The words “urethane” and “polyurethane” are frequently and erroneously used interchangeably. Urethane, which is more precisely known as ethyl carbamate, is not an ingredient in polyurethane products. In other words, polyurethane does not actually contain urethane.
In spite of this fact, “urethane” and “polyurethane” are both used in reference to a very common elastomeric material that is important to many industrial processes, and in the context of a conversation about elastomeric materials, both words are likely to be used in reference to the same material.
This material, polyurethane, is particularly well-suited for use as a roller material. Rollers are important parts of conveyors, printers, laminators and a wide variety of other industrial and commercial processing equipment.
Polyurethane rollers are attractive to professionals because they offer qualities of strength and elasticity simultaneously. They are harder than other elastomeric materials like silicone, but not so hard that they become brittle or cause damage to the objects with which they come into contact.
Polyurethane is also relatively inexpensive and can be formed in many ways into many shapes and sizes.
Polyurethane, like most other elastomeric materials, can be thermoformed into almost any conceivable shape. This process usually involves injection or compression molding, though polyurethane can also be extruded.
Polyurethane molding involves heating a stock of raw polyurethane beyond its melting point in order to make it easier to form. The molten polyurethane is then loaded into a closed mold through injection (as is the case in injection molding) or into an open mold (in the case of compression molding).
Once the polyurethane takes the shape of the mold, it is allowed to cool and harden, and it emerges from the mold as a new polyurethane roller. In the case of extrusion, the polyurethane is heated and forced through an extrusion die designed in the shape that the finished roller will take.
Both processes are very effective and efficient.