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PTFE – What is PTFE?

Material properties, areas of use and example applications

 

 

    Polytetrafluorethylene: a plastic of superlatives

    Dealing with a high-quality material 

    Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a linear polymer composed of fluorine and hydrocarbon. As a semi-crystalline fluoroplastic with the highest-grade fluorination, PTFE has a molecular structure in which there is an especially strong bond between the carbon and fluorine atoms. The fluorine atoms almost entirely protect the carbon chain. This structure results in a unique combination of useful properties.

    Polytetrafluoroethylene is a high-performance plastic and has the greatest resistance to chemicals and the lowest coefficient of friction of all comparable plastics. In addition, polytetrafluoroethylene is stable over a wide temperature range and has an outstanding resistance to heat. Since fluorine is the element with the strongest electronegativity, the polymer PTFE also has excellent dielectric properties. Its high purity and longevity are additional advantages of this remarkable material.

    Due to its unparalleled combination of superior performance properties, PTFE has become the most widely used fluoroplastic in many industries, better known under trade names such as Teflon®Dyneon TM, Fluon® or Gore-Tex®.

    PTFE - Outstanding material properties

    Some characteristics that distinguish polytetrafluoroethylene as a particularly high-quality polymer have already been mentioned. In addition, this substance has a number of other remarkable properties.

    The heat resistance in a temperature range from -200 to +260 degrees Celsius is particularly noteworthy, and PTFE is resistant to temperatures from -200 to +250 degrees Celsius even during continuous operation. The substance remains insoluble even when heated briefly to more than 300 degrees Celsius.

    Due to its inertness, polytetrafluoroethylene is insensitive to almost all chemicals. Even aggressive acids cannot harm it. The polymer is also resistant to substances used in the production process, such as alcohol, petrol, oil, etc. PTFE is just as robust against all weather influences (such as frost, UV radiation or moisture). The effects of ozone or oxygen are also harmless to the material.

    PTFE does not absorb water; instead, it repels it. It is also insensitive to water vapour. In contact with open fire, the fabric decomposes, and the flames extinguish on their own.

    The excellent sliding properties of the material produce a self-lubricating effect. At the same time, the coefficient of friction of polytetrafluoroethylene is extremely low. Since static and sliding friction are of equal magnitude, the transition from standstill to movement runs without any jerk, so that there is no stick-slip effect. The extremely low surface tension means that no other material adheres to polytetrafluoroethylene.

    PTFE has extremely low dielectric characteristics combined with high surface and specific contact resistance.

    The material is also characterised by high elongation at break and high flexural fatigue strength.

    Not to mention: PTFE is physiologically safe, making it perfect for use in the food industry.

    The material properties can also be modified for specific requirements by special processes of plastics compounding. If polytetrafluoroethylene is mixed with organic or inorganic substances such as graphite, glass fibres or metal powder, product properties such as hardness, abrasion or compressive strength can be improved further.

    PTFE - Universally applicable

    Thanks to its outstanding properties, polytetrafluoroethylene meets the highest technical requirements and is suitable for a wide range of applications in a wide variety of industries. As a coating, sealing or sliding material as well as for heavily stressed components and in particularly sensitive production processes, the material has proven itself many times in practice and is now the most frequently used fluoroplastic in the industry.

     Industries in which PTFE is used:

    • Chemical industry
    • Electrical engineering and semiconductor industry
    • Pharmaceutical industry
    • Medical technology and medical device construction
    • Transport and conveyor technology
    • Textile industry
    • Consumer goods production and
    • Biotechnology

    In everyday life we encounter numerous products that owe their special properties to the use of PTFE.

    Polytetrafluoroethylene non-stick coatings on pots and pans prevent ingredients from baking during frying and cooking. Lenses coated with polytetrafluoroethylene do not get dirty as quickly and are easier to clean.

    By using wafer-thin PTFE films, the textile industry produces breathable, water-repellent fabrics that are marketed under the brand name Gore-Tex®, for example.

    Polytetrafluoroethylene is also used in numerous other sectors of industry.

    The unique combination of positive usage properties opens up a very wide range of applications for the raw material. Therefore, this material could also be of interest to companies in the future that are not familiar with and do not use it.

    PTFE - An alternative material for various production areas

    As a special plastic with excellent performance properties, PTFE is already being used successfully in many industries. When it comes to sophisticated system solutions in technical applications, PTFE will probably be chosen even more frequently in the future.

    Polytetrafluoroethylene can often be seen as an alternative to materials previously used in industry. Not only in terms of its properties, but also in terms of economy and cost efficiency, this thermoplastic is clearly superior to various conventional materials. Even if the corresponding component or semi-finished product may be a little more expensive to purchase, its longevity makes up for it. In the longer term, the use of PTFE almost always proves to be a more economical alternative. Long service lives guarantee excellent functionality, offer more safety and reduce maintenance costs. Especially in critical applications, the use of this material results in tangible competitive advantages.

    Your Contact

    Daniel Borst
    Sales Consulting
    T +49.7143.9609-125
    F +49.7143.9609-100

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    Application examples from different industries 

    In the construction industry, PTFE coatings are used to protect surfaces (facades, roofs, etc.) from the effects of the weather.

    Its chemical rigidity and the resulting resistance to almost all chemicals make polytetrafluoroethylene a sought-after material in the chemical industry, for example for lining pipelines in chemical plant construction.

    In electrical engineering, as well as in its special areas of high voltage and high frequency technology, PTFE is used as an electrical insulator (e.g. insulation material for cables) due to its high dielectric strength and partial discharge resistance. Due to its low dielectric constant, the raw material is also suitable as a base material in the manufacture of high-frequency printed circuit boards.

    The excellent sliding properties of polytetrafluoroethylene are used in the construction of bridge bearings as well as for seals under dry running conditions.

    Due to the extremely smooth, liquid-repellent surface of the material, its long service life and excellent physiological compatibility, polytetrafluoroethylene is ideally suited for the manufacture of vascular prostheses (stents and bypasses) and implants in plastic surgery. When dental implants are inserted, a PTFE membrane can support bone formation and controlled tissue regeneration.

    Another advantage in medical and laboratory technology is the fact that PTFE can be steam sterilised at temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius without damage.

    The manifold application areas of PTFE illustrates how the first-class properties of this technical material are used in various industries. The following is an example of the wide range of applications for two selected branches of industry in which polytetrafluoroethylene plastic is used frequently.

     

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    Application examples for mechanical engineering and in the food industry 

    High functionality in mechanical engineering 

    PTFE is a preferred material in mechanical and plant engineering due to its unique property profile. 

    Polytetrafluoroethylene plastic is perfectly suited for all production areas in which components or semi-finished products are required that are subject to high mechanical stress but are as low-wear as possible when exposed to friction.

    Semi-finished products  made of PTFE (such as plates, round and hollow rods, tubes, etc.) can be easily processed into dimensionally stable, precise components using machining technology. Construction and structural parts made of this material are characterised by their long service life and high strength and are virtually maintenance-free.

    PTFE jackets and coatings, for example, protect pistons and rollers from corrosion and premature wear. Films, hoses, adhesive and sealing tapes offered as semi-finished products are mainly used in this area.

    Due to its low frictional resistance, PTFE is also suitable as a solid lubricant.

    For special applications, mixtures of polytetrafluoroethylene can be produced by adding selected additives that are precisely matched to the intended use.

    Safety in the food industry

    The industrial production of food is a highly sensitive area. For this reason, plastics used in contact with foodstuffs must meet special requirements that are embedded in complex regulations.

    The regulations of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in particular are recognised internationally as a regulatory system for handling food. Within the European Union, a regulation in force since 2011 specifies in detail which quality requirements apply to plastic articles that come into contact with foodstuffs. The main concern here is to ensure that no potentially harmful ingredients are transferred from the materials used to the processed foods (so-called migration).

    Since pure polymer is free of additives such as antioxidants, plasticisers, stabilisers, etc., PTFE fulfils all the quality characteristics required by current regulations. For this reason, components and consumer goods made from these materials may even be used in direct contact with foodstuffs in the production process.

    PTFE is used in the food industry, for example in machines and production plants for processing meat, poultry and fish. During milk production in dairies, hose systems made of polytetrafluoroethylene accelerate production speed. Similar effects can be achieved by using the plastic on conveyor belts (e.g. in the production of pasta) or in systems for filling and portioning.

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    Would you like to find out more about PTFE? This applies to all industries: With this high-performance plastic, the most diverse technical requirements can be implemented constructively at the highest level. We would be happy to provide you with a personal consultation. Do not hesitate to contact us and request a quote.

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