Polyethylene Wax – uses and properties

  • Polyethylene wax has many physical and chemical properties that make it suitable for a wide range of industrial applications.
  • A recent study by Transparency Market Research has shown a marked increase in demand for the product. This trend is estimated to continue up to 2022.
  • Some of the many applications of polyethylene wax are paper-coating, crayons, packaging, ink and leather auxiliaries. Others are food additives and paints. Read on if you want to learn more.

Do you know of a material that can work as a mould release agent, dispersant and modifier for plastic? Whether utilized for surface properties or as a processing agent, polyethylene (PE) wax offers a myriad of benefits. For these and many other reasons, the product is growing in popularity at an amazing pace. According to a recent research report, the global market for polyethylene wax is set to grow by more than 4.75% between 2017 and 2022. The following sections expound on the features and uses of this polyethylene polymer.

Polyethylene Wax Properties and Features

PE wax is derived from ethylene through a process called polymerization. Manufacturers alter the polymerization process to get a product with desired qualities. However, certain basic properties of the material are common for all PE wax.

As a completely saturated ethylene homopolymer, polyethylene wax is linear and crystalline. That is why this material finds applications such as blends, plastic additives and rubber manufacture. Due to its high crystalline nature, this material has unique features such as hardness at high temperatures and low solubility in a wide range of solvents.

The material is a thermoplastic so you can guess how it behaves when exposed to heat. Thermoplastics melt at 110°C. An interesting feature of these materials is the ability to be heated and cooled without extensive degradation.

Polyethylene wax also features limited poly disparity and molecular weight. Consequently, the material is highly resistant to chemical attacks, has unmatched heat stability and is very flexible in formulating applications.

Here is a summary of the characteristics of PE wax:

  • High softening point
  • High melting point
  • Excellent thermal stability
  • High chemical resistance
  • Highly compatible with wax varieties
  • Perfect lubrication
  • Perfect head resistance
polyethylene wax

PE wax is a semi-translucent yellow material with a gloss surface

Identifying PE Wax

Polyethylene wax can be either low density polyethylene (LDPE) or high density polyethylene (HDPE). Generally, HDPE tends to be more dense and crystalline, so you could distinguish the two if you have a way of determining these properties.

Nevertheless, you can use various methods to identify PE wax from other materials; sight, touch, smell etc. This wax is similar to plastic sheets. It is a semi-translucent yellow material. It has a gloss surface. If you cut the material, there are neither impurities nor any separation.

The material has lubricant properties, which you can feel by touch. At room temperature, PE wax is brittle and fragile. This is unlike a fake version, which is rough and greasy.

If you want to test the material, consider boiling it in water for five minutes. Real PE wax does not change in shape. If the wax contains paraffin or any other impurity, you will know it through shape change.

Polyethylene Wax Uses

A recent survey by Transparency Market Research identified the PE wax market to include plastic additives, candles, cosmetics and rubber. Others are packaging, lubricants, wood and coatings.

The wax finds application in a wide range of industries because of its desirable physical and chemical properties. As the material can have a broad range of melt points, densities and other properties, it is understandable why it is used so extensively.

The emulsifiable variety is particularly crucial in the textile industry. It is also used in paper coating, leather auxiliaries, crayons and cosmetics. The non-emulsifiable type is mostly common in printing ink, pigment concentrates and paints.

In the textile sector, the material probably finds the most intensive application. Emulsions made from the wax offer stable softening. While they resist acids and other chemicals, these emulsions are friendly to the fabric – with no yellowing of fabrics, no colour change and no chlorine retention.

The packaging sector is also using polyethylene wax intensively. Adherence to the olefins regulations is necessary when using the material as a food additive, at least in the United States.

The coating industry has historically used waxes. The importance of wax is that it adds water repellency, better slip, and mark resistance among other features. When used correctly, polyethylene wax introduces the following:

  • Anti-sagging
  • Anti-settling
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Marking resistance
  • Mar resistance

In the inks industry, the material presents similar advantages. Most ink types contain polyethylene wax as a way to improve the coefficient of friction and increase scuff resistance.

Conclusion

PE wax is heat-stable, lowly soluble, chemically resistant and hard. Combining these features with abrasion resistance and broad melting points makes the material the undisputable choice for a wide range of industrial applications. Whether you want to process rubber, manufacture textiles, modifier plastic or coat corrugated board, there is a grade available. As manufacturers may have different grades of the material, please ask so that you can be directed to the one that matches your needs.

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