What is TPE?
Thermoplastic elastomer is a type of polymer that consists of a mix of plastic and rubber materials cross-linked together on a molecular level.
There are various kinds of TPEs in the market, namely: thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) or polyurethane thermoplastic elastomer (TPU). Typically, conventional rubbers will be deformed and unusable after melting. However, using TPE can avoid this limitation since they are easily melted down, reprocessed and/or remoulded.
TPEs show advantages typical of both rubbery materials and plastic materials. They allow manufacturers the freedom to design and fabricate without much constraints, an advantage that conventional rubber does not offer. It is able to stretch to moderate lengths and return to its near original shape. Thus, creating a longer life and offering better physical properties than rubber.
Application of TPE
Silicone is most widely used by menstrual cup manufacturers. However, there has been an increasing trend of menstrual cups being made with medical grade TPE instead. While both are a good option, TPE is able to achieve something that silicone cannot. TPE menstrual cups have the unique ability to warm with your body temperature to create a more custom fit by moulding to your vaginal shape. This is why some people notice that their cups come out a bit more oval shaped than it went in. While a silicone cup still makes a seal against the vaginal wall, it does so more by creating even pressure all along the rim of the cup. TPE, however, still has a firmness to create pressure, will warm up inside the body and conform to the user’s shape. This increases the comfort level for some users.
Additionally, TPE has less reported incidences of causing an allergic reaction as compared to silicone. TPE also has less risk of toxic shock syndrome than silicone (though the risk is already brought to a minimal with a cup). TPE is also more easily reused, helping to create less waste during manufacturing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using a menstrual cup
- Money-saving: Although a menstrual cup is initially more expensive than a box of tampons or pads, with proper care your cup will last a year at the very least.
- Good for the planet: Tampons, pads and panty liners create over 200,000 tons of waste per year (along with their packaging and individual wrapping).
- Longer-wearing: Menstrual cups can be safely worn for up to 12 hours. If you time things right, you will only need to remove and re-insert your cup from the If comfort of your own home and not in a public restroom.
- Reduced risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Today, it’s estimated that TSS affects one out of every 100,000 women aged 19 to 44, with most cases found in menstruating women using highly absorbent tampons. Only two cases total have been reported worldwide of TSS related to menstrual cup use, and that was caused by extremely prolonged use (those affected had left their cups in for 7 days). Cup users should boil their cups to fully remove bacteria, and consider keeping two or three cups on hand so each one can be sterilized before use.
- Finding the right fit: It takes time, research and possibly some trial and error to figure out what cup size and firmness will work best for you.
- A bit of a mess: There’s a learning curve when it comes to removing and emptying your cup neatly.
- May not play well with (Intra uterine device) IUDs:Many manufacturers don’t recommend using menstrual cups with an IUD inserted, in case the cup pulls on the IUD string (though a study conducted in 2012 found no evidence of this happening).
Interested in using TPE Thermoplastic Elastomer for other applications? Contact us now through our live chat for a free sample!