HDPE Thermoplaste
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HDPE Thermoplastic
Vacuum formed from HDPE plastic
HDPE   - High Density Polyethylene

High density polyethylene (HDPE) was invented by Karl Ziegler of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (today Max Planck Institute) and Erhard Holzkamp in 1953. They used catalysts and low pressure, which was the basis for the composition of many polyethylene compounds. In 1955 the first HDPE pipe was produced. In 1963, Ziegler was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his concept of HDPE.

LDPE belongs, like HDPE, to the group of polyolefins and is a semi-crystalline polymer, produced by polymerization of ethylene with the aid of catalysts. HDPE is one of the most important plastic materials in use today. In 2007 the HDPE-global market achieved a volume of more than 30 millon tons and the growth was especially attributed to the packing and building industries.

HDPE is the type of polyethylene with the greatest strength and the least flexibility. HDPE may be used for a broad range of applications, like for instance organic waste containers, and for a multitude of everyday household goods, like clothespins, brushes, bottle caps, bottles, milk jugs etc. Despite the fact that HDPE is quite heavy, it may be used for the production of sliver-thin plastic sheets, like the ones used for food packing. Also liner sheets, water pipes and gas lines are important examples for the usage of HDPE. Another benefit of HDPE is that it is nontoxic and recyclable and is therefore increasingly used as an alternative to less environmentally acceptable materials.

HDPE Properties

Mass density of HDPE is within a range of 0.93 to 0.97 g/cm³. The density of HDPE is insignificantly higher than that of LDPE, but HDPE shows little branching, which results in stronger intermolecular forces and tensile strength compared to LDPE. HDPE is tougher than LDPE and resistant to bases, acids, vegetable oils, alcohol and continuous heat of approx. 110 degrees Celsius. It is almost unbreakable and features superior impact strength, abrasion resistance, pressure resistance and minimal deterioration. HDPE shows good cutting capabilities, supports noncutting processing and provides excellent machinability and self-lubricating properties. HDPE insulates very well and maintains its properties even at very low temperatures.

HDPE Applications

HDPE was commercially produced for the first time in 1956, but one toy initiated its break-through at the end of the 1950s – the hula hoop. This has led to the production of big volumes of extruded HDPE-pipes for applications like gas and sewer lines. Blow-molded bottles for detergents, baby bottles, plastic sheet packing and household goods like Tupperware have been the primal products made of HDPE. High density plastic bags are omnipresent since the conception of supermarkets.

Thermoforming applications for HDPE can be divided into two groups: one, which requires exceptional melt strength, stress-crack resistance and toughness, and the other group where conventional HDPE may be used. To avoid webbing problems with large HDPE-parts, good melt strength is required. HDPE resins with an Extra High Molecular Weight (EHMW) should therefore be used.

Other commonly used thermoplastics

ABS Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
LDPE Low Density Polyethylene
PC Polycarbonate
PET Polyethylene terephthalate
PMMA Polymethyl methacrylate
PP Polypropylene
PS Polysytrene
PVC Polyvinyl chloride
Vacuum formed from HDPE plastic

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