Sei sulla pagina 1di 18




Olefin polymers are most chemical resistant inert material

available in their commercial category for industrial applications. The last era
dominated uses of olefin polymer in commodity applications eliminating
traditional metals and non metals. The future is poised for domination of
thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) in engineering polymer applications. Among a few
converters all over the world, Entremonde has commercialized and patented
TPO coating on polypropylene fabric (PP). The TPO coated PP fabrics have
many advantage over PVC, PU and rubber coated fabrics.

Use of coated fabrics in

manufacture of protective covers,storage systems, agriculture coverings and
pond linings has a long history. The products mainly categorized as PVC coated
fabrics, PU coated fabrics, acrylic polymer coated fabric, wax coated fabrics
(canvas) and rubber-coated fabrics. The common usage of coated fabrics are for
example (i) Tarpaulins (ii) Vehicle covers or truck tarpaulins (iii) Tents (iv)
Agriculture coverings and fumigation sheets (v) Awnings (vi) Canopies, Tents,
Covers etc. In all the types of coated fabrics, fabric component impart desired
mechanical property, i.e. Breaking strength, tearing strength, bursting strength,
dimensional stability etc. There are number of types of yarns used for
manufacturing a fabric, they are polyester, nylon (polyamide), cotton,
regenerated cellulose etc. There are number of types of processes that are used
in manufacturing a fabric, they are weaving, knitting and random laying of fibers
to make a non-woven. The mechanical properties desired in coated fabrics are
decided by various properties of fabric used viz. weight, type of yarn, structure
whether monofilament, multifilament or texturised, twists, polymer material
property like crystallinity, chemical and thermal resistance etc. One can choose a
fabric material from almost unlimited options available for the purpose of coating
as per the end usage requirement.

The coating formulations are based on main

polymer categories viz. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), PE and other Poly olefins, PU
(Polyurethane), Acrylics, Rubber (natural or synthetic) and waxes.Cotton fabric
coated with wax formulations are called canvas, is a most common and primitive
form of coated fabric. With the invention of new materials and their formulations
the number of options available are plenty. The most common are PVC and
rubber based formulation where a number of additives are used to prepare a
suitable fluid to coat on a fabric. The categories of additives are – fillers,
pigments and dyes, solvents, plasticizers and functional additives are used in
almost all types of polymers to formulate a compound having desired property.
The coatings impart or modify surface properties, barrier and aesthetics of a
coated fabric for the required function or end use.

The biggest problem is, disposal of

waste, generated after the use of coated fabrics. Recycling of coated fabrics is
not an easy or a common task. In almost all of the cases the family of the
polymer used in manufacturing a fiber and coating compound are heterogeneous
hence their physical mixing to regenerate in the form of recyclable goods, is not
possible even by applying high temperature or pressure. The second option,
though not environment friendly remain to dissolve, but again common solvent or
mixture of solvents cannot dissolve entire coated fabric for recycling purpose.
There are solvents available to partly dissolve a coating but it is not an
economical and environmentally friendly process, because of volatility of
solvents. The only option remains is to safely incinerate the waste, which has
long-term economic effects, if all the precautions are taken from environmental
point of view.


There are two polyolefin polymers used to make synthetic fibres,

polypropylene and polyethylene, with polypropylene being by
far the most important. The definition for polyethylene fibres is
"fibre composed of linear macromolecules of unsubstituted
saturated aliphatic hydrocarbons" and for polypropylene fibres
"fibre composed of linear macromolecules made up of
saturated aliphatic carbon units in which one carbon atom in
two carries a methyl side group...". Polyethylene was first
produced in the UK in 1933 by polymerising ethylene under
pressure. In 1938 in Germany polyethylene was made by
polymerising ethylene in an emulsion. Polypropylene was
commercialised in 1956 by polymerising propylene using
catalysts. Both of these polyolefins are very important in plastic moulding and for
making plastic sheet but both are spun into synthetic fibres on a large scale.

Polyolefin fibres are made by melt spinning.

Usually polymer granules made by specialist producers
rather than fibre companies are fed to an extruder which
melts the polymer which is then pumped through a spinneret.
The filaments are cooled in an air stream before being wound
on a package or collected in cans as a tow. Because the
fibres are difficult to dye, coloured pigments are often added
to the polymer stream before extrusion

An alternative process is to produce a film, cut the film into strips and then
fibrillate the individual strips before winding onto a package. Recently a new
family of catalysts to make polypropylene has been developed called
metallocene catalysts. It is claimed that the polymers made from these catalysts
can be spun to finer counts and drawn to give higher tenacities than existing


Both polyolefin fibres have a density less than 1.0 and therefore, at
a given decitex, are thicker than other man-made fibres and give more cover.
They do not absorb moisture, which is an advantage in many end-uses, but
without modification, they cannot be dyed. Their melting points are around 130
°C for polyethylene and 160 °C for polypropylene. They have a high resistance to
chemical attack and modern polypropylene fibres have a high resistance to UV
What is coating ?

Coating is carried out to impart certain desired

characteristics and functionalities to woven, knitted or non-woven materials. One
or two sided application of coating compounds is done on foam films to woven
fabric, knit goods, non woven fabrics and such application of coating compounds
is imparted by means of roller system, knife coating, hot-melt and transfer
coating methods. Coated fabrics may be constructed using woven, knitted or
non-woven fabrics.
Coating and lamination is gaining ground worldwide as a
means for value addition and the factors that drive their usage are:

• Surface engineering (coating & lamination) allows a base material to be chosen

for a particular set of attributes (weight, cost, corrosion resistance, thermal
capability) while the surface has a different set of properties (hardness, electrical
resistance or conductivity, mating characteristics, thermal transfer or shielding).

• Coatings have also facilitated the development of entirely new products and
have led to innovations in the area of "Smart" materials. Coating and lamination
cuts across virtually every product group in the textile industry, including
composites, where the potential is especially broad.

• Coatings enable significant cost savings when compared with solid materials of
like composition.

• Coatings can be tailored to application specific requirements quite readily and

usually at low cost.

• Approximately 100 material types of various grades and strengths are used as
core materials (substrates) for coated fabrics: silk, cotton, polyamide, polyester,
polyaramid, glass fabric, carbon fabric and metal.

• Coated fabrics have wide applications in fields such as medical substrates,

protective clothing, flexible membranes for civil structures, airbags, geo textiles,
industrial fabrics, defense, transportation, healthcare, architecture, space, sports,
environmental pollution control, and may other diverse end-product uses.
Extensive research is being done on a global basis, and many new products,
such as breathable fabrics, thermochromic fabrics, and charcoal fabrics, are
entering the market.

• The most frequently used method is coating by means of knife blade coating.
An air knife is used to metre the coating compound above the freely spread fabric
web. This method is used for fine coatings and primer coatings at 5 to 50 g per
metre (g/m). Air knives may be used over a roller to metre the coating compound
at application rates of 30 to 500 g/m. The coat thickness depends on the distance
of the air knife from the substrate surface. For very heavy thickness, air knife is
used over a rubber cloth or table to metre the coating compound.
Besides the classic knife application
methods, there are also numerous other methods:

Impregnation or dipping method:-

The carrier material is led through an
immersion trough which holds the liquid coating compound.

Slop-padding process, roll coating:-

The carrier material takes on the coating
compound from a roller that turns through a bath (direct roll coating). This can
also take place via roller systems. Dosing is by wiping off the slop-pad roller or
the coated goods. If the paste reservoir is located in the angle between two
rollers, this is termed as the roll coating method (reverse roll coater).

Hot melt method:-

With this method, granules and powders are melted between
two rollers or prepared viscous plastic compounds are used, which are
plasticised by the heat of the rollers. Between the calendar rollers, which can be
arranged in various ways, films form which can be transferred to the goods via
the rollers. Hot melt adhesives are thermoplastic, based on the polymers that
become liquid between temperatures of 800 C - 2200 C and solidify again by
cooling down. Ethylene vinyl acetate, polyamide, polyurethane reactives are
generally used on hot melt additives for hot melt coatings. It is important to
handle the system carefully. The coating head is positioned near to the substrate
to avoid any temperature changes of the hot melt due to cold air flow.

Powder application method:-

Here, powdered thermoplastic synthetic polymers
are scattered and formed into adhesive melts. This coating technique can be
subdivided into two groups: the dry method and the wet method, which are used
particularly for interlining fabrics for clothes. Generally, machines available for
application of dot coating from 3 to 40 g/m2 while multi-roller application systems
can deliver full and open cover structure lamination/coating from 5 to 150 g/m2.

Defining ‘thermoplastic polyolefin” (TPO) is difficult.

“Thermoplastic” is a generic term in polymer science; it encompasses a class of
polymers that, as mentioned above, soften when heated in a reversible process.
The term “olefin” is even more generic being an old chemical name for any
molecule containing carbon-carbon double bonds (the modern name for this
family of molecules is alkenes). Any polymer formed by chemically linking up
many olefin molecules is termed “polyolefin.” According to the latest draft ASTM
standard for TPOs, the composition is very non-specific. The standard states that
TPOs must contain more than 95% by mass of TPO polymer. The polymer itself
is not defined within the standard, which states only that the sheet shall contain
the “appropriate” polymers. Because of this loose definition, there is an endless
list of chemicals that would fall under this standard (e.g. polyethylene,
polypropylene, and isobutylene, as well as their derivatives). Ideally,
manufacturers would specify the exact polymer in terms of marketing and
labeling. One point is clear, however: unlike plasticized thermoplastics, TPOs do
not contain plasticizers. Therefore, the problem of plasticizer loss associated with
some plasticized polymers is eliminated.

• The TPO and PP are basically inert towards chemical and microorganism
attack. The finished products have good resistance towards oxygen and ozone
and are flexible at very low temperature i.e. -60ºC. The products are odourless
and do not give out toxic gases on burning.

• The product are lighter than PU or PVC or rubber coated fabrics since
polyolefin are lower in density than PU, PVC or rubbers formulations. The coating
as well as fabric are homologous polymers hence are melt recyclable, which is
not possible in the case of conventional polymer coated fabrics.

• The coated fabrics are available in variety of colors. The dope dyed PP yarn
can be produced in excellent uniform bright colors, which are UV stable. TPO
coating contains light stable pigments. The properties can be custom designed
by altering thickness, strength, flexibility, colors and grain design. In few special
cases fire retardancy can also be archived.

•The fabrics are available in both side as well as one side coated versions,
weldable by thermo fusion welding machine. The fabrics are suitable in a number
of applications. To name a few there are:

• Flexible storage tanks for liquids.

• High altitude Tents and light weight sport field covers.
• Roofing membranes
• Ground sheets, agriculture covers and pond lines for algae farming
• Biogas generator covers.
• Lightweight swimming pool covers.
• Awnings and canopies.
• Automobile interiors.

In general, TPO membranes are being marketed as a
product that combines the properties of EPDM and PVC, without the associated
drawbacks that the latter two materials have. In other words, they are supposed
to be as UV-resistant and as heat-resistant as EPDM, and as heat-weldable as
The following benefits and characteristics have been reported for TPOs
 environmentally friendly and recyclable
 seams can be heat welded
 available in many colours
 resistant to heat and UV degradation
 resistant to many chemicals
 good cold-temperature flexibility
 no external plasticizers added.


TPO membranes are lighter in weight and easier to

handle than the other thermoplastic membranes. But, while flexible, they have a
rather rigid feel: they tend to hold their shape, and do not relax quickly.
Contractors appear to be adjusting slowly to them and some say they are not
"contractor-friendly." Their comments about TPOs include the following:
 Hot-air-welded seams are easy and clean;
 Costs are lower than for other hot- airwelded membranes;
 Mechanically fastened systems (as opposed to loose laid or fully adhered
systems) work well in recover applications without adding extra load;
 Non-reinforced flashing membranes are easy to form for detailing;
 Noticeable changes in colour and texture occur over time;
 Membranes respond dramatically (expansion and contraction) to
temperature changes;
 Cold welds (i.e., welds at temperatures that are not hot enough) occur
frequently; the start and stop positions of the robotic welder are especially
critical, as are the positions of t-seams;
 Narrow welding window exists between cold welds and scorch/burn-
through (i.e., welds at temperatures that are too hot);
 Failure of substrate bonding adhesive is common (i.e., not sticking to
 Membranes sometimes require solvent wipe (to clean or prime) before
 Re-welding membranes (in repair) is problematic after exposure to sun;
 Black membranes are more difficult to weld than white ones.


The methods of processing are common to processing of

coated textiles. As it is understood that the Olefin polymers cannot be coated by
conventional spreader knife technique, the extrusion calendering is the best
suitable technique used in processing of these materials.

In principle it is basically
a continuous extrusion unit consisting of different arrangement of rollers
adjustable to a fixed nip opening. The coated fabric is produced by “in situ”
pressure laminating the calendered sheet. In this process the care is taken to
avoid thermal shocks to the sensitive materials to avoid deterioration of
mechanical properties. It is worth mentioning here that the whole system is olefin
polymer based and sensitive to the processing temperature. A PP fabric if
processed under warp tension at temperature above its Tm the tenacity is greatly
affected. Calendering processes have advantage in terms of uniformity and
flawlessness of coating however the initial investment cost is high. Following are
description ofcommon calendering process used for TPO coating.
Inverted L calendar:–

These calenders have additional rolls to resurface the

TPO sheet before lamination. In this process four rolls provide three metering
stations (nips)
Inclined Z calendar:–

This is typical equipment is used in processing rubbers; an

elastomeric TPO can easily be processed with this type of arrangement.

• The calender equipments producing coated fabrics are further equipped with
Auxiliary equipments which impart processing ease for further handling of
material. The auxiliaries are very important for processing of TPO coated PP

• The fabric pretreatments, formulation of TPO compound with functional

additives both processability point of view as well as enhancement of final
product properties are few other important parameters considered for processing
of these specialty fabrics.
A typical calendar coating line is shown in the following figure.


Following described are
some specific applications of the TPO coated PP fabrics


The biogas generators have seen traditional covers made

out of MS to PVC coated fabric. The biogas is a combination of hydrocarbon fuel
gases with some amount of by-product like oxides or sulphur and nitrogen. The
waste mass and fermented slurry also contain dissolved gases and
microorganism, which are corrosive in nature. The corrosive environment of
these generators phased out MS and replaced with PVC coated polyester fabric.
The cover made out of PVC coated fabric also experienced short lifetime due to
plasticizer migration and inherent poor, chemical and microorganism resistance.
PVC coated fabric based products face problem of constant repairs and
replacement in a duration of 3 years maximum. The leakage losses are quite
high and add negatively to the overall economics of running the generators.
The PP coated TPO fabric is a single solution to all the above cited problems. A
typical example of product suitable for the above applications is 1.1mm thick
double side TPO coated PP fabric with approximate strength of 135/110 Kg. The
compound used for coating is a formulation based on reactor modified TPO
instead of traditional TPO blends. The benefit of reactor modified formulation
over TPO blends are enormous; it is resistant to UV radiation as well as to
corrosive chemicals present in the waste of biogas reactor and the resulting gas,
thermally stable i.e. withstanding capacity in the summer heat and winter
temperature shocks. The TPO coated PP fabric has been tested at –60ºC. The
overall composite is made out of PP homologue hence question of non-
compatibility like dissimilar polymers, polyester / Nylon and PVC or PU does not
arise. The Specific Gravity remains 0.9 as against 1.3-1.5 of PU or PVC coated
Fabric, which is a great handling and operational ease in biogas generator

The outside color of fabric is light and the inside is made dark to avoid excessive
summer heat absorption that could kill anaerobic bacteria. The fabric has all
possibilities and flexibility of fabrication like other coated fabrics and also the
required maintenance possibilities. The choice of strength, weight and colors
remains with the end user requirement as Entremonde has earned expertise in
the custom designing of a product.


Use of olefin polymers in transport worthy packing is very common in consumer

as well as in industrial sectors. Fib’s (Flexible intermediate Bulk bags) and BLB’s
(Bulk Liner Bags) have gained popularity of transport worthy packing of solids. A
very common example is woven sack used in cement and food grain packaging.
However FIB’s and BLB’s are produced using TPO coated PP fabrics, sewing or
welding them into large bags of required format. In FIB’s one loop, tow loop, four
loops etc. are commonly used formats. Welded joints are employed as per the
requirement of storage of materials, normally wet resins, fine powders etc. These
bags and containers can have valves for ease of filling and unloading. FIB’s and
BLB’s offer a cost effective, efficient and environmental friendly way of
transporting bulk materials. Use of multiple loops made out of webbing with
monofilament PP yarn provides extra strength and thus the bags can be handled
using cranes. These can be manufactured and sealed very fast using ultrasonic
or heat welding.


In typical low slope roofing systems thermal insulation barrier and water proofing
membrane determines comfort of home. The traditional membranes consist of
PVC or EPDM coated polyester or polyamide fabric. But as discussed earlier
PVC and EPDM materials have their own draw back. New concept of TPO
coated fabric came out with all possible solution to prevailing drawbacks of
conventional materials. Thanks to the developments in multifilament PP yarns, a
sufficiently high tensile strength textile can be manufactured for this application.
The conventional welding equipment can be used for on the spot welding

Flexi tanks are containers made out of

coated fabrics in various shapes and sizes. The common shapes are pillow type,
onion, orange etc. that ranges from 250 liters to 50,000 liters capacity. These
types of tanks provide temporary as well as long term liquid storage facility. They
are used in water, oil, fruit juice, milk products, chemical and fuel storage and / or
transportation. The flexi tanks are categorized into two types one time used bulk
containers and permanent use containers. Traditionally rubber coated, PVC
coated or TPU coated fabrics are used in these application. TPO coated PP
fabrics have many distinct advantages in terms of inertness of these fabrics to
various solvents, these are relatively safe for food grade applications following
photographs shows some tanks.

• Thermoplastic olefins (TPO) are new generation compounds, which find

increasing application in automotive interiors. TPO’s are materials of future and
are finding their place due to properties over the existing materials.

• At present, PVC is dominantly used in many of the auto interior applications for
door panels, roofing upholstery etc. There are certain reasons why PVC is not
the preferred interior material abroad any more.

• In European markets, there are strong environmental objections to use PVC

because of lead and cadmium containing additives, Phthalate plasticisers and
lack of recyclability. Besides this, PVC coated fabric suffers from migration
properties of the plasticizers leading to fogging and poor ageing problems.

Against this, TPO coated on PP fabric, offers considerable

following advantages.

1. Since TPO is made out of polymeric materials and pigments, problems

associated with plasticizer migration of PVC are totally eliminated as also
cracking problems due to ageing.

2. The light weightness of TPO coated fabric is remarkable. This is primarily due
to sp.gravity differences.
3. There is absolutely no smell in the coated fabric unlike in the case of PVC
Coated fabrics.

4. The feel is also dry. If offers good cleaning properties.

5. The oil and chemical resistance are superior to those of PVC Coated fabrics.

The interiors made of TPO coated fabrics have distinct advantage of recycling,
as they are same family of materials used in structure and skins etc. Though not
a major critical requirement for Indian market but under the globalization norms,
this is an implied need of auto interiors.



The use of polyolefin polymers especially polypropylene is common in sports and

agriculture application4. The artificial grass polypropylene based apparels due to
wicking properties, pond lines green house covers are few examples. TPO
coated PP fabrics find application in all above-mentioned applications as per their
material property benefits as discussed previously over conventional PVC coated
fabrics. The PVC coated fabric faces problem due to plasticizer migration and
they are not easy to clean. The material used in PVC based product are higher in
density, therefore they are quite heavy and difficult to handle. Following
photographs illustrate these applications.


Ground Sheet is an essential item used by all soldiers in ground forces. This is
an item of their personal kit. The Ground Sheet are used as sleeping mat,
temporary shelters, to collect water from stream in remote area or as a
hammock. The conventional products are rubber, canvas or cotton based, and
have inherent problems since natural products are susceptible to degradation in
many ways. Cotton fabric being a natural fiber has many disadvantages, like
rough use and daily use makes it very vulnerable to microbial attack, when it is
wet it does not dry up as quickly as polypropylene. The rubber compound
degrades because of unsaturated sites available in its structure. The problem of
oozing is quite common in rubber-coated fabrics. Therefore in older version of
ground sheets, which is a composite of rubber and cotton, there were many
problems, like weathering, UV resistance, and chemical and microbiological
resistance and heaviness due to high-density of materials. Entremonde
Polyecoaters has invented patented1 technology to manufacture PP- TPO
Ground Sheet composite product to over come the above problem faced in
conventional product. These Ground Sheets are successfully introduced in our
Defence forces.


The woven TPO coated products are finding diverse application

in industry. The demanding application areas are building and construction
products where these fabrics find application as house wrap peel and stick wind
flashing, under slab vapor retarder. The new application in out door banners,
posters, construction sheet, fabric architecture pond liner and geotextiles are
developing areas. In conclusion the possible applications of PP TPO composite
are limited by once own imagination.

4.m.khandwe, a.k. mody indian patent 211228