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Bending polycarbonate

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You can bend or deform polycarbonate sheets hot and cold, so the material can be used in many different ways. In this blog, we’re going to tell you everything about how polycarbonate bending works and the best way to tackle this process.Polycarbonate bending temperature: the basics

Polycarbonate can be considered a thermoplastic. This means that it becomes soft when heated. Hot bending Lexan polycarbonate can take place in several ways. You can use a professional bending tool, a filament heating element, hairdryer, adjustable paint burner or convection oven. Cold bending of polycarbonate, however, is simpler and more common.

Polycarbonate has a very strong structure so it is resistant to cold stretching. The panel’s thickness and dimension will also affect this. You can cold bend a narrower, longer polycarbonate sheet much more easily than a shorter one. A wider sheet will also bend independently.
You can bend a sheet of polycarbonate without heating

For example, if you are making new windows for a boat, you can bend polycarbonate cold. You can form cold polycarbonate into a curvy shape, making it ideal for windscreens and boat windows.

Cold bending polycarbonate sheets is usually done using a press brake. The sheet of polycarbonate must be bent at a particular angle. To prevent the Lexan polycarbonate from bending cold, it must be clamped in a frame, shape or construction to ensure that the material doesn’t spring back. If you are replacing a boat window with Polycarbonate, the rebate will ensure that the window remains in its original shape.

After being professionally bent, the sheet of polycarbonate can be folded into the desired form when it is cold. Then, the sheet can be heated in an oven at a low temperature (maximum 70%) for about 30 minutes. This ensures that the sheet is not strained and that the polycarbonate does not spring back. To create more complex shapes, heat is required to bend the polycarbonate.
Heat bending polycarbonate sheets

Professionals and experts with the necessary knowledge and experience should not attempt to heat bend large sheets of polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is shaped by professionals using heat coils, thermal bend benches, and air circulation furnaces. After the sheet of polycarbonate is heated to the required temperature, the sheet can be bent into the desired shape with a mould. The polycarbonate sheet will not change its shape after it has cooled.

Polycarbonate sheets should be dried before being hot bent. The polycarbonate could have absorbed moisture. You may see visible bubbles if the material is not pre-dried. Select a lower temperature to dry than when you bend, such as 110 to 120 degrees Celsius. Remove the protective film before drying the sheet. Then, heat the convection oven for six to twelve hours. Be sure to leave enough space for hot air circulation around the sheet. The sheet can be hung up or raised partially to allow air to pass underneath it. Grids can cause scratches on the polycarbonate surface so it is best not to use them.
Bending polycarbonate yourself

DIYers who want to bend polycarbonate themselves but don’t have a heating coil or filament can use an oven or paint torch. To heat the polycarbonate precisely, place wooden slats along the fold line before you begin. This allows you to get the best fold line. Follow these expert tips to achieve a successful outcome!

Tips for Bending Polycarbonate with a Heat Gun (adjustable).

Remove both the protective film and heat your polycarbonate sheets.
Keep the heat gun’s output opening at least 5cm from the sheet.
You can gently move the heat gun along your fold line to ensure that it heats evenly.
You can bend the sheet by pulling lightly on it.
Once the sheet has warmed enough, lay a batten on the bend line to form a straight fold.

Tips to bend polycarbonate using a convection oven

The polycarbonate sheet should not be heated on a rack but rather on a flat, heat resistant tray.
Place the sheet and tray in the oven. Heat slowly.
After the temperature has reached 180°C to 220°C, leave the sheet to dry for 4 to 5 minutes. Sheets with a thickness of 5 millimetres or less will bend faster.
The polycarbonate should be fixed in the desired form until it cools. The sheet will then remain at the desired angle without stretching.