More Than a Piece of Plastic, UHMW-PE is Proving Itself Sturdy Enough for Farm Machinery

Global Polymer, based in Madison, S.D., is a plastics manufacturer with a reputation for delivering innovative solutions to difficult manufacturing engineering problems. Using a proprietary net-shape molding process for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, or UHMW-PE, the company creates complex parts with characteristics that are stronger than other plastic material.

Madison, SD, June 28, 2017 --( It’s called UHMW-PE, which sounds space-age, but it’s making things run smoother down on the farm. It’s a near indestructible type of plastic that won’t go brittle, crack or show a hint of stress after years of use and abuse, including friction or freezing. More and more manufacturers are looking to the material to create parts that last longer.

John Deere is already a convert to the benefits of UHMW-PE in the production of its heavy-duty agricultural equipment parts.

“It’s great material for sliding and wear applications,” said Greg McCunn, materials engineer, plastics and composites, for John Deere.

The material has what engineers refer to as a low coefficient of friction, which decreases the energy needed to operate machinery. Agricultural machinery manufacturers are finding that using UHMW-PE as opposed to steel in scraper applications improves fuel economy, reduces noise levels and increases wear resistance.

That’s just what John Deere was looking for when it was re-designing skid plates for its combines. The skid plates, or skid shoes, help ease the friction between the ground and the low-hanging parts of the combine’s header platform as it cuts through the field. The skid plates, originally an aftermarket part, were becoming standard equipment. A typical combine might have as many 50 of them installed.

They also needed a company that could make them cost effectively. They went to Global Polymer, based in Madison, S.D. Using its UHMW injection molding process, Global Polymer could produce the plates at a better pace than the competition. Where others machined the parts out of single sheets of UHMW-PE, Global Polymer could mold them.

“Global Polymer could make our parts faster and better, using the same material,” said McCunn. “The molding process also allows us to add features.”

The shoes continue to hold up – and evolve. John Deere has improved the design at least three times since the prototype.

“We have increased the usage and improved the function,” McCunn said. “We’ve continued to improve the original design. Because the material does what we want it do, we ask it to do more.”

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Global Polymer Industries, Inc.
Rich Kilgour