What is Polycarbonate Extrusion?
Polycarbonate extrusion is used in a variety of industries including the construction, lighting, automotive, electrical, consumer products sectors, and more. Polycarbonate extrusions offer high impact resistance, excellent optical properties, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, making them popular for a variety of applications.
Polycarbonate (PC) is a naturally transparent thermoplastic polymer that exhibits many valuable properties, including:
Polycarbonate is fairly chemical resistant; however, the resistance level depends on the type of chemical, temperature, exposure time, and chemical concentration. Generally, acids (mineral), most alcohols, low-concentration bases, aliphatic hydrocarbons, mild detergents, and silicone oil and greases are compatible.
Polycarbonate provides good dimensional stability and low shrinkage, making it ideal for tight tolerance applications.
The electrical insulation properties make it a great choice for a variety of applications.
Its high impact strength makes it resistant to fracture and suitable for applications requiring toughness and durability.
The lightweight nature of polycarbonate lends itself to applications where weight reduction is important.
Standard grades of polycarbonate have a high melting point and can maintain rigidity up to 140°C (248°F) and toughness down to -20°C (-4°).
Polycarbonate is naturally optically clear and offers high light transmission properties. Its refractive index is 1.59
Prolonged exposure to sunlight will not cause significant discoloration or degradation.
These properties make polycarbonate a desirable material choice for applications that require toughness, impact resistance, and transparency.
Polycarbonate Extrusion Options
In the extrusion process, melted polycarbonate resin goes through a die, giving it its shape, which it maintains once it is cooled. This process can be used to manufacture various custom profiles, channels, pipes or other continuous shapes.
Polycarbonate is often extruded as a single material but can also be manufactured as a co-extrusion, dual durometer co-extrusion, and tri-extrusion, vastly increasing its usefulness.
In co-extrusion, polycarbonate may be used as a top layer or outer layer to provide additional protection against weathering and impact damage. The inner layer may be a different material that provides specific functional properties.
Dual Durometer Co-extrusion
Dual durometer co-extrusion involves simultaneously extruding two of different hardness. Polycarbonate is commonly used as the outer layer due to its high-impact and weather resistance.
When three different materials are required, tri-extrusion is used. Depending on the desired properties, polycarbonate can be used as one of the three layers.
Applications for Polycarbonate Extrusion
While polycarbonate is naturally clear, not all applications require a transparent material but still would still benefit from its other properties. In these cases, polycarbonate can be tinted and made with custom colors. Polycarbonate extrusions are popular for a wide range of products, including:
Building and Construction Materials
Polycarbonate extrusions are often used for chair rails, railings, edge guards, wall guards, trim molding, and roofing applications in commercial and residential buildings.
Because of their transparency, polycarbonate extrusions are commonly used to make diffusers, lenses, and covers for LED and fluorescent lighting fixtures.
Automotive designers have used extruded polycarbonate for exterior trims, interior trims, battery plates, and light covers.
Polycarbonate is a great insulator, so extrusions are used to make electrical components such as insulators, connectors, and wire channels.
The medical industry also takes advantage of the properties of polycarbonate. Extrusions are used to make various medical equipment, including surgical instruments, trays, tubing, and track systems.
Polycarbonate extrusions are used in many consumer products, including toys, sporting goods, and bird feeders.
Choosing a Partner for Your Custom Polycarbonate Extrusion
When you have decided that polycarbonate is the right material for your project, it is critical that you team up with an experienced manufacturer to produce your custom part. A manufacturer with experience extruding polycarbonate will be equipped to overcome challenges.
Polycarbonate has a high melting temperature, typically between 288-316 °C (550-600 °F), which requires extrusion machinery capable of operating at high temperatures. However, it is susceptible to thermal degradation if exposed to high temperatures for extended periods, resulting in discoloration, reduced mechanical properties, and reduced processability. It is also hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from the air, which can lead to swelling and cause problems during extrusion that can result in bubbles, voids, and other defects.
Additionally, polycarbonate is prone to melt fracture during extrusion due to its high viscosity and shear sensitivity. This can result in surface defects, such as roughness and irregularities, affecting the final product’s quality.
Polycarbonate’s coefficient to linear thermal expansion is quite high and can result in poor dimensional stability during extrusion, which can result in dimensional variations in the final product, particularly in large or complex parts.
At Custom Profile, we have the experience to bring your polycarbonate profile extrusion idea to fruition and meet your quality expectations. In addition to polycarbonate, we have experience working with a variety of materials.
Plus, we design, manufacture, and deliver your custom extrusion with total cost savings in mind. Our in house tooling capabilities allow us to have greater control over quality and lead times, and in-line operations create greater efficiency. We also have an ISO-certified clean room, allowing us to handle the most delicate projects.
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Talk to one of our experts to learn how we can bring your next custom extrusion project to life.