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What You Need to Know About Precision Polycarbonate Parts

Precision Polycarbonate Parts

Polycarbonate is a plastic material that’s been used for over 100 years. It was one of the first polymers to be used, and was discovered in 1898 by Alfred Einhorn. Since polycarbonates were discovered, the material has been used across a variety of consumer and industrial products. 

In this post, we’ll share some common uses for polycarbonate and how we machine precision polycarbonate parts and components.  

Common polycarbonate parts and their uses

Polycarbonate can be formed and machines into virtually any shape. We use polycarbonate to manufacture custom:

  • Adapters
  • Connectors
  • Fittings
  • Nuts
  • Pins
  • Screws
  • Housings
  • and much more!

Polycarbonate is transparent, so it’s used for lenses, shatter-proof windows, and car headlight covers. It can also be machined to manufacture precision components. 

Polycarbonate is known for its durability and corrosion resistance. It’s much lighter than most metals, which makes it a good option for aircraft and vehicles. It’s also easy to machine, which allows for lower costs and fast production. Polycarbonate has nearly 2x the impact strength compared to its nearest neighbors, ABS and PVC. This makes the material suitable for a wider range of use cases that require durability.

It’s important to note that PC parts are influenced more by temperature compared to metal. as the temperature increases, polycarbonate parts will expand or lengthen, and as the temperature decreases, the material will contract or shorten. This can impact its use in assemblies. 

Polycarbonate is also not as resistant to chemicals. The material can handle limited exposure to many mineral acids, alcohol, mild soaps, oils and greases. Prolonged exposure can lead to corrosion and discoloring, but the impact of chemicals depends on other factors such as temperature, concentration of the chemicals, and length of exposure. 

Overall, polycarbonate is a durable material that can be used in various industries. 

How are polycarbonate parts machined?

There are a few different ways that polycarbonate can be formed into parts and components. The main three are injection molding the material, heating it and bending it into shape, and using a CNC machine to cut and drill parts from bar stock.

Thermoforming is a process where heat is applied to a polycarbonate sheet, and the material is bent into the desired shape. This is popular for mid- to large-sized parts in limited quantities.

Things like plates, water bottles, and car headlight covers are usually made through an injection mold. The material is heated up and poured into a pressurized mold. The material cools down and holds the form of the mold. 3D printing can also be used to make polycarbonate parts, but it’s inefficient for higher quantities (50+) of identical parts. 3D printing is best used for rapid prototypes.

To manufacture high quantities of precise polycarbonate parts, CNC machining is the more efficient option. Precise injection molds become expensive, and the process is slower than CNC machines because the material needs to be melted and cooled down. CNC machines are able to produce thousands of identical parts, making the process significantly more efficient and less expensive. They’re able to cut and drill parts within 0.001” tolerances.

After the part design is uploaded by the machinist, long pieces of polycarbonate bar stock are loaded into the CNC machine. The machines cuts and drills the material into the desired shape and size. Once the machine is set up and running, it can manufacture parts very quickly without much human intervention. 

Benefits of using polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a versatile material that can be used in many different industries and applications.

Here are a few benefits of this material:

  • Good heat resistance
  • Easily machinable
  • Good weather resistance for outdoor uses
  • High impact strength
  • Great optical clarity
  • Recyclable 
  • Good electrical insulation

Order custom polycarbonate parts

Spex has the capability to manufacture high-precision, custom polycarbonate parts. We can work with your team to manufacture parts and components that match your exact needs. We take full advantage of our robust supply chain management abilities, and deliver the parts you need, when you need them. Our experienced machinists and quality assurance team keep customer satisfaction at the top of the priority list.

We are an ISO 9001:2015 certified manufacturer and our capabilities range from rapid prototyping to limitless capacity. If you need polycarbonate parts, fittings, and components, reach out to our team with any questions. 

Contact us

Talk with one of our team members about your precision part needs.

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Phone: (585) 467-0520

Email: sales@spex1.com

85 Excel Drive
Rochester, NY 14621