Bicast leather (also known as bi-cast leather, bycast leather, or PU leather, sometimes described as split leather) is a material made with a split leather backing covered with a layer of polyurethane (hence the term "PU leather") that is applied to the surface and then embossed. Because it is only used for the backing, the leather portion of this material is generally not visible in finished goods made from bicast. Bicast was originally made for the apparel industry for glossy shoes, and recently was adopted by the furniture industry. The resulting product has an artificially consistent texture that is easier to clean and maintain, as is the case with most plastic materials. When used for footwear, it cannot be considered equal to conventional leather as it lacks the strength, breatheability, and durability of the natural product.
Production of synthetic, artificial/faux "leathers" has recently evolved so that a shell coating layer goes on top of a synthetic polymer blend, so the definition of "synthetic", "artificial/faux" leather methods of production no longer necessarily requires composite leather blends of [coated] raw-tanned cowhide grains and/or its fibrous layers.
Production and features
The use of terms like "leather", "genuine leather" or "100% leather" in relation to bicast treatment is considered a misrepresentation and therefore not permitted in some countries, including the UK, Denmark, and New Zealand. Furniture made with bicast exhibits none of the characteristics associated with aniline leather; it will not develop a patina or suppleness nor otherwise "improve with age". With constant use, the polyurethane layer may crack and split free of its backing, and abrasion may cause large unsightly marks.
Modern technology permits up to four stratified layers being taken from a single hide. The leather used in the backing of bicast is a thin layer, remaining after other layers have been removed for traditional leather work.
Furniture manufacturers say that the main benefit of bicast leather is its surface appearance at a low price. Lower grades of leather can be used during the manufacturing process, and treating with polyurethane gives a uniform shine and a long-lasting "like new" appearance. Bicast leather looks best, they say, on furniture with taut seat cushions and pillows, and should not be folded or creased sharply. It can easily be cleaned with a damp cloth. New bicast leather furniture can have a chemical odor, but this typically dissipates about a week after the piece is exposed to air.
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