Polycarbonate is an extremely popular form of plastic thanks to its transparency and clarity. It also possesses great thermal resistance as well as good electrical properties, along with providing outstanding strength against impact.
Uses for Polycarbonate
Thanks to its many positive attributes, polycarbonate is ideal for a broad range of applications. For example, it’s often used for indoor and outdoor signage, face shields, sight glasses, electrical components, laboratory equipment, manifolds and semiconductor machinery parts. It can also be found in household electrical appliances, the components of food processing machinery, wheels and rollers, seals and gaskets and more.
How is Polycarbonate Machined?
Machining polycarbonate is a fairly easy job as its composition makes it easily machinable. Thanks to CNC machining processed, it can be used as components in a wide range of sizes, and with tight tolerances in the very smallest components when the right skilled machine shop is used for the job.
Polycarbonate is often polished after machining to provide the best possible finish. This is critical to components used in laboratory equipment, for example, where a clear finish means an accurate assessment of what’s being viewed through the equipment.
Vapor polishing uses a solvent vapor to produce a polished surface on both the exterior and interior of a part. Buffing is another common method, one which is usually used on a larger component’s exterior surface. The resulting finish is not as clear as that resulting from vapor polishing, leaving microscopic scratches. And direct machine plastic polishing is performed using specialty tooling, producing polished finishes from a machine tool. This, when used along with vapor polishing, produces a finish that’s nearly flawless.
Things to Remember
While polycarbonate is strong and provides impact resistance, it isn’t completely impermeable to stress. For instance, over tightening of screws can result in stress cracking. This is why it’s important to specify that an annealing cycle be performed after machining. This is especially true of polycarbonate that has been vapor polished. A quality machine shop will understand the importance of taking this critical step.
Machining polycarbonate might be easy thanks to its composition, but accurate machining with tight tolerances won’t be found in just any machine shop. Be sure to ask in advance for examples of the work from any shop you’re researching prior to commitment, as only the best shops will be able to provide the highest quality results.
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