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New Bio-Based TPU Has Luxury Footwear in its Sights

In the race to make footwear foam “faster, better, cleaner, greener and cheaper,” API has developed a new thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material that it claims is easier and cheaper to produce while being more sustainable than alternatives on the midsole manufacturing market.

API’s Apilon 52 Bio Light material is the first lightweight TPU material the Italian materials company has produced using bio-based content. Compared to ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), another commonly used midsole material, API’s new TPU can lower production cycle times by up to 60 percent—reducing costs and energy consumption at the same time, the company claims.

API debuted an Apilon 52 Bio Light slipper at SIMAC Tanning Tech 2020 last week.

“This is another step Trinseo is taking towards meeting our sustainability goals, which also strengthens our already broad portfolio in luxury, athletic, and professional footwear,” Giancarlo Bus, global market leader in footwear API parent company Trinseo, said in a statement. “This is especially encouraging as we believe bio-based materials will become the de facto choice in luxury footwear by the year 2030.”

In addition to its sustainability profile, API’s new TPU features a number of characteristics designed to appeal to manufacturers.

Apilon 52 Bio Light features a density of just 0.4 grams per cubic centimeter and a softness of between 35 and 50 Shore durometers, the industry-standard measurement for the hardness of rubbers and elastomers.

This gives API’s new material a “velvet touch” with natural haptics, Trinseo said, and will help manufacturers create midsoles in a greater variety of colors. Using API’s in-house APICOLOR masterbatch, manufacturers can access a library with a “vast range” of tones beyond the white color prevalent in midsole production.

Trinseo has made a point to expand its sustainable material lineup recently as a part of its “Bio & Beyond” initiative, which works to assist the fashion and footwear industry with material challenges while reducing the company’s dependence on fossil fuels—a standard component in most footwear foam.