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What’s the difference between ABS and polyethylene (HMW plastic)?

In thermoforming, we often get this question because it’s true that ABS et polyethylene (HMW plastic) are somewhat similar.


What is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene also known as ABS plastic?


ABS plastic is a rigid plastic that has good chemical and impact resistance. It’s easy to color and it’s versatile to shape in any form. It can be used in temperatures ranging from -20 to + 80 degrees Celcius.


ABS plastic has many uses and here are some examples of its use:

  • Lego blocks

  • Safety helmets

  • Automotive parts

  • Growing trays and tables


Another advantage of using ABS is that it’s easy to recycle!

What is High Molecular Weight Polyethylene also known as HMW plastic?


HMW plastic is resistant to impacts, chemicals, corrosion, and abrasion. It’s non-toxic for food and very resistant to cold temperatures because it will keep its physical properties even at a temperature of -80 degrees Celcius. It’s very light and absorbs very little moisture.


This plastic is often used for:

  • Food

  • Automotive parts

  • Forest and mining

  • Conveyor systems

  • Drainage in civil engineering


How to choose between ABS and polyethylene (HMW) for my product?


Polyethylene (HMW) is very difficult to beat in regards to chemical resistance to fuels, oils, and other human by-products. ABS can match this level of chemical resistance because of Butadiene but Butadiene is extremely toxic…

Also, polyethylene (HMW) has a better heat resistance than ABS. Thus, polyethylene (HMW) is a better choice if the product has to be in contact with food.


On the other hand, ABS is harder than polyethylene (HMW) so it’s more resistant to impacts.


If you need more help to choose a type of plastic for your product, we will be happy to assist you.



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