The Basics of Polyethylene (PE)



Polyethylene (PE) has been around for more than 80 years and, like many polymers in the industry today, was created by accident in 1898 by a German chemist named Pechmann. One of the prevailing perceptions surrounding this commodity is that not much consideration is needed when it comes to picking the correct grade for the material. But polyethylene (PE), unlike any other commodity, has very complicated characteristics.

Facts about Polyethylene

Polyethylene differs from traditional plastic in terms of its manufacturing process. Approximately 80 million tonnes of polyethylene are produced globally, making it the most widely used product of the plastic family. PE is used in a variety of applications and markets, ranging from plastic bags to toys, lids, pipes, buckets and cable wiring covering. On average, every person in the world uses about 5kgs of polyethylene every single year.

Characteristics of Polyethylene


PE is usually classified as a thermoplastic. Thermoplastic materials turn into liquid at a melting point of 110 – 130 degree Celsius.

Can be heated only once

A major attribute of a thermoplastic is that they can be heated to their melting point, cooled and then reheated again to be recycled. So far, thermoset plastics can only be heated once (typically during the injection moulding process). If you try to reheat a thermoset plastic to a high temperature, it would simply burn the second time around.

In addition to the above, following are some other unique characteristics that make PE stand out from the rest of the plastic family:

  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • Low coefficient of friction
  • No moisture absorption
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Excellent noise abatement
  • Excellent impact strength
  • Maintains key physical properties to -30° C

Typical PE Applications

  • Gears, bearing, wear plates
  • Support-,tension-,and deflecting rollers
  • Rope pulleys
  • Chain sprockets
  • Bumpers
  • Scraper blades
  • Seals
  • Conveyor Screws
  • Parcel chutes
  • Linings for bunkers
  • Cutting and chopping boards

Want to know more? 

The polyethylene family of plastics consists of several physical characteristics, all named according to their density and molecular weight. The standard grades for polyethylene supplied at Ai Engineering Plastics and Laminates are cut to your requirements and are available in a range of colours:

PE1000 (UHMW-PE)

PE500 (HMW-PE)

PE300 (HPDE)

In addition to these grades, we also sell Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Material EPP specialist grades which include:



Shop with us

Get access to a range of products and find the right shape and size for your business. To find out more about polyethylene, download the data sheets or call us at 0161 7270250. Our team will be more than happy to help!


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