UHMW

UHMW-PE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) has a continuous use temperature range of up to 180° F (82° C) and offers a unique combination of wear and corrosion resistance, a low-friction surface, and high impact strength. UHMW exhibits very low moisture absorption, and retains key physical properties at temperatures as low as minus-22° F (minus-30° C). It is an excellent general-purpose material which offers performance properties that make it effective in a tremendous range of applications, particularly food handling solutions, conveyance machinery and material handling, and packaging solutions where wear resistance and durability are crucial. UHMW also meets a wide range of regulatory compliance standards, including USDA. Common brands include Tivar, Duravar, Polystone

UHMW - Machinable Thermoplastic Widely Used For Industrial Application

Superior Abrasion Resistance, Low Coefficient of Friction, Excellent Impact Strength, Good Corrosion Resistance

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Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMW)

UHMW, also known as UHMW-PE, is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic material, known for its extremely high molecular weight and versatility, with a continuous use temperature range of up to 180° F (82° C). It also retains its key physical properties at temperatures as low as minus-22° F (minus-30° C). Categorized as an engineered material, its molecular weight ranges from 3.1 million to 100 million grams per mole, with an abrasion resistance that continues to improve as molecular weight increases. You can also read here the benefits of UHMW for home projects.

  • Superior Abrasion Resistance
  • Low Coefficient of Friction
  • Good Corrosion and Chemical Resistance (except oxidizing acids)
  • Excellent Impact Strength
  • Low Moisture Absorption
  • Ease of Fabrication
  • Self-lubricating
  • 3-A Dairy, ASTM/Mil-Spec, FDA, UL-94 Flame Class, and USDA Compliant

As the preferred choice for cut-to-size UHMW in the US, we have a wide range of different thicknesses that you can order online. Here are some available thicknesses:

  • 1/8"
  • 1/4"
  • 3/8"
  • 1/2"
  • 3/4"
  • 1”
  • 1.5”
  • 2”

DID YOU KNOW? 


The unique molecular structure of UHMW makes it ideal for wear and abrasion applications. Being a self-lubricating material, it reduces maintenance costs and energy consumption while extending equipment life.


UHMW replaces metal in many applications. It’s highly durable, cost-efficient with superior impact and chemical resistance. In combination with low friction, low moisture absorption, corrosion resistance, and noise reduction, UHMW is the material of choice for many industrial applications.

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Bearings and Bushings
  • Building & Construction
  • Chemical Processing
  • Food and Beverage Preparation and Processing
  • Gaskets and Seals
  • Gears
  • Heavy Equipment
  • Hopper and Bed Liners
  • Idle Rollers
  • Machine Shops
  • Milling and Mining
  • Oil and Gas
  • Orthotics
  • Outrigger Pads
  • Packaging and Conveying Equipment
  • Playground Equipment
  • Semiconductor and Electronics
  • Sheaves
  • Snow Plows & Scraper Edge
  • Sporting Goods
  • Tooling & Prototyping
  • Valves and Fittings
  • Wear Strips
  • Plastic Food Containers
  • Recreational Vehicles

If you are unsure if UHMW sheets are the right plastic for your application, please contact us. We are backed by the industry's most knowledgeable sales team, have extensive experience, and can, with sufficient information, offer advice regarding your application needs.

UHMW vs HDPE

Both UHMW and HDPE, are types of polyethylene plastic that can be used in various industrial applications. It’s important to understand the similarities and differences before purchasing to distinguish which material is more suitable for your needs.

At a molecular level, HDPE has a high-density makeup, meaning it doesn’t absorb much liquids. It can also be easily shaped and welded using thermoplastic equipment. It’s a low-cost, durable, abrasion, and chemical-resistant plastic material. HDPE is often used as a vessel or container, or for marine applications. 

On the other hand, UHMW is also low-cost and primarily used for applications that require extreme strength and abrasion resistance. This is an extremely popular plastic for wear industrial applications that require constant friction between moving parts over time. It’s also easy to fabricate and machine, but it's more difficult to form specific shapes or to weld.

There isn’t one choice that’s better suited to every application, but more about choosing which option is a better fit for your specific scenario. If you are unsure what plastic sheet to use for your application, please contact us.

 

UHMW vs Acetal

The primary difference is machining the two materials. UHMW is soft and more difficult to machine compared to Acetal due to its slippery form and it also suffers from thermal expansion. Acetal is a harder material with high mechanical strength and rigidity. It machines close to tolerance and performs better in precise (typically small) parts. They are both good alternatives to metal, with UHMW being the more economical option.

There isn’t one choice that’s better suited to every application, but more about choosing which option is a better fit for your specific scenario. If you are unsure what plastic sheet to use for your application, please contact us. 

UHMW Fabrication Methods:

UHMW is highly versatile and easy to machine - even by a do-it-yourselfer. It’s cost-effective, outperforms metals in many applications, moisture-resistant, and easy to fabricate.

 

Cutting UHMW

UHMW can be sawed, turned, planed, milled, drilled, stamped, and welded easily on woodworking or metalworking machines. The following instructions are general guidelines to observe when machining UHMW.

 

Sawing UHMW

There are many ways to cut UHMW material - circular, bank, reciprocating, and guillotine saws are generally suitable. Band saws are particularly suitable for large cross-sections since they conduct the heat away and allow high cutting speeds. To prevent the saw blades from becoming jammed, the teeth must be set at approximately 0.5mm. When using circular saws, saw blades with a minimum setting of 0.5mm are also preferred.

UHMW does not harm the saw or blade, but if you are cutting a lot of it, there are few things you should watch out for. For example, if the blade speed slows while cutting the material, UHMW will produce “stringers” that can wrap around the arbor. It’s important to clean the end of the arbor at regular intervals. If you are cutting a thick piece of UHMW, it’s best to do short cuts as it will minimize the stringers and prolong the life of the saw.

 

Drilling UHMW

Plastics can build up heat very easily during drilling operations, especially when hole depths are greater than twice the diameter. Therefore, a cooling liquid is recommended. Lower RPM drilling is recommended. Twist drills are most commonly used for small diameter holes (0.5 - 25mm diameter) and thinned web (dubbed drill) is recommended for large diameter holes (25mm diameter and larger). This is because it reduces friction and heat generation. 

 

Welding UHMW

Because of its high melt viscosity, friction and butt welding are the only practical methods for joining by welding.

 

Polishing UHMW

ShapesPlastics experts recommend using a hand diamond lapper to polish grind marks.

 

ShapesPlastics Custom Fabrication

For users who do not have the skill, experience, tools, or time to fabricate these sheets, ShapesPlastics offers cut-to-size ad hoc services. The ability to create cut-to-size products that deliver the best quality, precision in cutting, and tight tolerances, is what truly sets us apart. You can also benefit from additional savings in shipping as cutting the sheet down to your final size, might qualify it for free standard shipping.

Cleaning / Maintaining UHMW

A popular method is wrapping UHMW parts with a self-sticking film. You can even wash them with standard dish soap and a little bleach to return to its natural color.

Physical Properties

Units ASTM Test Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene
Tensile strength @ break @ 73°F psi D638 3,550 – 5,800
Flexural modulus @ 73°F psi D790 98,300 – 222,000
Izod impact (notched) ft-lbs/in of notch D256 1.0 – 16
Water absorption @ 73°F – 24 hours % D570 <0.01
Coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) (in/in F) D696 6.8E-5 to 7.8E-5
Coefficient of friction D1894 0.08 – 0.2
Deflection Temperature Under Load @ 264 psi °F D648 154 – 173

* Technical Data is provided courtesy of UL Prospector (www.ulprospector.com) and IAPD (www.IAPD.org).

Data is to be considered representative and is provided for guidance only. All product performance must be verified by the user under actual application conditions.


WHERE CAN I BUY UHMW SHEETS? 


ShapesPlastics can meet your UHMW needs. We offer a variety of UHMW sheets in different thicknesses, sizes, colors, and grades. We carry a large inventory of popular brands in a variety of thicknesses. The thickness you need for your application depends entirely on the application at hand. If you are unsure about which thickness is suitable for your project, please contact us. We are backed by the industry's most knowledgeable sales team, have extensive experience, and can, with sufficient information, make a good estimate of the thickness to be used. If you need a larger sheet, request a free quote via the contact page.

We offer cut-to-size and fabrication options so you can get exactly what you need without the hassle of having to cut it yourself. We also provide value-added precision fabrication services such as drilling holes, diamond and flame polishing, rounded edges, radius corners, and state-of-the-art CNC routing and cutting services for exceptionally smooth surface finish.

Not only can we cut what you need, but we can also ship it for free if it is a standard size piece. We offer competitive prices, an easy-to-use website, and have knowledgeable staff that is ready to help point you in the right direction. Thinking of purchasing UHMW sheets at Home Depot or UHMW at Lowes? They don't cut to your specification and frankly, here at ShapesPlastics, we are less expensive and offer an array of services so you get exactly what you want.


Frequently Asked Questions

Nothing! UHMW is just a shortened version of UHMWPE. They’re both the same thing.

It’s commonly used as a container and not made with BPA. As of now, it is not known to leach any chemicals. It complies with many standard regulations such as 3-A Dairy, ASTM/Mil-Spec, FDA, UL-94 Flame Class, and USDA.

We carry many popular brands under UHMW, primarily Quadrant’s Tivar®.

Frequently Asked Questions

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