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Polycarbonate - Details and Uses

Written by JD
15/05/2018 09:02:12

Polycarbonate Sheet – Details and Uses

Polycarbonate is a tough and stable clear plastic offering unique advantages. Namely outstanding levels of light transmission, incredible high strength (whilst being incredibly light in weight) and resistant to stresses both accidental and intentional.

Polycarbonate also provides exceptional long-term chemical-physical stability. This combination of prized features, makes polycarbonate the plastic of choice for many commercial and engineering uses as well as DIY projects.
Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for projects when many other types of material are unsuitable.
Here is a summary about polycarbonate so you can consider its merits for yourself.

How strong is polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is around 250 x stronger than glass and 30 x stronger than the other popular clear plastic, acrylic.

Polycarbonate is so strong it is ideal for safety glazing (it is used in police riot shields), protective screens, skylights and domes, tunnels, greenhouse glazing and where vandal-proofing and safety are concerns.
Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for projects which demand a high level of safety which cannot be obtained from other materials.

Polycarbonate race car windows  Polycarbonate skylight  Clear Polycarbonate vented window
polycarbonate's strength and clarity make it an excellent choice for glazing             

How clear is polycarbonate?
While polycarbonate is valued for its strength and impact resistance, it is its transparency which allows it to take on a variety of applications and purposes than other materials cannot.
Polycarbonate sheets are significantly lighter than glass sheets of the same size and polycarbonate sheets also come with UV protective filters. It’s durability and transparency make it an excellent alternative to glass.

How easy is it to work with polycarbonate?
Thanks to polycarbonate’s outstanding impact resistance and light weight, working with it is fairly easy. Polycarbonate is easy to cut and fix with screws, nuts and bolts. And can be made into many shapes and sizes by thermoforming, cold curving or machining.
It can typically be formed at room temperature without cracking or breaking, similar to sheet metal.
Polycarbonate is classified as a thermoplastic and this name has to do with the way polycarbonate responds to heat.
Thermoplastic materials become liquid at their melting point which is 155 degrees Celsius for polycarbonate.
After heating to melting point, thermoplastics, including polycarbonate, can be cooled and reheated again without significant degradation. In this way polycarbonate, can be easily injection moulded and recycled.

Polycarbonate offers fantastic heat resistance, dimensional stability, shock resistance and resistance to humidity. It stays stable in demanding temperatures and applications where other materials cannot be used.
Polycarbonate’s high expansion is extremely important for the correct sizing of the sheets so if you would like any advice about using polycarbonate, do let our friendly plastic experts help you out.
Are there different types of polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is produced in different grades (and prices) by several polycarbonate manufacturers. The common brands are Makrolon, Palsun, Lexan and Marlon.
A key consideration choosing polycarbonate is your end use.
Standard polycarbonate may be adequate for some uses but where exposure to sunlight will occur or scratch resistance is important. But other grades will provide better longer term purpose.
If using polycarbonate outdoors in direct sunlight a protected polycarbonate sheet is a better long term option. With UV protection included, protected polycarbonate resistsyellowing and de-colouring.
Polycarbonate sheets are also available with a hard coating applied to give a harder finish and improve their scratch resistance.
Polycarbonate mirror is also available which delivers the mirroring of glass with superior properties such as significantly stronger impact strength, resistance to heat and dimensional and UV stability.
Solid polycarbonate sheets are often used instead of glass but, for roofing, a popular choice is twin wall and multi wall polycarbonate.  These types of polycarbonate offer additional insulating properties.

Multiwall Polycarbonate  Clear Polycarbonate sheet
mutliwall polycarbonate                                solid clear polycarbonate

What is polycarbonate used for?
Polycarbonate plastic is used by manufacturers, business and DIYers for many different purposes.

Businesses and manufacturers make different products using polycarbonate.
For example, its high strength and light weight are valued for making CDs, DVDs, mobile phones and laptops; using polycarbonate to manufacture these products means they can be incredibly light yet virtually impossible to break.
Polycarbonates excellent transparency with UV filter and durability are valuable for making shatter-proof glazing and eye glasses: polycarbonate enables lens to be thinner than if they were made from glass.
Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for applications where sheet metal lacks viability, namely when transparency is needed and when a non- conductive material with good electrical insulation is a requirement.
Polycarbonate makes an excellent material for tackling DIY jobs such as secure glazing and replacing greenhouse glass to make greenhouses virtually unbreakable year after year.

Polycarbonate glazed greenhouse  Polycarbonate makes unbreakable greenhouse
polycarbonate glazing makes greenhouses virtually unbreakable

Polycarbonate is also a great solution where durable, rigid roofing is required and is a popular choice for carports, conservatories and patio coverings because it lets in the same amount of natural light as glass does whilst not being fragile.

Polycarbonate patio cover makes great carport    Opal Polycarbonate shades patio
How to Join Polycarbonate Sheets
Polycarbonate sheets can be glued together at home in 2 ways. Before you begin make sure your polycarbonate sheets are nice and clean - just rinse them in lukewarm soapy water and wipe in the direction of the grain with a soft cotton / gentle cloth. Dry the polycarbonate off with another soft cotton / gentle cloth.

There are two ways to bond polycarbonate sheets:
1. Glue - polycarbonate sheets can be joined together with an epoxide glue. It is easy, just like gluing two materials together.
Please note you will need to use an epoxide glue: if you use regular glues or solvents your polycarbonate sheets will appear to have tiny little cracks all over the surface and underneath the polycarbonate.
You won't be able to feel these cracks and the polycarbonate will remain strong but aesthetically not the clear polycarbonate you bought

2. Fusing with methylene chloride - which gives a superior, seamless result and stronger bond (please do this in a ventilated area though as methylene chloride is toxic).
Apply your methylene chloride along the edge of your polycarbonate sheet. Go for a small amount and give it a moment to soak into your polycarbonate sheet.

When it feels slightly sticky place this edge onto the surface of the other polycarbonate sheet where you would like it to fuse.  Press your two polycarbonate sheets so that they stay in constant contact to get a strong bond.

When they can support themselves, leave them to dry for at least 48 hours.  Do not put anything onto your polycarbonate during this time as it might damage the bond

Further Help
If you have any further questions about polycarbonate or require help with a project do let our friendly customer service team know. They will be happy to help.

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