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The Differences Between LDPE and HDPE 

Written by MS
17/05/2021 10:00:13

 
Polyethylene is one of the most ubiquitous thermoplastic materials around at the moment. Every year, tens of millions of tons of PE get produced worldwide and applications vary from plastic bags to tubes, children’s toys to high-performance plastic parts. 
 
PE plastic is available in a wide range of different forms, including as:
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)
  • Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX or XLPE)
  • Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE)
  • Chlorinated polyethylene (CPE)
 
In this blog, we are going to focus primarily on LDPE and HDPE however as they are the two most common variations of PE used today. We are going to think about the differences and similarities between these two materials and their wider applications in the world today. 
 
Our parent company, Barkston Plastics Ltd, stock a wide range of different plastic materials and use these to create precise parts and components to help businesses in a wide range of different sectors. To find out more about how your business can gain competitive advantages with plastic, click here.
 
What is LDPE?
 
Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE, is one of the first grades of PE that was developed back in 1933. Though it is not widely recycled, the LDPE market hit over $33 billion back in 2013, making it one of the most popular plastics around. 
 
Typically, LDPE is a clear or translucent plastic that is both flexible and waterproof. It is also a plastic with high chemical resistance. LDPE can withstand temperatures in excess of 80 degrees Celsius and breaks down more easily over time than other plastics. 
 
Applications of LDPE:
 
LDPE is primarily used for the manufacturing of containers. This includes everything from plastic bags to dispensable bottles and plastic trays. 
 
Some other uses of LDPE are as:
  • Plastic wraps
  • Corrosion-resistant work surfaces
  • Soft and pliable parts (such as lids)
  • Parts that need to be weldable and machinable 
  • Parts that require high levels of flexibility 
  • Packaging for computer hardware (such as storage drives)
 
What is HDPE?
 
Though the density of HDPE is only marginally higher than that of LDPE, high-density polyethylene has little branching in its molecular chain, providing great tensile strength and durability. HDPE is one of the most widely recycled and sustainable plastic materials around today.
 
As it is resistant to many solvents, HDPE cannot be glued, but HDPE pipes may be welded. This plastic material can also be used in a moulding process, leading to the mass production of everyday products such as stools. 
 
Applications of HDPE:
 
Broadly put, HDPE has a much wider range of uses than LDPE. It is used for items such as plastic bottles and also:
  • Chemical containers
  • Chemical-resistant piping
  • Fuel tanks 
  • Food storage containers
  • Sewage mains 
  • Storage sheds 
  • Plastic surgery (in facial reconstruction!)
 
Similarities between HDPE and LDPE:
 
Naturally, as HDPE and LDPE are both polymers with the same route (PE), they have several shared characteristics. These include:
  • Low material weight 
  • Impact-resistant qualities
  • Chemical resistance 
  • Low manufacturing and fabrication costs 
 
These similar characteristics also mean that LDPE and HDPE are often used for applications in the same industries. Most regularly, you will find these plastics in the automotive and electrical sectors - and for the creation of piping. 
 
Differences between HDPE and LDPE:
 
As previously mentioned, one of the greatest differences between these materials is in their overall durability and rigidity as LDPE is a more flexible material. This is a result of the different crystalline structure between the two materials. 
 
Likewise, LDPE has a much lower melting than HDPE (115 degrees Celsius versus 135). And LDPE is more likely to crack under pressure and stress.
 
The two materials also have to be recycled using different methods, which is why HDPE is often more widely recycled as the process is simpler than that for recycling LDPE. 
 
Gaining Competitive Advantages with Plastic:
 
We use both these materials and other forms of polyethylene regularly in our engineering of plastic parts, components and products for a wide range of industry leaders. 
 
Our services operate at every level of the supply chain as our team takes part in the research stage, design, manufacturing and maintenance of all products and components. 
 
To find out more about how plastics can help your business’s productivity and efficiency, get in contact today! Our email is service@barkstonltd.co.uk, or you can give us a ring on +44 113 249 2200. 
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