Cutting polycarbonate

What is thr best method for cutting polycarbonate sheets? Using CNC or a Laser Cutter? Last year I didn’t use either, I used a dremel. Yeah, that was hell. Yeah, those cuts arent as accurate as the could be. Yeah, it took forever to make. Well this year there is no way I am doing that again so I was wondering what other teams used for their cutouts? And is there any useful information I should know when I am cutting the sheets?

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cnc is good for very high-precision or intricate parts, tinsnips and a drill is just fine for the large majority of parts though, I’ve never had the need for more than that. Dremel is a bad option as it will melt the edges, and laser cutters don’t work that great with polycarb, burning the edges and releasing some nasty gasses.

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We use a dremel at high speeds and a specific bit for cutting polycarbonate, that doesn’t melt it. The only drawbacks of using a dremel are it’s slow, every little movement shows in your finished product, and some material is wasted because your digging a trench until it goes through the plastic. Oh and also it’s messy, literally everything is covered in nasty polycarb dust.

Recently I’ve been thinking of purchasing a small CNC router to cut more intricate pieces but it is by no means necessary.

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If you don’t have a cnc, and you don’t want to melt the edges of the polycarb, the best tool to use I’ve found is a jigsaw. It works incredibly well to cut lexan, it leaves a smooth edge (sometimes needs a little sanding) and it doesn’t melt the lexan. Using a jigsaw also isn’t nearly as slow a process as using a Dremel and it’s much easier to get a straight line. One better than a jigsaw would be a band saw if you have access to one.

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In my case i was thinking of cutting very long plastic strips so over the entire length the accurscy of a dremel would decrease and it would be a massive pain to cut

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Huh i might try this one, I don’t have direct access to a band saw but I know someone who does have one and I have access to a jigsaw.

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We generally use a band saw to cut 1/16” polycarbonate and a sharp pair of scissors for 1/32” The scissors are really nice for quickly cutting a part to size and making quick modifications on the robot.

We have actually used a box cutter and a straight edge to cut a score and then break long strips. Tin snips work well for less detail work.

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This is an older method from cutting fiberglass insulation/foam board/etc. Put a board down, put the item to cut (lexan) on the board, place a second board or straight edge on the item, score/cut with a SHARP/NEW razorknife, snap the piece off.

We’ve had excellent results with a bandsaw. The blade is long enough it does not get hot and melt the poly. Nice clean cuts with no sanding required unless you are using the wrong blade (wood). We are using high speed steel blades.

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