Polyethylene foam (PE) is a unique foam option that is used in everything from protective packaging to insulation and sports equipment. This versatile foam is known for its durability and resiliency, low weight, and numerous resistances to common hazards and environmental conditions. Completely customizable and simple to fabricate, this foam option can be a viable (or even best) choice for your products or application.
Is it right for your application? Find out more about the composition, benefits, and various uses of polyethylene foam.
What is Polyethylene Foam?
Polyethylene is one of the most produced plastics in the world. This closed-cell thermoplastic polymer is a member of a family of polyolefin resins and is used in the production of polyethylene foam. The foam is manufactured by heating polymer compounds. During this process, several additives can be applied to change the chemical composition of the polymer and create different types of foams with properties that range from anti-static to fire retardancy.
After production, the resulting polyethylene foam is closed-cell material that can have a range of densities and is resistant to water.
The Benefits of Polyethylene Foam
The natural qualities of polyethylene foam result in numerous desirable characteristics, including:
- High resiliency: it returns to its form after compression
- The ability to be stored without degradation to the material
- Easy to cut, shape, and fabricate
- Resistant to tearing
- Durable with great shock absorbency
- Lightweight and buoyant
- Odorless and non-shedding
- Resistant to water and moisture
- Resistant to chemicals, greases, and solvents
- Somewhat non-abrasive
- Classed as non-hazardous
- Cost efficient
Polyethylene foam also has good thermal insulation and vibration dampening properties. It can also be made to be flame retardant, but additives must be used to achieve this capability.
Some of the downsides of polyethylene foam is:
- It’s lack of soundproofing capability
- Lack of UV resistance
- It loses flexibility as the material is manufactured to be thicker
A “Green” Foam
Those looking for sustainable foam and packaging options will be happy to know that polyethylene foam can be 100 percent recycled by being melted down and reused in other applications.
The Uses of Polyethylene Foam
Because of its versatility and many beneficial properties, polyethylene foam has many uses across multiple different industries. These applications include:
- Packaging foam, particularly for heavier items that need stable protection
- Marine foam and floatation devices
- Antistatic form for electronics protection
- Sports and athletics foam
- Medical applications
- Military applications
- Industrial applications
Different Types of Polyethylene Foam
- Extruded polyethylene foam: cost-effectively made using an extrusion process. This foam is primarily used in packaging.
- Cross-linked polyethylene foam (XLPE): made using chemical crosslinking, which gives the foam a resistant surface and better stability. These foams are generally used for insulation and in vibration dampening/flame retardancy. However, this removes their recyclability.
- Expanded polyethylene foams (EPE): made by applying heat and pressure and using blowing agents. This creates a beaded foam that can be molded into many different shapes. These foams have an excellent strength to weight ratio and thermal resistance. They are recyclable.
We fabricate polyethylene foam into any shape and size. Is this foam right for you? Get in touch with our foam experts to get the products you need today.