Polycarbonate is a naturally transparent material that is widely used for just about every application. No matter which industry one looks at, polycarbonate material is used in manufacturing a wide range of products. Anti-static polycarbonate sheet is also known as electrostatic dissipative polycarbonate or ESD for short. The sheet is coated with a mixture of both metal and plastic. It helps prevent any electrostatic buildup on the polycarbonate sheet surface and static electricity from being released. Fog, humidity, and weather cannot affect the antistatic coating layer as it is permanent. Polycarbonate is an amorphous thermoplastic which is naturally transparent. Even though polycarbonate is commercially available in a diverse range of colors, transparency or somewhat translucence is still provided. The material allows for the transmission of light which is the same as that offered by glass.
Qualities of Polycarbonate Material
Polycarbonate allows for polymers to be used for the creation of a wide range of materials. Some of the qualities of polycarbonate material include transparency and impact resistance. It is the perfect choice for producing bullet-proof glass. Moreover, polycarbonate also offers very good heat resistance. Flame retardant materials can also be combined with polycarbonate without any considerable material degradation.
Another quality of polycarbonate material is that it is highly pliable. This means that it can even be formed at room temperature unlike other materials which require a certain temperature. Moreover, even though polycarbonate is formed at room temperature, no breaking or cracking is observed. Hence, it is quite similar to aluminum sheet metal. Furthermore, even though the deformation might be less complicated with the application of some heat, small angle bends would still be possible without the use of heat. Thus, polycarbonate is very useful when it comes to prototyping applications wherein the metal sheets lack any viability such as in the case where there is a need for transparency or where electrical insulation properties are needed.
Applications of Polycarbonate Material
A great thing about polycarbonate is the fact that it can be used for just about every type of application. Polycarbonate material is commonly used in exterior lighting fixtures, digital disks (such as CDs, Blue-ray, and DVDs), greenhouses, protective gear, automotive components, medical devices, and even eyewear. Businesses around the globe rely on polycarbonate material for manufacturing different products. China provides these businesses with polycarbonate material and is home to some of the largest factories in the world that use polycarbonate for creating different products.
Polycarbonate plastics are extremely popular. They are engineered plastics because they are normally used for more robust, capable materials like glass-like and impact resistant surfaces. Unlike the impact strength of other plastics such as Nylon, Polystyrene, and ABS, polycarbonate offers relatively greater impact strength.
Characteristics of Polycarbonate Material
Now that you have an idea of some of the applications of polycarbonate material, it is important that you understand its characteristics. Polycarbonate is typically classified as a thermoplastic instead of as a thermo-set due to its characteristics.
In addition to this, the name itself describes how the plastic responds to exposure to heat. At their melting point which is 155 degrees Celsius, thermoplastic materials tend to become liquid such as for polycarbonate. One of the main attributes of thermoplastics is the fact that they can be easily heated to reach their melting point. Then, thermoplastics can be cooled and heated once again without causing considerable degradation to the material. Thermoplastics such as polycarbonate liquefy instead of burning. This allows thermoplastics to be injection molded easily and recycled subsequently.
Thermo-set plastics on the other hand are only able to be heated once such as during the injection molding process. The thermo-set materials experience a chemical change in the first heating which cannot be reversed. If anyone has ever tried to heat the thermo-set plastic at a high temperature more than once, then they would have watched it burn. Hence, thermo-set materials are not a good option when it comes to recycling.
Since polycarbonate is an amorphous material, it does not have any characteristics of crystalline solids. Generally, amorphous plastics have a tendency to soften gradually. Their melting point offers a wider range between the glass transition temperatures. Amorphous plastics do not experience a sharp transition to liquid from solid as compared to crystalline polymers. Moreover, polycarbonate is composed of various monomer types in combination with each other and is a copolymer. Polycarbonate is a well-known material which is used by different industries due to its versatile characteristics. It offers incredible recyclability and eco-friendly processing. It is a more suitable option as compared to PE, PMMA, and glass because of its unique set of physical and chemical properties.
Properties of Polycarbonate Material
High Impact Strength and Toughness
Polycarbonate offers great strength and it is due to this reason that it is resistant to fracture and impact. Furthermore, safety is provided to users. Polycarbonate provides great comfort to users and is highly demanded for its performance and high reliability. The density of polymer is about 1.2 to 1.22 g per cm. It maintains toughness for about 140 degrees Celsius and as low as -20 degrees Celsius. Moreover, polycarbonate is virtually unbreakable.
The reason for the high demand of polycarbonate is the fact that it is a very clear plastic which transmits about 90 percent of light which is just as good as glass. Furthermore, polycarbonate sheets tend to be available for a broad range of shades. Thus, they can be customized according to the application.
Polycarbonate material offers virtually unlimited possibilities. It can be designed according to the application. Polycarbonate provides greater efficiency, reduces the overall transportation costs, and makes the installation process a lot easier.
Protection against UV Radiations
Ultraviolet radiation can be blocked with the use of polycarbonate material. Polycarbonate provides 100 percent against harmful UV rays.
Polycarbonate provides great optical properties due to its amorphous structure. It has a refractive index for clear polycarbonate of 1.584.
Chemical Resistance & Heat Resistance
Greater chemical resistance is provided by polycarbonate material. It offers resistance from alcohols, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and diluted acids. Moreover, moderate chemical resistance is also provided against greases and oils. Besides, polycarbonate material even offers good heat resistance. Further heat resistance is also provided without impacting the material properties.
So Why Is Polycarbonate Material Commonly Used?
Just about everyone has the same question and that is why polycarbonate material is commonly used. The reason behind this is the fact that polycarbonate is an efficient plastic that is used for multiple applications which require high impact resistance and transparency. Besides, polycarbonate is a much lighter alternative to a natural UV filter or glass. Therefore, it is commonly used for creating eyewear.
Polycarbonate is used for a wide range of application in just about every industry. Some examples of polycarbonate usage include machinery guards, 3D printed models that are used for high heat applications, silicone casting, urethane clear molds, light pipes and diffusers for LEDs, clear tubes for sports equipment, translucent prototypes that are color tinted, and clear windows for prototype materials.
Furthermore, tinted polycarbonate is even used for reducing glare such as for covering lighted signs along the highway. Tinted polycarbonate is normally put on the front of signs for reducing glare and protecting LEDs by companies which produce such similar products.
Different Types of Polycarbonate Material
Developed in the mid 20th century in the United States by GE and in Germany by Bayer, polycarbonate has become very popular. A huge number of firms manufacture polycarbonate in the world of today. Each material produced uses a unique formal and made from a different production process. When it comes to polycarbonate material, there are a wide range of grades that are available. Most of them are referred to by their generic name which polycarbonate which is usually differentiated by the use of glass fiber in order to reinforce the fact that it contains melt flow.
There are some polycarbonates which even contain additives like ultraviolet stabilizers which keep the material protected from long-term sun exposure. On the other hand, injection moldable polycarbonate may even include various additives like mold release agents which are able to lubricate the materials during the process. Finally, finished polycarbonate can be found sold in sheets, rods, and cylinders.
How Is Polycarbonate Material Made?
Just like any other plastic, when it comes to polycarbonates, the process begins with lighter groups known as fractions being formed through distillation of hydrocarbon fuels. Some of these are also combined with different catalysts for creating plastics through poly-condensation or polymerization.
Polycarbonate for Prototype Development on 3D Printers and CNC Machines
Polycarbonate is available in both round stock and sheet stock. Thus, it is a great choice for subtractive machining processes. The colors produced are normally limited to black, white, or simply clear. Some post processing is required for parts which are machined from stock in order to remove the tool marks so that the transparent nature of the material can be restored. Some 3D printers can print with polycarbonate with the help of the FDM process since polycarbonate is a thermoplastic material. The material itself can be bought in filament form. The filament is deposited when the 3D printer heats the material. Thus, it allows for the desired 3D shape to be achieved. However, one should bear in mind that polycarbonate for 3D printing is only limited to just white color. Whereas, on an FDM machine, polycarbonate/ ABS blends are available when it comes to 3D printing.
Is Polycarbonate Material Toxic?
There is a common misconception that some types of polycarbonate are hazardous. But, when it comes to food contact situations, polycarbonate might not be the best option due to the fact that BPA is released during the degradation of the material as it comes into contact with water.
The majority of polycarbonates are produced using a combination of COC12 and BPA. Recently, there are some BPA free polycarbonates that are available which can be used for water and perishable food. This breakthrough has made polycarbonate an even more popular option. Over a hundred studies have been conducted on BPS in order to better understand it. Some of the results of these studies reveal that there is a somewhat correlation between risk assessment and funding source that seems to exist. On the other hand, the majority of studies that have been conducted with the help of government funding reveal that BPS has a hazardous risk on health. Whereas, studies backed by industry funding showed no medical risks as such. Regardless of the fact that the studies show contradictory results, there are certain negative effects of BPA as it is released in certain polycarbonates. Thus, BPA-free polycarbonate products have been extremely common such as in the case of consumer products like canning jars.
Strengths of Polycarbonate Material
- Provides light transmission and is thus highly transparent.
- Higher toughness for temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius.
- Mechanical retention rate is as high as for up to 140 degrees Celsius.
- Flame retardant intrinsically.
- Good electrical insulation is also offered which does not get influenced by temperature or water.
- Good abrasion resistance is provided.
- Has the ability to easily withstand repeated sterilizations steam.
Limitations of Polycarbonate Material
- Attacked easily by bases and hydrocarbons.
- Exposure to water for extended period of time leads to degradation of mechanical properties.
- Before processing of the material, proper drying is needed.
- Fatigue endurance is low.
- Yellowing of the material after exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Polycarbonates?
Despite the fact that polycarbonate offers high impact resistance, it is important to keep in mind that it is easily susceptible to scratching. Moreover, it is due to this reason that when it comes to polycarbonates lenses and other products that have a clear surface, there is a need for scratch-resistant lawyer of protection to be added to the pair of glasses. The advantages of polycarbonates are numerous and easily outweigh the disadvantages of polycarbonates. Thus, polycarbonates are the most popular option.