In the commercial boat industry, the material called HDPE is heard a lot in the last few years. What is the craziness around this material suddenly? How it’s better than other conventional materials? Is it the future of boat building? If you were amazed by knowing about this material recently and looking to understand it better then you have come to the right place and read the article fully to understand all about HDPE.

What is HDPE and why its special?

HDPE means High-Density Polyethylene which is a thermoplastic polymer produced from the monomer ethylene. HDPE is known for its high strength-to-density ratio. The density of HDPE can range from 930 to 970 kg/m3. Being lighter than water has an enormous advantage in the marine field. The HDPE is resistant to many solvents making it a perfect choice for the boat building industry. This material is widely used for applications like tanks, pipes, storage containers, etc. Until recently HDPE was not used for boat building considering the challenges that didn’t have a clear solution. Some of the major challenges are how to avoid the bending/buckling of the panels, how to provide equal strength that is given by other materials. Once these obstacles are tackled, the industry started expanding so fast. Now there are many boat builders around the world started building HDPE boats considering the current demand and the future prospects. Though there is not a straight forward rule book/standard to follow for building these boats, classification society has come forward to modify their current standards suitable for these boats. I am sure very soon we can expect a separate clause for HDPE boats. Being a new material in the industry it takes years to get the complete acceptance to be mentioned in the standards.

Is HDPE better than Aluminum or FRP? 

In the boating industry, aluminum, FRP/GRP and Carbon fiber are the most commonly used materials. To give a small comparison of these materials a 7m boat hull would require 4mm thickness for aluminum, 7-9 mm for FRP, and 15-20mm for HDPE. HDPE being just 3 times lighter in weight but 5 times thicker compared to aluminum you can figure out the challenges that come with the overall weight. So if the HDPE boat is heavier why is it preferred over other materials? The reason is when it comes to the commercial market the weight is not the first priority for the owners or builders. The most exciting advantages of HDPE is that its maintenance-free since the surface doesn’t catch barnacles, lighter than water to provide enough buoyancy, exhibits amazing impact strength to provide a smooth ride, recyclable completely to keep the environment safe, and very easy to repair. All these reasons make HDPE the perfect choice for boat owners. Usually once an FRP mold is made it’s not easy to change/customize the design. But with HDPE since it’s a welded panel the design can be modified in every boat.Everything put together HDPE definitely performs better than the other conventional materials in the commercial segment.      


Is HDPE the future of commercial boat building?

With all the explanations above it’s convenient to say that the HDPE market is rising so fast. It may not have overtaken the other materials but the growth is so drastic that it might eventually happen in few years. Most aluminum builders are shifting to HDPE since the process of building is very similar to what they were doing earlier. In the same way, the owners as well looking for a healthy alternative to save costs and increase the life of the boats. Currently, there are few HDPE boat designers and builders around the world in the industry. Even on the internet, it’s hard to find information about the HDPE boats. So I have decided to share more information about HDPE boat designs and HDPE boat building. There will be more articles on this topic in the upcoming days.