All About Polycarbonate Sheet

Are you tough enough?
Can you imagine some scientist inventing a sheet of glass that was 250 times stronger than regular glass, was virtually unbreakable, that you could cut to shape yourself to make all sorts of things from and that you didn’t have to worry about it shattering? Some thirty-ish years ago before Lexan Polycarbonate became commercially available; it was the stuff that NASA used. These days its a fairly common material and since those early days, Lexan as a product has got even better as knowledge has progressed and this week we wanted to help with some basic tips about this great material
 

Uses

  • Security Glazing (Factories, houses, huts, greenhouses etc)
  • Machine Guards (Lathe’s, presses, milling machines, guillotines etc)
  • Race Car Windows (Drag, rally and track cars etc)
  • Riot Shields (Police and riot squads)

Machining
Pretty straight forward really; use sharp drills keep the speed down to prevent the material over-heating, clamp the material to prevent it riding up the flutes and drill through into some wood. Sawing and routing is pretty simple also, fine to medium blade or cutter and hold or clamp it down to avoid chatter, you don’t want to chip those edges.

Don’t forget
Polycarbonate is “notch sensitive” so don’t drill too close to the edge and try and avoid countersink screws, also if you were to cut a square section out with an internal corner, that internal corner is going to be a weak spot, always try and put a decent radius in there if you can.

Also remember that plastics expand and contract more than you may realise with fluctuating temperature, so allow plenty of expansion room around edges and screws/bolts and dont tighten too tight. Over the years we’ve seen Lexan crack because there was just no-where for it to go.

Forming and Moulding
We reckon this is more for the expert or experienced fabricator, it doesn’t really lend itself to moulding the same way that Acrylic/Perspex does, it can be done but plenty of knowledge and skill would be needed.

Bending
Lexan can be bent in a “press brake” it does take a little bit of experience and gently warming the material beforehand may be an advantage here.

Watch out for those UV’s
Yes you need to be sure that you get the UV resistant grade if you’re using for any outside projects as the basic grade develops a yellow tint and loses most of its strength (hence the reason all our material is UV grade)

Other stuff
Polycarbonate has a pretty good fire rating, which means that it won’t contribute to a fire much or generate too much toxic gases. Gluing and bonding are fairly straightforward, we recommend consult an adhesive specialist but there’s not too many issues on this one either.

Polishing the edges is not as simple as Acrylic so you’ll have to settle for just a smooth edge by maybe scraping or even a bit of “wet and dry” if you want to get the best result .

Cleaning & Chemicals
The issue with cleaning Lexan is firstly the inevitable scratching particularly if using anything like a dry duster and the second is the potential for a chemical reaction from particular cleaning products, warm soapy water using a mild concentrate of washing up liquid seems to do the trick or if you do want to use something else, always try on a sample bit first to see if it reacts

Margard
Because this stuff if used in plenty of glazing applications, Lexan will probably scratch so this is why the Margard coated grade was invented, this has a scratch-resistant coating on both sides which we reckon is awesome and is like having your cake and eating it although remember there’s a coating on there’s a possibility of cracking if you try and bend it too far.