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Top Tips working with Plastic Sheet

Working with Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a virtually unbreakable plastic material and at Plastic Solutions, we supply it in 2 types of sheet:

Multiwall Polycarbonate

Solid Polycarbonate

1) Multiwall Polycarbonate - a structured sheet with hollow air chambers

2) Solid Polycarbonate - a clear flat sheet like glass.

Will Plastic scratch?

Both glass and plastic panels will scratch, however Polycarbonate is a hardened material which is impact resistant. When you scratch a piece of glass, the glass breaks away in microscopic shards which is less visible to the naked eye. When you scratch a plastic panel, the material does not break away but is physically moved from one location to another, leaving a microscopic raised indentation and hence a visible mark. When choosing to use plastic or glass, the impact resistance should be considered.

Take a standard pane of glass 3mm in thickness. Imagine hitting this with a hammer and you know what happens. The same size panel in 3mm polycarbonate is half the weight of glass but over 200 times stronger. Hit this with a hammer and the hammer will bounce back at you! For this reason, polycarbonate is often used as the clear panel in machine guards with moving parts, security screens, farm vehicle wind shields, outdoor partitions etc. While 3mm glass is rigid, 3mm polycarbonate is flexible and will bend to a 'U' shape while still retaining it's strength. Increasing the thickness of the panel or sheet, will increase the rigidity.

Will Plastic sheet bend?

Yes. The bend has a greater radius on larger sheets where they will cold curve to suit take gentle arching roofs. A large sheet 3050 x 2050 in 3MM thickness will bend in a 'U' shape without any problem. The bend becomes harder and has less radius the higher the thickness and the smaller the panel.

Will plastic go yellow outdoors?

The answer today is No. Older plastic panels had no UV protection and often went yellow, cloudy or misty when left outdoors. It is also impossible to know what type of plastics were used in numerous outdoor applications and whether they were used correctly for the applications they were intended for e.g. Polyester sheet, acrylic sheet and polycarbonate sheet are all clear and see through but each has different properties.

Modern plastics have UV stablisers co-extruded into the sheet when they are being made. Polycarbonate sheet available from Plastic Solutions is UV stabilised and carries a warranty for a minimum of 10 years.

Can I clean polycarbonate?

Yes, a mild detergent and a non abrasive cloth should be used. Maintaining polycarbonate in this way will keep it looking as new.

Are there different types of plastic sheet?
Yes. As mentioned above, it is crucial to use the correct type of plastic sheet for the correct application. Consider the following applications...

Q. I want to cover a food tray or create a sneeze guard over my food counter?
Here you need to use a Polyester sheet which is clear and see through but is also food approved / food grade. Polyester is used extensively throughout the food industry as moulded bottles, sandwich packs etc. and is denoted by a triangular symbol and the letters PET or PETg

Q. I have seen a plastic sheet that is crystal clear on the cut edges, almost like glass?
This is most likely cast acrylic (perspex) that has been flame polished. The cut edges are sanded and then a flame is run across the edge which brings up a clear gloss finish. In effect, the flame melts the plastic to a clear gloss finish. The sheet retains this finish when it cools and it can be visually effective if running an LED light through the sheet. Flame polishing is a specialist process and you should consult a sheet fabricator to do this. Too little heat of too much heat can ruin the sheet. (if you would like more information on plastic fabrication, please contact us on 01 409 8000)

Q. I need to use a clear window in a domestic or commercial application?
When not using glass, you will need to use a clear polycarbonate panel as polycarbonate has a fire rating and other clear plastics do not.

The above is just a small example to explain the differences in sheet properties and hence the corresponding difference in price for panels which may look the same but are in fact different materials with different properties.

Contact us to request a brochure for Polycarbonate...

Working with Acrylic

Acrylic (Perspex®) is a clear plastic material that is available in extruded sheet or cast sheet.

The material comes out of a heated hopper in one flat continuous layer. For this reason extruded sheet can be available in different widths and specialist lengths. Extruded sheet also have the benefit of having the exact same tolerance and uniform thickness through the sheet.

The material is poured between a cast, usually two sheets of glass, in order to create a flat sheet. While cast acrylic is regarded as having a better surface finish than extruded, the tolerances and thickness of the sheet can often vary minutely as it settles between the cast plates.

Acrylic perspex is a favourite with fabricators because the sheet can be machined, heat bent to create shapes and also moulded in heat presses (thermoformed). As mentioned above, the edges of acrylic sheet can also be sanded and flame polished to give a high gloss cut edge finish. Acrylic is popular as a POS / Point of Sale material, used to exhibit jewellery and other retail products. It is also used extensively in the signage industry as it can be routed (cut into) with machines to display letters, shapes and curved edges.

Contact us to request a brochure for Acrylic...