Huntsman Polyurethanes have launched a brand new family of water-blown, high quality polyether systems to help European footwear manufacturers overcome forthcoming product legislation.

From July 2006 onwards, European legislation will outlaw the production of footwear soles that contain environmentally-harmful fluorinated hydrocarbons (HFC). This will mean that commonly used physical blowing agents, which have proven ozone depleting characteristics, will no longer be available for use.

Historically, physical blowing agents were used to improve the surface definition of polyether-based footwear soles, create an aesthetically pleasing matt finish and improve overall skin quality. However, Huntsman have always avoided their use in footwear applications, relying instead on fully water-blown technology and avoiding the use of solvents completely. Now in a move which will enable footwear manufacturers to maintain high quality production standards and continue to create hard-wearing, longer-lasting footwear soles, Huntsman’s elastomer experts have further developed this concept and come up with an environmentally-sound substitute that offers enhanced performance characteristics.

Based on Huntsman’s established SUPRASEC prepolymers, the new products utilise water-blown technology and are suitable for use in the creation of unit soles, sockliners, and direct moulded footwear.

Alfons Tremml, Commercial Footwear Manager at Huntsman Polyurethanes said: ‘Huntsman take a proactive approach to helping customers conform to new manufacturing legislation. For the last ten years we have allocated dedicated resource to developing solutions that have minimal impact on the environment. Working closely with some of the largest names in the footwear industry, we have successfully created environmentally-friendly products which offer equal or enhanced performance qualities. Our new water-blown formulations for the footwear industry do everything that physical blowing agents were capable of and more, significantly reducing the risk of air bubbles and offering in-built abrasion and hydrolysis resistance.’

Huntsman Polyurethanes’ footwear team has also developed a new elastomer that enables significant weight savings in the production of low density midsoles for use in industrial boots that must conform to CEN European safety tests. Additionally, this new elastomer is the first of its kind that can be processed on conventional direct-injection machinery. Offering good bonding to polyurethane, thermoplastic polyurethane and rubber outer soles, SUPRASEC technology can help customers develop lightweight, comfortable shoes and boots while reducing the amount of materials required and cutting overall production costs.

Simac 2006, Bologna Fiere, Italy 19-22 April 2006, Hall 35 Stand B1