The Many Uses of Polyurethane

As one of the most versatile polymers known to modern industry, polyurethane applications continue to grow. Varying the chemical makeup can yield a host of products including; rigid and flexible foams, films, breathable textiles, elastic membranes, elastomeric coatings, adhesives and extremely durable materials to replace ordinary plastic or rubber parts. Industrial polyurethane film alone lends itself to hundreds of uses in manufacturing processes. Because different formulations result in many specialized polyurethane properties, nearly every industry can benefit from this exceptional substance. So, what are some of the common applications of polyurethane?

Waste Water Containment

Polyurethane can be formulated to be non-reactive to several industrial chemicals. Manufacturing processes that generate waste water carrying solvents, or corrosive, toxic chemicals must adhere to strict standards of containment to prevent environmental contamination. By lining collection systems with industrial polyurethane film and membranes, manufacturing plants can take the necessary steps to avoid leaks until the waste water can undergo proper treatment and disposal.

Along the same lines, geo-membranes serve well for other industrial waste processing, including:

  • Cure-in-place pipe liners
  • Spill-containment structures
  • Bio-hazardous waste containment
  • Nuclear/radioactive waste containment
  • Flood protection berms

Flame Retardant Polyurethane for Hot Work

When formulated with flame retardants, urethane industrial products can offer a shield against fire and extreme heat. Employees who must work near open flames or within other dangerous quarters can remain much safer with polyurethane protective garments. Because polyurethane lends itself well to fabric/textile lamination, it’s ideal for wearable protective gear such as hazmat/survival suits, aprons, and as insulation systems for gloves.

Food Processing Industrial Film

Since polyurethane remains chemically inert and does not leach, it can be put to good use in food processing plants. Many facilities have found that polyurethane is perfect for FDA-approvable conveyor belting. It can find similar use in grocery store check stands. Furthermore, as a laminate, it works well for food processing aprons without weighing down the worker. Where wet floors can’t be avoided, polyurethane footwear can help prevent slip and fall accidents.

Automated Factory Components

Polyurethane products can replace old, less effective materials in a variety of machines on automated factory lines. A few polyurethane uses are:

  • Gas and vapor protection and barrier film
  • Static dissipative formulations can help protect against arcing and static shock
  • Fuel cell bladders and components
  • Barrier films for foam-in-place products
  • Blackout film for light blocking
  • Blackout film for color preservation
  • Hoses and hose jacketing
  • Pneumatic bladders
  • Vacuum bags for veneering
  • Gaskets and seals

Polyurethane for Transportation

Both rigid and flexible polyurethane products can replace traditional materials used in industrial transportation. Large loads benefit from tough, weather-resistant truck tarps. Flexible cargo covers protect loose loads in open-top hoppers. Commercial drivers appreciate polyurethane film skinned foam insulation integrated into the cab, which reduces noise and makes the interior more comfortable on long hauls.


First created in Germany during WWII as a replacement for hard-to-get rubber, research and development of polyurethane as a supremely useful industrial material continues today. Because of improvements that have eliminated the need for chlorine additions, most polyurethane products won’t harm the environment, so red flags don’t have to be raised when using them in the industrial industry for food processing and more. Plus, some urethane products can be melted repeatedly, rendering them recyclable or their seams torch-weldable. What is polyurethane used for? Just about anything requiring durable foam, tough flexibility, transparency and rubber-like materials, to name but a few uses.

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