Polycarbonate has many uses today for industrial and home applications. You will need to cut it to size for specific projects at work or at home. A variety of cutting tools can be used depending on the polycarbonate’s thickness, hardness and purpose. But first let’s take a look at what this material is made of and what it is used for to better understand it.
Lexan is a brand name of polycarbonate. It is a very tough, high impact plastic material made with a resin base. It is available in a clear UV glazing grade for windows. It is a great product for replacing window glass because it is virtually unbreakable. Polycarbonate is pliable with heat treating. Another version comes with a silicone hard coat surface which is scratch resistant comparable to glass.
Polycarbonate in a number of brands has five major advantages as window glass:
- It saves energy because it insulates better than glass
- Clarity is excellent
- Resistant to heat and electricity
- Has UV and light transmission stability
- Complies to national codes for light transmitting plastics
This material will do a long-term and heavy duty job for home and commercial use.
Uses for Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate has many applications as a plastic and glass substitute. It is a transparent thermoplastic available in clear, translucent and colors. It is useful when impact resistance and/or clear transparency are needed. in addition to windows include:
- Eyewear lenses and digital disks
- Low cost medical equipment
- Containers and bottles
- Bullet proof glass and greenhouses
- Clear tubes for sports equipment
- Clear molds and machinery guards
- Exterior lighting fixtures
- Roofing and ceilings
- Numerous home applications
You may have used this material without know what it was.
How to Cut Polycarbonate
Cutting tools for home use depends on its thickness, hardness and purpose. Safety is the primary concern when using cutting tools. Wear safety glasses for eye protection and ear protection for noisy power tools.
Use a sharp utility knife and straight edge for cutting thin sheets. Sand the edges with a fine grade of sandpaper for a smoother surface. Watch those fingers!
Use heavy duty shears for a thicker and stiffer piece of polycarbonate. Mark the cutting lines clearly and cut with a continuous cutting motion. Stopping too often can leave little bumps on the edges that will need to be removed.
You can cut tubes or pipes with a handsaw made for the job. Mark its length and secure in a padded vise for protection. Make a smooth and square cut. You may be able to cut 2 or 3 pieces at once if you are careful.
Do you have curves to make? If you do, use a jigsaw to cut them. Be to choose a blade specifically made to cut plastic and polymers. Mark the line clearly and cut with a smooth, continuous motion. Clean the saw table or bottom of a skill saw to prevent mars.
For yet heavier or thicker pieces you can use a circular saw to do the job. Choose the right blade for this application. Look online or ask the dealer if you are not sure which one to use.
Use a table saw for the thickest pieces of polycarbonate. Select the correct type of blade and set it to the right height. A table saw will make the most accurate and smooth cuts. Do not use a blade meant for cutting rough wood or it may splinter the material.
You may want to cut this material to more exacting specifications than can be accomplished at home. If this is the case you can take it to a shop that uses computerized cutting machines. Clearly communicate what you need and the end result can be perfection.
You may leave a slightly rough edge with any of the cutting methods discussed here. Carefully sand the edges with fine sandpaper or a finishing block to smooth them up. Plan your cuts to save as much material as possible.
Some Parting Thoughts
Polycarbonate is such a versatile product to use around the house and in the shop. Many people use it for roofing for sheds, outbuildings, play houses and tree houses. When using it for these applications it will be necessary to make several cuts. (Roofing sheets are shown in the illustration below.)
You will first need to cut the sheets to length to fit on the rafters or rafter sheeting. Measure them carefully allowing for a ridge cap on top and a fascia board on the lower ends. Cut the last piece length-wise to get the correct width.
You have a choice of power tools for this cutting application. You can use a skill/jig saw or a circular saw. Be sure to use the right blade so you won’t damage the material. Since the roofing pieces are not flat you will need a blade long enough to cut through the tops and bottoms of the ridges. Be very careful when extending the blade on a circular saw.
We hope these simple guidelines will help you cut the material just right for your projects. Do not use a hot knife or a torch to cut this material. For a table or band saw it is generally best to use blades with a lot of small teeth for really smooth cuts. There you have it – how to cut polycarbonate.
We at 24hrFireandFlood is a regular contributor to numerous home improvement related blogs and prides itself on sharing knowledge gained over the years.