Polyethylene plastic is one of the most widely used materials for the manufacture of an extensive range of products. Hardly surprising considering it is both simple and economical to produce. This reason, together with its other advantages, has led to its proliferation in various areas. Did you know that many toys are made of polyethylene plastic?
Its applications are endless: from consumer products present in our daily lives, such as the cling film we wrap our food in, to industrial and technical applications, such as cables and pipes, among many others. Let’s find out a little more about polyethylene plastic.
What is polyethylene plastic and what are its characteristics?
Polyethylene plastic is a polymer formed by a string of hydrogen and carbon atoms, repeatedly chained together. It is a thermoplastic obtained by the polymerisation of ethylene. It is a demonstration of how a new substance can be obtained by applying a chemical process to an organic compound. Moreover, ethylene can be polymerised in different ways, depending on the properties that are needed. This gives rise to different types of the same material.
Characteristics of polyethylene plastic
Let’s look at some of the characteristics of polyethylene:
- It’s an inert This means that it’s unlikely to react chemically on contact with another material.
- Visually it exhibits a whitish, almost translucent appearance.
- It is not a good conductor of heat or electricity. This is why it is so widely used in the manufacture of wiring, pipes, etc.
- In a liquid state it gains or loses density depending on the temperature and the stress it is subjected to. This is why it’s classified as a non-Newtonian fluid. This makes it extremely resistant at low temperature. In a solid state, its density also varies according to temperature.
- It is flexible and resistant to ordinary temperatures. Its melting point is 110º. When subjected to a lower thermal gradient, it becomes harder and more fragile.
In light of all this, we can say that the mechanical properties of polyethylene plastic vary depending on the temperature at which it is treated while being manufactured. They also depend on how it cools and solidifies.
Types of polyethylene plastic
There are two varieties of polyethylene, both used in the process of production at FORTAPS.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
This thermoplastic has an endless number of uses. LDPE is present in the composition of plastic bags, cling film, bottles, toys, etc. Its flexibility is greater than high-density polyethylene. Its processing method is simple, using the same procedures as for all thermoplastics (extrusion or injection, for example). But it’s difficult to print or paint on it.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
This type of polyethylene is tougher and more resistant. This is why it is included in packaging formulations that require special durability. Also for mechanical components, gas pipes, etc.
Advantages of polyethylene
Talking about polyethylene plastic means talking about a highly versatile product. The possibility of varying its density and hardness enables particular aspects to be harnessed. Perhaps the best known product is the supermarket carrier bag, but it is also used to make cling film, pipes, bottles, packaging, etc.
It is a highly resistant material, the high density version being harder and stiffer, while the low density one is more malleable. Its considerable flexibility is another of its great assets: it is elastic and stretches easily.
In addition to all the advantages we have listed, we must mention one more: it can be recycled. Nowadays, this is a highly rated attribute, given the pollution situation we are facing. In this regard, it is important to note that polyethylene is a non-toxic material. Also that, in the case of FORTAPS, we take care of the collection and recycling of our polyethylene plastic. We reintroduce any surplus residue back into production. This shows that it is a material whose productive life can be managed using what is known as the circular economy.
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