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Bicast leather (also known as 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 Bicast was originally made for the apparel industry for glossy shoes, and recently was adopted by the furniture industry.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.
The use of terms like "leather", "genuine leather" or "100% leather" in relation to this bicast treatment is considered a misrepresentation and therefore not permitted in some countries, e.g., 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.[dead link]
Modern technology permits up to four horizontal 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 price. There is also a growing trend for manufacturers to use bicast because consumers favor products described with the word "leather" over products described with the word "plastic" or "Polyurethane" even though the consumer doesn't actually see any of the leather content. 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. Because it is primarily plastic, it can easily be cleaned with a damp cloth. Because the surface is completely plastic, new bicast leather furniture can have a slight chemical smell, but this typically dissipates about a week after the piece is exposed to air.