of the SEPTON™ BIO-series can be foamed to produce very flexible, vibration-damping layers. These remain dimensionally stable even under constant pressure loads – for long-lasting wearer comfort. And thanks to their unique elasticity, artificial leathers with products from the SEPTON™ BIO-series are ideal for robust and durable uppers.
With SEPTON™ BIO-series, Kuraray not only enables footwear manufacturers to produce sustainable footwear, but also offers them the opportunity to improve the quality and properties of their products. Because they are far less rigid than conventional HSBC polymers, far less plasticizer is needed when processing SEPTON™ BIO-series. There is also less oil bleeding and the retainment of the shoes’s elasticity. Another advantage for footwear manufacturers is that the very low viscosity of SEPTON™ BIO-series products makes them an excellent choice for processes such as injection molding. Since processing is very easy, they shorten production times and make manufacturing processes more efficient.
In addition to SEPTON™ BIO-series, Kuraray also has other SEPTON™ and HYBRAR™ products in its portfolio that can be widely used in the footwear industry.
Thermoplastic elastomers from Kuraray have very good damping properties, making them ideal for use in shoes. Another area of application for the materials is protective equipment, such as shin guards and protectors for mountain bikers, where shock absorption, damping and light weight are important.
The materials have a high affinity to polyolefins and polystyrene and are characterized by rubber-like elasticity. The TPEs can be blended with polypropylene to achieve the desirable properties.
HYBRAR™ is a truly unique block copolymer having polystyrene end blocks and a vinyl-rich poly-diene midblock. Due to its peak tan delta over a broad temperature range, HYBRAR™ exhibits exceptional vibration damping and shock absorption properties. Our unique HYBRAR™ grades are extremely suitable wherever comfort and damping properties are needed.
HYBRAR™ 5000-series and HYBRAR™ 7000-series show high damping properties within a wide range of temperatures and frequencies. The products can be blended with other polymers such as PP, PE, PA, ABS, ASA, PC, EVA and PS. Moreover, HYBRAR™ is a low-density material which can reduce weight, while improving damping properties.
SEPTON™ BIO-series helps manufacturers improve the sustainability, performance and comfort of footwear by making shoe soles extremely soft, highly durable and with excellent grip performance. As a resilient foam, the SEPTON™ BIO-series provides superior vibration damping to literally maximize comfort with every step when walking.
Additionally, several grades of KURARAY LIQUID RUBBER can be used for this purpose. The unique viscosity of Kuraray products increases the efficiency of manufacturing processes such as injection molding. Good flow properties allow manufacturers to optimize production processes, resulting in sustainable energy savings.
Grips and swimming equipment
In many sports, a good grip is a key feature of sports equipment. This is especially true for performance and safety issues. However, the comfort aspect is similarly important, for all types of grips. During longer periods of sporting activity, the wearer appreciates the constant comfort of a soft-touch grip.
With its positive properties, SEPTON™ BIO-series offers advantages in the manufacture of various grips for sports equipment. Used as a base material for grips for tennis rackets, golf clubs, baseball bats, mountain bike and other similar applications, the copolymers are characterized by their excellent grip – even when faced with perspiration or rain.
Several series of SEPTON™ are also very suitable materials for these purposes. This is especially true for applications where it is important to have handles with soft-touch properties.
Whether in the pool or in open water, swimming goggles need to ensure quality and performance in every situation. A good pair of swimming goggles should be very lightweight, provide a waterproof seal and be comfortable to wear. For this reason, thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are the first choice when it comes to the optimal material for swimming goggles. They offer significant benefits such as elasticity and tightening, thus ensuring a good fit.
With their outstanding properties, such as high elasticity, SEPTON™ BIO-series is an excellent base material for swimming equipment such as swimming goggles. In addition to SEPTON™ BIO-series and 4000-series, SEPTON™ 8000-series and KURARITY™ LA-series are also suitable base materials.