Polycarbonate (PC) Plastic Machining

Your guide to Polycarbonate Plastic Machining



One of the fastest growing engineering plastics

Mid-price range

Versatile thermoplastic for a variety of applications

Polycarbonate (PC)  has good electrical properties as well as high impact resistance that will withstand extreme temperatures. It has good machinability.

This guide will take you through the main attributes, common applications, notes for designers and suitable finishing and treatments, as well as UK stock sizes and property tables. Don't forget to bookmark the page so you can refer back later.

If you are interested in Polycarbonate machined parts, please scroll to the bottom of the page for more information about our service and to request a quote.

Polycarbonate Guide: Properties, Applications and Design Considerations


What is Polycarbonate plastic?
Polycarbonate (PC) is one of the fastest growing engineering plastics, with global demand exceeding 1.5 million tons.

It has good electrical properties as well as high impact resistance that will withstand extreme temperatures.

Due to its amorphous nature and low crystallinity, PC plastic is highly transparent to visible light, with better light transmission than many types of glass.

Polycarbonate is a mid-price range thermoplastic and is therefore popular as a versatile option for a variety of applications.

Glass-filled grades are also available with enhanced properties.

Polycarbonate has good machinability, allowing close tolerances without great difficulty. We use very sharp uncoated tools. Good clamping is also essential and certain coolants need to be avoided.

You may also see Polycarbonate referred to as:

  • PC (chemical designation)
  • PC1000
  • Tecanat®
  • Lexan®
  • Makrolon®
  • Makroclear®
  • Quadrant®

Industry Examples: Electrical and electronics | Telecommunications | Automotive and transportation | Mechanical engineering | Food technology | Medical | Optical | Semiconductor


Typical Components & Applications: Covers | Housings | Connectors | Appliances | Boxings | Rollers | Seals | Manifolds | Insulators | Gaskets | Packaging | Glazings | Casings | Covers | Rear and side car windows | Car exterior parts | Lenses | Optical storage media | Safety helmets

Main Attributes:
  • Good thermal stability – thermally resistant up to 135°C
  • High strength and hardness
  • Good electrical insulation properties
  • Exceptional resistance to weathering
  • Good machinability
  • Easily polished
  • Low density
  • Highly transparent
  • High modulus of elasticity
  • Recyclable
  • Food compliant grades available
  • PC does have some limitations, although these can be overcome with enhanced grades:
    • Limited chemical resistance
    • Sensitive to scratching and stress cracking
    • Tendency to yellow from prolonged exposure to UV light
  • Grades include reinforced, stress crack resistant, film, flame retardant and branched, amongst others

Note For Designers:

Polycarbonate is a mid-priced thermoplastic and therefore along with its favourable properties, is a popular choice for a wide range of applications.

If the extremely high impact strength of Polycarbonate is not required, Acrylic may be considered as an alternative transparent thermoplastic which still has very good impact resistance and better clarity.

If higher temperatures or improved chemical resistance are required, PSU is a better alternative.

Note: stock material is transparent however if faces are machined, a secondary polishing process is required to regain optical clarity.

Finishing & Treatments:
  • Vapour / solvent polishing - for a high gloss finish
  • Wet and dry sanding
  • Painting
  • Buffing

See our Finishing Processes page for further information on services that we can facilitate.

Can we meet your polycarbonate machining needs? Contact us now
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Further Reading & Resources

British Plastics Federation


Polycarbonate Plastic Machined Parts


Penta Precision provides the following plastic Polycarbonate machining services: 
  • CNC milling
  • CNC turning
  • Prototypes and batch runs
  • Insert installation
  • Part marking
  • Manual milling
  • Manual turning
  • Machining design advice
  • Design for manufacture service

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