Mitsui Expands Capacity for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene

Background: Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is one type of polyethylene which has extremely higher molecular chains of monomers. These products are characterized by significant lower coefficient of friction, high abrasion resistance, and extremely high stability against concentrate acids, alkalis and even from many organic solvents. There are limited number of manufacturers in the industry which include the likes of DSM, Teijin, Mitsui, Braskem and Ticona.

Expansion Details: Mitsui produces and sells UHMWPE under the brand name of HI-ZEX MILLION™ in Yamaguchi. The company already had production capacity of 7,500 tons/year which has been increased by another 1,000 tons/year. The official statement described the expansion targeting growing demand from automotive and industrial batteries.

Application Areas: UHMWPE is utilized in number of high demanding applications in various industries. On one hand, when fibers made from UHMWPE are weaved within armors, the same material is also utilized in the medical implants as biomaterial. Industrial manufacturing uses UHMWPE for casing and processing relatively low melting point materials while it is also used in primary insulation layer for providing protection to the cables.

Impact: The overall market, where there were only limited applications, was earlier largely dominated by very few players with Celanese leading the market. The situation has changed with many developments in the last two decades and currently market is growing with double digit growth rate. Braskem is the second largest player in the market which added new capacity in Texas last year while DSM announced to increase material capacity by more than 20%. The current capacity expansion shall re-instate the positioning of Mitsui in the UHMWPE market keeping the balance in competitiveness.

– Ankur Kalra,
Manager – Chemicals & Materials,
Infoholic Research