Material of the Month: Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate:  Strong, shatter proof and out of this world

What do astronaut visors and bullet-resistant glass have in common?  No, they’re not bullet proof, they’re both made from polycarbonate!

Invented in the late 1950’s, this transparent, non-toxic but extremely strong polymer was originally used as a by-product of the space race.  Because it’s clear, tough and very light it was perfect for astronaut’s visors but today it’s more commonly used in the making of DVD’s and lenses.  With these distinct properties, our product testers, engineers and quality control team often recommend polycarbonate to customers as an excellent alternative to glass.  We’d go so far as to say that for impact strength, it’s one of the best materials available.

Often approached by product designers and product engineers keen to get their new products to market, we take immense pride in helping turn their exciting and sometimes innovative ideas into saleable products they can be proud of.  Helping our customers stay ahead of the competition by working with them at every stage of NPI (New Product Introduction).  Combining our valuable design, tool and moulding expertise with manufacturing and material knowledge to help them decide on the most suitable material selection for their finished product.

But how does a product designer or product engineer know when or what to use polycarbonate for?

We look at what it needs to do, to be fit for purpose.  Does it need to be: heat resistant, shatterproof, light, strong, flexible or easy to overprint and/or decorate?  Polycarbonate was the obvious material choice for one customer, 3M, when we moulded their ear protection bands.

EAR Polycarbonate ear protection

When it comes to material selection, it’s just as important to know a polymer’s good points as its bad, so here’s a quick overview of polycarbonate’s pros and cons:

Pros

·   Impressive impact strength – one of the best materials available
·   Clarity, similar to glass but shatter resistant (used in lenses, PPE)
·   Additives available, (FR, UV, Glass filled)
·   Wide temperature range (heat resistance & dimensional stability)
·   Glass alternative, (lighter, stronger, more flexible, cheaper)
·   Easy to print and decorate

Cons

·   Low chemical resistance
·   Contain BPA
·   Can scratch easily (coatings available)

Did you know? 

Polycarbonate is used for fighter jet cockpits.

Perhaps polycarbonate is the right material for your new product or invention? If you’re ready to turn your product idea into a tangible product to take to market, our team of plastic injection moulding experts would love to help (and we love a challenge!) so give us a call on: 01425 613131 or email hello@becgroup.com