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Choosing Between HDPE and UHMWPE Netting

HDPE and UHMWPE are both polyethylene-based products and are made from thermoplastic polymers. Both products are widely used across a variety of industries. However, each product has specific characteristics, which confer advantages and disadvantages depending on the how they will be used.

UHMWPE is a long acronym that stands for Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene.  As the name implies, UPMWPE contains molecular chains that are longer than what will be found in other types of polyethylene materials.  This exceptionally long molecular chain structure gives UHMWPE netting superior resistance to wear and impact. Pound per pound, UHMWPE has a very high break strength, relative to most other netting products.  UHMWPE is commonly abbreviated as HMP, UHMP, or UHMW.

HDPE is short for High-Density Polyethylene.  And while it is also made from high density polyethylene, its molecular structure is quite different than its cousin UHMWPE. Specifically, HDPE consists of shorter molecular chains than UHMWPE, making it a much more economical alternative to the denser HMP product.   HDPE netting offers excellent UV and chemical resistance and is suitable for many applications. And due to its significant cost advantage, HDPE netting is widely used across many industries.

Primary Advantages of UHMWPE Netting

  1. Superior Strength and Durability:  Due to its long chain molecular structure, UHMWPE netting is a high tenacity product, which, when properly installed in an appropriate application, will outperform and outlast many other netting alternatives.
  2. Excellent Resistance to Wear and Tear:  As indicated earlier, UHMWPE has a pound-for-pound strength that is superior to most other netting alternatives, which means it is more impervious to degradation from impact and wear and tear.  It will typically outlast many other comparable netting products.
  3. High Level of Chemical Resistance:  UHMWPE or HMP is an excellent choice for netting that will be installed in the vicinity of harsh chemicals or that is likely to come in contact with corrosive or toxic chemicals over its lifespan. 
  4. UV Resistance: UHMWPE is also very resistant to degradation from the effects of prolonged exposure to sunlight and other sources of UV radiation.
  5. Low Water and Moisture Absorption:  UHMWPE provides excellent protection against swelling and degradation from continual exposure to water or moisture.  Whereas many other common netting products will absorb water, affecting the integrity of the product over time, UHMWPE has limited water absorption properties.

Primary Advantages of HDPE

  1. Relatively High Impact Resistance: While HDPE has a shorter molecular chain structure than HMP, it is still a high density polyethylene product and is therefore quite resistant to damage or breakage from normal day-to-day impacts.  This makes HDPE netting very suitable for a variety of sporting and industrial applications.
  2. Wear Resistance: HDPE is not as wear resistant as HMP but it does hold up well compared to many other netting products and has a relatively high abrasion resistance.
  3. Chemical and UV Resistance: As a member of the polyethylene family, HDPE shares a high degree of resistance to degradation from prolonged exposure to sunlight and harsh chemicals, rendering HDPE netting a highly sought after product where these advantages are important.
  4. Relatively Low Cost:  HDPE is the superior option when budget constraints demand a relatively high strength product at a low price point.
  5. Environmentally Friendly: As members of the plastics family, both HDPE and UHMWPE can both easily be recycled. Creating new products from previously used netting reduces the overall environmental footprint by reducing or eliminating waste and conserving resources.

Common Applications for HDPE and UHMWPE Netting

UHMWPE (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) and HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) are commonly found across a broad array of industries and use-cases.

Due to their strength and durability and excellent mechanical integrity, these products can be found in a wide variety of netting applications such as:

  • Sports Barrier Nets
  • Containment Nets
  • Construction Nets
  • Bird Exclusion Nets
  • Fishing Nets
  • Agriculture and Horticulture Netting
  • Sun-Shade Netting
  • Erosion Control Netting

In Summary, HDPE and UHMWPE netting are two commonly used thermoplastic polymer netting products offering many benefits for large and small netting installations and projects. In choosing between the two netting options, it is important to consider their relative strengths, weaknesses, and costs.  Factors such as UV and chemical resistance, wear and abrasion resistance, life span, friction coefficient, and impact resistance as well as cost are the primary factors that should be analyzed for any specific netting application. Both netting products are versatile and relatively long lasting. HDPE is the cheaper alternative while HMP is a stronger and more durable option.

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