Clear polycarbonate panels are known for their ability to be thermoformed.
Thermoforming is one of the most popular method of manipulating plastic materials to meet the desired standards.
It is a versatile process which may involve large working dimension and high precision thermoforming.
Ideally, all plastics such as PE, PVC, polycarbonate sheets and PETG can be thermoformed. It is cost effective as far tooling costs are concerned and high rates of production can be realized.
These polycarbonate panels can be thermoformed using a number of standard equipment. Some of the most commonly used techniques include line bending, free blow forming and vacuum.
Since clear polycarbonate panels absorb moisture, before the thermoforming process begins, it is important that the panel dries to remove any elements of moisture.
PC panels with moisture tend to have bubbles on their surface which reduces their performance significantly.
Normally, the process begins by pre-drying the panel in a dehumidifying air circulating oven. The rate at which polycarbonates absorb moisture will depend on the ambient dew point.
A good thermoforming equipment should have the capability to maintain vacuum pressure of about 20 inches of mercury.
There are a number of heating equipment which are used in the heating process with quite a number of heaters having an infrared heating element.
They feature various timers for high precision thermoforming. Gas-fired heaters are also used in some applications.
Uniform heating is paramount during this process since this the only sure way through which all the radiation process can conform to the available radiation absorption graphs for polycarbonates.
Under normal circumstances, the temperature required for clear polycarbonate panels for vacuum forming process ranges between 350°F and 360°F.
For more complex designs, this may require higher temperature above this range. During the heating process, shading or screen may be used to ensure that the heating takes place uniformly.
Mold selection is also another important process. Mostly, the male molds are used for vacuum forming.
Another method which is used to thermoform clear polycarbonate panels is the extrusion forming process.
In this process, a number of materials are heated and extruded to create a single sheet which can be modified at later stages.
The polycarbonate can be manipulated further by heating it to a pliable temperature where it can be modified to take a desired shape.
Companies have been employing the use of computers to ensure high degree of accuracy where a single auger vacuum venter extruder is used to ensure that there is a uniform frictional heat stability.
The resulting clear polycarbonate panels have superior structure and guarantees optimal performance.
Such companies have been able to achieve a good production capacity of about 10,000 tons/year. And also have fast turnaround which meets customer demands.
During the thermoforming process, a number of desirable features such a UV protection and degree of light transmission can be added to make PC panels versatile and flexible.
Other procedures such as coating the PC panels can be done after the thermoforming process to increase the service life of these panels.