Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, (UHMW-PE) is used in a wide range of harsh, heavy-duty applications. Less expensive than PTFE, it can offer significant savings in many high volume applications. Because UHMW-PE resin has a molecular weight range of 3-6 million, compared to 300,000-500,000 for high molecular weight resins like HDPE, UHMW-PE products withstand abrasion and impact much better than lower-level PE products, and even PTFE. Its high molecular weight also means it will not melt or flow as a molten liquid.
+ Key Strengths:
UHMW-PE is less expensive than PTFE, and has about 80% of the tensile strength of unfilled PTFE, a slightly higher coefficient of linear thermal expansion (7.5 vs. 11.1), and a higher flexural modulus, meaning that it’s stiffer than PTFE. UHMW-PE can be used in high operational temperatures and it is very resistant to electrolytic attack, most alkalis and acids, organic solvents, and degreasing agents. It is also very tough, showing excellent resistance to stress and cracking. UHMW-PE threads have tensile strengths many times greater than steel and it is frequently used in high-demand applications such as bulletproof vests and products used in extreme conditions. As of 2017, there are three types of UHMW-PE materials in widespread clinical use, primarily in orthopedics: conventional UHMW-PE, highly crosslinked UHMW-PE, and highly crosslinked UHMW-PE containing Vitamin E.
- Key Drawbacks:
UHMW-PE tends to be more expensive than polypropylene (PP), which can often be used in similar applications. Although it is not toxic in solid form, UHMW-PE could be toxic if inhaled or absorbed into the skin or eyes as a vapor or liquid during manufacturing processes.