Polymer Systems is a leader in engineered plastics used in the Agricultural, Industrial, & Marine related industries. We only sell high quality products at fair and affordable prices. Our systems include UHMW plastic liners for dump trucks, belt trailers, dump trailers and airboat polymer applications. Polymer Systems LLC is headquartered in Idaho, but we service the nation and the globe by utilizing our network of top-quality vendors and other shipping facilities. Whether you are looking for a sheet of UHMW to protect your airboat hull, or you need to replace the HMW Plastic in your belt trailer, we are here to offer you a solution with our knowledgeable and honest customer service!
UHMW stands for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. It offers excellent abrasion resistance, and a low coefficient of friction which makes it slick. UHMW is also a very tough material that has the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic made today, and it will outwear both aluminum and steel. It is three to four times more abrasion resistant than HMW (High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). In our opinion HMW and HDPE should not be used for airboat applications.
UHMW sheeting comes in many different grades, colors, and sizes. The most common UHMW used for airboat applications is a reprocessed UHMW that is black in color. Reprocessed UHMW consists of a combination of virgin and reprocessed UHMW, and is cost-effective compared to 100% Virgin UHMW. Reprocessed UHMW is also harder than a 100% Virgin UHMW sheet with no additives. The carbon black color that is used in these sheets is the least expensive of the colors available, and it also provides natural UV stability to protect the polymer from the sun’s harmful rays. Remember, reprocessed does not mean recycled. Most UHMW manufacturers have strict policies when it comes to what can or cannot be used for reprocessed UHMW sheets. They also generate the majority of the UHMW that is to be reprocessed in-house.
When purchasing a UHMW sheet for an airboat application always be certain the sheet you are getting is UV stabilized. A UHMW sheet that is not UV stable will typically start to crack or flake within a year or two. By rule a typical sheet of UHMW Virgin that is white in color will not be UV stabilized.
Common Reprocessed UHMW colors include black, gray, blue, and green. A specific color does not give a specific advantage over another color when it comes to the performance of UHMW. There are a variety of additives that can be used to enhance the performance of UHMW, but color isn’t one of them. Silicone or oil can be added and may give the UHMW extra slickness, but UHMW in its natural state is self-lubricating and slick.
There are also special additives that can give UHMW better heat resistance and slightly better abrasion resistance and slickness. These high temperature UHMW sheets are typically used in the trucking industry for dump trucks hauling hot asphalt. These special additives aid the UHMW to withstand up to 500 degrees F in some cases. The high temperature aspect of the additives does not necessarily give the UHMW a distinct advantage when it comes to the performance of the UHMW in an airboat application, but the other additives that are used do offer a slight increase in abrasion resistance and slickness. Standard UHMW with no additives has a melting point of about 300 degrees F, and becomes brittle around -240 degrees F. In most cases these higher temperature UHMW sheets can cost up to twice as much compared to a standard UHMW black sheet. Most companies that sell UHMW polymer for airboats have these higher temperature sheets available upon request.
The most common size sheet that UHMW is available in is 48” x 120”. Larger size single sheets are available by some manufacturers, but typically to attain a sheet that is larger than 80” x 120” a Butt Fusion Welder is used to manufacture the larger sizes. Butt Fusion Welders are commonly used to fuse long lengths of plastic pipe together, but are also used in the world of UHMW sheets. A Butt Fusion Welder basically uses a combination of heat and pressure to fuse or bond two pieces of UHMW together. It can be used to manufacture a UHMW sheet to almost any width and length desired. In my many years of working with airboat owners who are looking for a custom size UHMW sheet, there have been concerns raised about how strong this weld seam is. A weld seam done by a Butt Fusion Welder is 99% as strong as the rest of the sheet, and a failed weld is a rarity. The area where the two sheets are fused together is also barely noticeable.