What is the difference between polyurethane(PU) tires and rubber tires?
While polyurethane and rubber products sometimes appear to be variations of the same material, they are quite different in physical structure as well as beneficial qualities.
Rubber, as we know it, has been manufactured for more than 100 years; polyurethanes, or urethanes, have been around for about half that time. To say that polyurethanes are an improvement over rubber is an understatement. The qualities and benefits of polyurethanes are far superior to those of traditional rubber in a variety of applications. And despite the fact that urethane is technically one of 14 different materials classified as “rubber,” it is quite different as we shall see.
The differences are obvious in a number of ways with a variety of attributes, including:
Load Capacity – A polyurethane tire can easily support twice the weight that a rubber tire can support, making polyurethanes ideal for heavy weight-bearing lift trucks.
Wear and Abrasion Resistance – Polyurethane tires will last around four times as long as rubber tires, as rubber tires tend to wear down from long distance road friction.
Wet Floor Conditions – Because produce warehouses, for example, usually have wet floors due to the necessity of high moisture to maintain produce freshness, polyurethane tires have to be siped to secure reliable traction. Siped is the process of making small, angular cuts across the treads. While rubber is better for moist floors, it loses efficiency in load-bearing capabilities, so siped poly treads solves the problem without compromising load-bearing benefits.
High Speed Operation – In this category, rubber is preferred, as poly doesn’t wear as well at high speeds; the inability of polyurethane tires to dissipate internal heat efficiently is the issue.
Chemical Resistance – While harsh solvents like methylene chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, or acids can break down polyurethanes, the chemical resistance benefits of polyurethane tires make them perfect for environments where industrial chemicals are present and utilized.
While both rubber and polyurethane tires have unique qualities that make them more appropriate in certain circumstances, polyurethane has proven to be all-around more durable, flexible and pliable.
Polyurethane can also be manufactured to be as soft as a foam pillow or as hard and smooth as a table top. With the continuous expansion of high tech applications, the benefits and applications of polyurethanes continue to be explored and developed.