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Comparing HDPE and UHMW Polyethylene

Comparing HDPE and UHMW Polyethylene

HDPE vs UHMW: When to Use High-Density Polyethylene

HDPE and UHMW are popular and well known types of plastics across many different industries for their reliability, so much so that many people have started to use them interchangeably. However, their uses don’t coin cide nearly as often as many think–HDPE has different qualities that lend well to different applications. While both materials are very light, with a density of .94 – which means they both float in water.

When best to use HDPE

High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE is known for its versatility and low moisture absorption, which result from its high-density chemical makeup. Its chemical composition also makes it highly chemical resistant, so it’s excellent for applications that involve moisture or mild chemicals.

HDPE is also very easy to machine and shape. As a result, it has been used successfully to make plastic lumber, milk jugs, containers, cutting boards, and many other products.

In addition to being easy to machine, HDPE sheet and rod are also relatively lightweight, and can be NSF and FDA compliant. This very durable material can not be glued or bonded, and thus must be heat welded together or attached with mechanical fasteners. HDPE is excellent for applications where reduced weight and low costs are paramount. This, combined with its easy machinability, allows HDPE to be cut, drilled, routed and shaped for many different end uses. Food cutting boards, piping, storage vessels, marine components, and many more benefit from HDPE. It’s also been successful in outdoor furniture, signage, playground equipment, structural tanks, food processing equipment, vacuum-formed parts, transfer boards, tank liners–and this is just a small number of its applications.

When not to use HDPE

While HDPE and UHMW have similar properties, they are often better suited to different tasks. Both plastics do have high impact resistance, but UHMW (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) performs better in applications where friction and constant impact are present. The UHMW molecular chain is much longer, thus giving UHMW the extreme wear resistance. This results in UHMW being used more often in functional components, like conveyor systems, concrete chute liners, mated parts, bumpers, and bearing applications. HDPE does not perform as well as UHMW under constant friction, making HDPE better for food processing surfaces, chemical resistant parts, decorative products, or components that will not experience constant friction. If a reduced friction application is needed, the use of UHMW with a coefficient of friction of just 0.08 (compared to HDPE with a coefficient of friction of 0.20) is much more suitable.

Find all your performance plastics at Industrial Plastic Supply

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Which Plastic Materials Are UV Stable – Stablized

Which Plastic Materials Are UV Stable – Stablized

Plastic Materials That Are UV Stable

Some of our most popular questions are “Is this material UV stable”, or “How long will this last in direct sunlight”, or something similar. These are great questions. Just look at the ‘cheap’ backyard furniture you bought last year, yep, it is faded and cracking. Why is that?

The quick answer is the material had either no UV (Ultra Violet Light) stabilizer or very little. Most plastic materials are not UV stable to start with, other than Acrylic which is invisible to UV. All other materials need a little something to give it the protection it may need from the sun. Many plastic materials, if given the proper additives, can be used in direct sunlight for 10 – 15 years giving excellent performance. UV Stable Playground HDPE Sheet for Outdoor Use

The first factor in picking such a material is the intended use. Not all materials are good candidates for all applications. While some materials will perform very well, others under the same conditions will fail. Please contact us for details on a material to meet your needs.
HDPE sheet is one of the best materials for long term outdoor use, if given the proper additives. Next time you drive by a children’s playground in your local city, look at the brightly colored panels used to make the play equipment. This is a HDPE sheet with heavy UV additives, and this makes an excellent application. Available in a rainbow of colors and able to be fabricated easily, this material is excellent for many outdoor applications.
If your application is more mechanical, other materials that might be used would be: Polycarbonate, UHMW, ABS (especially with Korad cover), Acetal, Noryl and many more. Our standard Covestro Makrolon Polycarbonate is a UV stable material in sheet, and is frequently used in replacement glazing applications. The remaining materials on the list are available in Black (a carbon black pigment) which extends outdoor usage. While still not recommended for direct sunlight, they can be used with a good possibility of success – depending on design. Plastics can become brittle or lose properties over time if material does not have UV stabilization, with the proper material and the proper additives, you can get years of trouble free service.