As far back as 1979 Evonik launched PEBA on the market under the VESTAMID® E brand name. Since then, PA 12 elastomer molding compounds have been used wherever high demands are placed on material, as in pressure lines in trucks, medical equipment—and sports goods.
Freedom of design is very important in the sports goods sector, explains Klaus Hülsmann, director of Sport. “The shoe of tomorrow will look very different from that of today—and our material must be able to meet that challenge.” PEBA is in fact very easily processed, colored, and overmolded. “It’s also important that the material be elastic and virtually indestructible, no matter how the sportsperson uses it,” adds Hülsmann. PEBA ski or climbing boots, for example, are light, waterproof, and wear-resistant, and retain their flexibility in the cold.
Thought is already being given to the sports shoe of the future: Evonik has developed the world’s first flexible polymer material based on polyether block amide for use in 3D printing. The new high-performance PEBA powder can be used in a variety of powder-based 3D printing technologies. “We can use it to produce customized shoe soles and custom-designed sunglasses and protectors for the skiers, snowboarders, and mountain bikers of tomorrow,” says Hülsmann.
The victory of the German team in the 1954 FIFA World Cup has been ascribed partly to the quality of their shoes. Could PEBA help Germany lift the trophy again? Klaus Hülsmann smiles. “The material is much lighter than other plastics. This means that in a 90-minute soccer match the player carries 100 kg less weight than with other sole materials.”