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Polyethylene, or PE, is the most common plastic on the planet. Specifically, it's made when ethylene monomers are bonded together and then become stabilized to form a plastic. But because of the polymerization process involved with polyethylene, its characteristics can vary greatly, thereby dividing PE into several sub categories. One of these sub categories is polyethylene foam - and one type of polyethylene foam, characterized by its closed-cell makeup, is cross-linked polyethylene foam, or XLPE. This page will cover the basics of XLPE foam, as well as its properties and the applications where it is commonly used.


In many ways, cross-linked polyethylene foam is similar to standard polyethylene foam. It features many of the same properties, can be fabricated via thermoforming and compression molding and is used for many of the same purposes, like product packaging. But there are also several notable differences between regular PE foam and XLPE. For instance:

  • Cross-linked polyethylene has a compact feel.
  • It is water-resistance, making it applicable for a variety of applications and conditions where regular PE foam won't stand up.
  • It's able to adequately protect Class A surfaces, which are characterized as freeform surfaces of high efficiency and quality.
  • XLPE features a high-quality finish, which is both aesthetically pleasing and still able to provide the right support and cushioning necessary for the application.


Now that we've covered the basics of XLPE and some of the properties that distinguish it from other types of foams, it's time to take a look at some of the ideal applications that it is used for. We already mentioned above how it's commonly used in protective packaging roles similar to standard PE foam, but there is a lot more that XLPE can be used for, both when it comes to packaging and non-packaging applications. Here's a closer look at some of its common uses:

  • Due to XLPE's ability to adequately protect Class A surfaces, it's often used in medical packaging situations.
  • Military grade tool control.
  • Lining used in orthopedics.
  • Due to its ability to provide ideal support and cushioning - and it's water-resistant properties - it is often used to line helmets and other protective equipment in the sporting goods sector.
  • Case inserts.
  • XLPE is also often formed into tubing and used in pipe work systems, such as heating and cooling, water piping, insulation, electric cables and oil applications, among others. Often abbreviated as PEX in the tubing sector, cross-linked polyethylene foam blended tubes have proven to be an adequate alternative to PVC or copper tubing today.


For more information on cross-linked polyethylene foam, its benefits and to see if it would be a fit for your application, contact us today.

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