Difference Between ABS and Polyethylene – ABS Plastic vs Polyethylene, Which is Better


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PE (Polyethylene) are thermoplastic materials that are widely used in various industries. When we are looking at these two plastics, what are the differences between them, and which is better for machining?

Difference Between ABS and Polyethylene

ABS plastic and polyethylene have different physical and chemical properties. Here are some ways to distinguish ABS and polyethylene:

1) Appearance: ABS typically has a smooth, glossy surface, while polyethylene has a more waxy or greasy appearance. ABS is often used in applications where appearance is important, such as consumer products or automotive parts, while polyethylene is more commonly used in industrial applications.

2) Density: ABS is denser than polyethylene. The density of ABS ranges from 1.03 to 1.06 g/cm³, while the density of polyethylene ranges from 0.91 to 0.96 g/cm³. This difference in density means that ABS is generally stronger and more rigid than polyethylene.

3) Chemical resistance: ABS is resistant to a wide range of chemicals, including acids and bases, while polyethylene is more resistant to water and other solvents. This difference in chemical resistance makes ABS a better choice for applications where chemical resistance is important, such as automotive or aerospace components.

4) Melting point: ABS has a higher melting point than polyethylene. The melting point of ABS ranges from 221-243°C, while the melting point of polyethylene ranges from 105-135°C. This difference in melting point means that ABS is more heat-resistant than polyethylene.

5) Manufacturing: ABS and polyethylene require different manufacturing techniques. ABS can be injection molded or extruded, ABS machining is also popular, while polyethylene is typically extruded. This difference in processing means that the two materials are often used in different applications and have different manufacturing requirements.

6) Applications:

Uses of ABS Plastic Parts

– Automotive parts: interior trim parts, instrument panels, and bumper covers.

– Consumer products: toys, electronics, and sporting equipment, due to their aesthetic appeal, toughness, and ease of processing.

– Pipes and fittings: ABS pipes and fittings are used in plumbing and drainage systems due to their chemical resistance, toughness, and resistance to high temperatures.

– Protective equipment: helmets and safety guards, due to their high impact resistance and durability.

– Musical instruments: clarinets and saxophones, due to their high strength, durability, and resistance to moisture.

Uses of PE Plastic Parts

– Packaging materials: plastic bags, films, and containers due to their lightweight, durability, and flexibility.

– Pipes and fittings: water supply, gas distribution, and sewage systems due to their chemical resistance, toughness, and flexibility.

– Electrical insulation: due to its high dielectric strength and resistance to moisture.

– Medical equipment: syringes, catheters, and tubing, due to their biocompatibility, flexibility, and resistance to chemicals.

– Agricultural films: greenhouse films, mulch films, and silage bags due to their resistance to moisture and durability.

ABS Plastic vs Polyethylene, Which is Better for Machining

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and polyethylene (PE) are both machinable plastics, but the ease of machining will depend on the specific type of machining process and the requirements of the application. Here are some factors to consider when comparing the machinability of ABS and polyethylene:

– Machining process: Both ABS and polyethylene can be machined using a variety of processes, including milling, drilling, turning, and routing. The specific machining process will depend on the type of part and the requirements of the application.

– Cutting speed: ABS is generally machined at a higher cutting speed than polyethylene. This is because ABS is harder and more rigid than polyethylene, and requires a higher cutting speed to maintain a good surface finish.

– Chip formation: ABS tends to produce longer, stringy chips during machining, while polyethylene produces shorter, more granular chips. This difference in chip formation can affect the efficiency and quality of the machining process.

– Tool wear: ABS is more abrasive than polyethylene, which can cause faster tool wear during machining. However, ABS can be machined using carbide cutting tools, which are more wear-resistant than high-speed steel tools.

– Surface finish: ABS typically produces a smoother surface finish than polyethylene, due to its higher stiffness and lower coefficient of friction.


ABS is generally more difficult to machine than polyethylene due to its higher hardness and rigidity but can produce a smoother surface finish. Polyethylene is easier to machine, but may not be as suitable for applications that require high strength or stiffness.