The Urethane Blog

Huntsman TPU Partnership


Osnabrück, GERMANY – The thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) team at Huntsman has formed a special partnership with T. Michel Formenbau GmbH & Co. KG – a leading producer of molds and tools for the plastics processing industry.

The alliance is designed to benefit plastic product manufacturers wanting to explore the use of expanded TPU (eTPU). Together, Huntsman and T. Michel Formenbau will offer a complete end-to-end material selection and steam-mold service – providing advice on the best materials to use for specific applications plus mold design, production and testing. The two companies will also work together on research projects, exploring eTPU and steam-molding improvements that could make life easier for plastic processors wanting to use this lightweight technology in different application areas.

Under the terms of the agreement, Huntsman will also use T. Michel Formenbau’s technical center in Lautert, Germany to test and demonstrate the processing performance its own eTPU products. On site, Huntsman will assess new products to ensure their compatibility with the very latest steam-molding techniques. It will also conduct steam-molding trials and demonstrations for customers wanting to evaluate existing materials such as smartLite® PF 1560 TPU. This super lightweight, particle foam technology is widely used in sports shoes but has broader potential across a variety of industrial markets.

Huntsman chose to work with T. Michel Formenbau because of the extensive range of molding equipment available at its technical center. T. Michel Formenbau specializes in the development of EPS / EPP foam molding tools; PUR foam molding tools; injection molding tools; deep drawing tools; and injectors for particle foams. The business has also invested in the latest laser equipment, enabling it to create molds that deliver special surface textures.

Olaf Michel, Global Technology Manager at Huntsman Polyurethanes, said: “As a global company we have extensive testing equipment available in-house – but we also know it’s important to collaborate with external companies. In the case of T.Michel Formenbau, it’s invaluable to tap into their knowledge, use their equipment, and get feedback on our materials. We first made contact with the business in 2015 and quickly realized the potential for a longer-term relationship. Initially, our work together focused on testing our eTPU materials for the footwear sector. Moving forward, we’ll continue that work but we’ll also be actively exploring how eTPU can be used across a broader range of applications.”

Thorsten Michel, General Manager of T. Michel Formenbau, said: “The very best research is not undertaken in isolation. It’s collaborative and based on strong partnerships, knowledge exchange and the optimization of materials and processes. These elements are the cornerstone of all the research projects we undertake. This approach, combined with the equipment available at our Lautert technology center, means we can quickly satisfy the research objectives of our partners – whether we’re testing particulate foam materials or other plastics for light construction applications. We look forward to working with the team at Huntsman on a variety of joint research projects.”

T. Michel Formenbau GmbH & Co. KG was founded in 2000 and employs around 50 people. The business creates bespoke molds for plastic processors – offering them an end-to-end tooling service that covers product development, process development, mold manufacturing, laser texture, filling injectors, measuring probes and sampling. The company’s work spans all types of precision mold making – from the smallest, intricate tooling designs to large-scale molds for major engineering projects. With the help of two new laser-texturing machines, T. Michel Formenbau can also give its customers a wide range of options when it comes to surface design. Using this equipment means there are no limits to the creation of personalized and individual surfaces on molds. Filling injectors, tool cooling systems and numerous measuring probes (such as the patented MIC probe (2in1)) can also be provided by the T. Michel Formenbau team.