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Brentwood Plastics Blog

High Density HMWDPE Conundrum

Posted by Joel Longstreth on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 @ 05:20 PM

The acronyms HMWHDPE and  UHMWHDPE are confusing.  This discussion breaks down high molecular weight jargon.

alphasoupHD-2.jpg 

Starting with the MW bit -  MW is short for molecular weight.  MWD, or molecular weight distribution is the full name.  Accoring to Handbook of Polyethylene by Andrew Peacock:

     " The size of a polyethylene molecule is normally described in terms of its molecular weight.  All polyethylene resins consist of a mixture of molecules with a range of molecular weights.. The average molecular weight and the distribution of chain lengths comprising a polyethylene resin profoundly affect is ( sic ) properties.  The molecular weights of molecules found in commercial resins may range from a few hundred up to 10 million... Often it is found that those molecules making up the higher molecular weight fractions also display the lowest levels of branching. "

Without getting deep into the five geeky ways to measure MWD, suffice to say that a high molecular weight resin is concentrated, very crystalline ( little short chain brancing ) and very dense. No surprize that by definition the density is high - high density ( HD ), or over .940 gm / cc.

So HMWHDPE = " High Molecular Weight High Density Polyethylene"

As you might expect, these resins are among the strongest polyethylenes pound for pound.  They are so viscous that the ASTM 1238 test for melt index had to be revised when the original Mitsui 7000F came along in the late 1970's.  Melt index is a measure of viscosity.  The test method consists of a cylindrical specimen in basically a heated can with a weight and a hole at the bottom.  The number of grams which come out of the hole in ten minutes is called the melt index.  This provides a crude predictor of the resin's personality.  Garden variety LDPE resins are about 2 grams or the verbal shorthand " 2 melt".   Mitsui 7000 F, American Hoechst GM9255F2 and Conoco / Dupont 5000 had values of + - 0.05.  So the HMW film resins are now tested with a " high load melt index", or "HLMI" which simply means higher weight to get a more meaningful sample.  Some prefer to make it sound more daunting by saying  "HLMIHMWDPE."  The most cotidien examples are single use grocery bags and star- seal trash bags.

hdpebubble.jpg

Did you know ?  If there is not adequate haul-off speed, thicker HMWHD films will be weaker.  Why ?
the strength is a function of how well the polymer is "knitted" in the transverse direction ( TD ).  Here's how it works:  HMHD is made with a "stalk" or "wine glass" vis-avis "in the pocket" in LDPE.

ldpepocket.jpg

 When the elastic energy dissipates, the bubble is created.  The tear strength and is a function of how fast the melt is oriented in the TD.  Simply slowing the line speed will create weaker, "splitty" film.

UHMWHDPE as you might guess is an even higher protein version with molecular weights starting around 2,000,000.  Those are long chains.  That said, most grades are in the .928 to .941 range which fall into the category of medium density polyethylene ( MDPE ). You can't make blown film out of it.  It has to be cast, or made with a slot die.  It is very stiff and slippery to the point of having a weird self-lubricating effect.  This trait makes it a popular choice for conveyor belts. I recently had a partial knee replacement.  Instead of a meniscus, I have a stainless steel end of my tibia moving against an insert of HMWHD in my fibula.  ( i have an image, but it's not for the faint of heart ).  There are lots of uses - the most popular is pressure-sensitive tape commonly referred to as "poor man's teflon." 

For the basics of PE, click here.

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Topics: HDPE, HDPE resin, UHMWHDPE, HMWHDPE, HDPE film resin

What Is Polyethylene?

Posted by Joel Longstreth on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 @ 09:19 AM

What is Polyethylene?

Polyethylene is comprised of long chains of the building block ethylene monomer. Ethylene monomer
C2H4 ( or just "C2" for short ) looks like this in English:

ethylene.jpg

Ethylene monomer occurs naturally in both natural gas and as a component of naptha - the portion of a barrel of oil which cannot be refined into gasoline or oil.  So now you know that correlations between zillions of barrels of oil and plastic grocery bags are just more fake news.

                                      Did you know ?  Climacteric plants produce ethylene to induce ripening.

bananas.jpgtomatoes.jpg

Polyethylene looks like this in English:

polyethylene

How these chains are put together determine the wide variety of resin properties. The fancy name for this is molecular weight distribution, or MWD for short.  MWD influences the 2 main properties which dictate a resins's personaliity - density and melt index.  The variations determine what applications a specific resin will work for.  

Polyethylene is the largest volume thermoplastic resin.  As such, it has a wide variety of uses.  Worldwide, there are probably hundreds of grades just for film alone.

What is Polyethylene?

Polyethylene is very inert.  The prelude to the iconic scene in episode 2 of season 1 of breaking bad illustrates this point.

1x02_-_Cat's_in_the_Bag..._5.png-2.webp

jessetub.jpg

The character Jesse called Walter from the store asking about what kind of plastic bin to buy.  Walter told him to look for the " LDPE 4 polyethylene " symbol on the bottom.  Jesse pours hydrofluoric acid packaged in a #2 HDPE #2 on the body in the bathtub.  After the bathtub falls through two floors, Walter explains that hydrofuoric acid is so aggressive that it eats through ceramic and metal ( but not polyethylene ).

bbadfloorhole.jpg

Melt index (MI) measures viscosity by weighing the amount of plastic resin which extrudes from a cylinder with a hole in the bottom at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. The test method is ASTM D1238. The number of grams is the melt index, or MI.

A low melt index ( under 1 ) is referred to as a fractional melt  or less than a gram / 10 minutes.  Lower MI resins are used for pipe and profile extrusion.   It's common sense that resins with high viscosity (resistance to flow) are inherently strong. In film applications, fractional melt is suitable for shipping sacks and shrink film. Generally there is a trade off between melt index and clarity. The higher the melt index, the clearer the resin.  So a fractional melt is not a good choice when clarity is important and a high clarity "whole melt" or resin with a melt index of over 1.0 is not appropriate for shipping sacks.

By contrast, high melt index resins are used for injection molding.  For injection molding, it is desirable to have a material which flows easily to fill the mold cavity.

This has been a very cursory basic introduction.  To learn about where polyethylene comes from, visit our
post .  Polyethylene is processed by almost every thermoplastic process.

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Topics: polyethylene, LDPE, HDPE

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