Polyethylene (PE), or polythene, is the most common plastic in use today (34%).
It is a polymer primarily used for packaging, but it has the capabilities to be used in a variety of different applications. It Is a thermoplastic that offers great properties such as abrasion and chemical resistance, high impact strength, and
a low coefficient of friction. It is also moisture, stain, and odour resistant. As well as all the above it is also one of the most versatile and durable plastic products available.
With a high melting point it also remains rigid until it hits high temperatures. Once it has reached its melting point, the material can be quickly and efficiently moulded for use across a variety of unique applications, making it suitable to make into a variety of shapes.
Many grades of PE are FDA approved for use within the food processing industry. As it is more rigid than polypropylene, it is often used as a chopping board that is suitable for medium usage.
Resistant to mould, mildew and rotting, Polyethylene is the ideal material for underground piping that is used to deliver water. It is long lasting, weather resistant, and can be sterilized by boiling, making it an ideal material for food and beverage containers. PE has excellent resistance to naturally occurring chemicals found in soil. It is virtually impervious to most common chemicals, water, solvents, acids, detergents, and cleaning fluids.
Helping to reduce plastic production by up to 50%, PE is easily recyclable and helps keep non-biodegradable waste out of landfills. For those looking for a cost-effective, environmentally responsible material, PE is the material of choice.
PE comes in 3 grades: PE300, PE500 and PE1000.
The higher the molecular weight, the easier it is to CNC machine. Similarly, resistance to stress cracking and impact strength improve the higher the molecular weight.
PE300 / HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). Base level use. It is more difficult than other materials to CNC engineer into machine components.
(High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) has excellent mechanical properties, making it suitable for less demanding applications that would otherwise require PE1000 / UHMWPE. PE500 is a great material choice for parts where some impact & abrasion resistance is beneficial but not the main requirement. Slightly softer than PE1000. Ideal for food preparation and chopping boards. It also offers a better durable cutting surface than HDPE and comes in a variety of colour options, making it easily identifiable in any kitchen! PE500 offers excellent, non-stick properties at a cheaper price point than PE1000 / UHMWPE.
(Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) has self-lubricating properties providing outstanding resistance to abrasion (in some instances, it has also been known to be
15 times more resistant to abrasion than carbon steel), impact and wear. It is the material of choice when it comes to bespoke machined parts due to its relatively cheap nature and colour availability for part identification. For a super tough material with exceptional impact & wear resistance, PE1000 is the best choice for impact & wear applications.
Whilst it embodies all the characteristics of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), it has the added traits of being resistant to concentrated acids and alkalis, as well as numerous organic solvents. Additionally, it is highly resistant to corrosive chemicals (except for oxidising acids such as nitric and sulphuric).
Its coefficient of friction is significantly lower than that of nylon and acetal and is comparable to that of PTFE & Teflon, but PE1000 / UHMWPE has better abrasions resistance than PTFE.
PE1000 also provides exceptionally low moisture absorption and offers excellent electric and dielectric properties as well as being resistant to ultraviolet light. It does not, however, perform well when exposed to temperatures over +120°C and can become brittle in applications below -150°C. It is also difficult to bond due to the material’s waxy surface.
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