Polycarbonate (PC) – Your Questions Answered

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KMA SA Marketing supplies many companies with recycle and virgin Polycarbonate (PC). This blog is to help you answer some common questions:

What is Polycarbonate (PC) and How is PC Made?
What are the General Characteristics of PC?
What are some Common Applications/ Products Polycarbonate is used for?
How is PC Moulded?
Who Invented PC?
What Are The Different Types of Polycarbonate?
Is PC used for 3D Printers?
PC and Food Packaging- is it dangerous?
What are the Disadvantages of Polycarbonate?

What is Polycarbonate (PC) and How it’s Made

Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic polymer containing carbonate groups. It is produced like all other plastics by the distillation of hydrocarbon fuels into lighter groups called fractions (some are combined with catalysts to produce plastics via polymerization or polycondensation).

Polycarbonate material is produced by the reaction of bisphenol A (BPA) and phosgene COCl. The chemical formula is expressed as such: C15H16O2

It is also an amorphous material, meaning that it does not exhibit the ordered characteristics of crystalline solids. Crystalline polymers exhibit a sharp transition from solid to liquid however amorphous materials demonstrate a tendency to gradually soften. In terms of PC this is due to its wider range between its glass transition temperature and its melting point.

What are the General Characteristics of PC?

PC is easily moulded. It is an extremely durable and strong material. In saying that it is also a very pliable material that can undergo large plastic deformations without cracking or breaking.

Polycarbonate also has very good heat resistance and can be combined with flame retardant materials.

On of it’s most redeeming features is that PC is highly transparent which is why many applications use it as a substitute to glass. It is a lighter alternative to glass and a natural UV filter therefore often used in eye wear.

What are some Common Applications/ Products Polycarbonate is used for?

Electronic components
Construction materials
Aircrafts components
Security components
Drinking bottles
Glasses and plastic lenses in eyewear
Food containers
SCUBA masks
Medical devices
Within bullet-proof glass
Automotive components
Protective gear – safety glasses/goggles/visors
Greenhouses
Digital Disks (CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray)
Exterior lighting fixtures
Sports equipment
Clear moulds for urethane and silicone casting
3-D Printing

How is PC Moulded?

Polycarbonate is generally extruded or injection moulded.

Who Invented PC?

Polycarbonates were first discovered in 1898 by Aldred Einhorn, however only in 1953 did Hermann Schnell at Bayer, in Germany, continue the research and eventually patent the first linear polycarbonate.

What Are The Different Types of Polycarbonate?

There are various grades of polycarbonate. They are differentiated by the amount of glass fiber reinforcing they contain and the variance in their MFI (melt flow index) between them.

Like most plastics additives are added to polycarbonates to make it UV stabilized or release agents that lubricate it to make it easily removable from an injection mould.

Natural form is clear but adding masterbatches and pigments any colour is attainable.

PC for 3D Printers:

Being a thermoplastic material, certain 3D printers are able to print with PC using the FDM process. FDM is a commonly used process of 3D printing known as Fused Deposition Modeling. They use the thermoplastic filament and extrude it layer and layer upwards. Sometimes people use a PC/ABS blend but PC is usually used for high heat applications as it’s heat resistance is higher than that of ABS.

PC and Food Packaging?

Studies have shown that there may be the potential for certain types of polycarbonate bring hazardous with food contacts in situations where there is a release of Bisphenol A (BPA). However there are FDA approved polycarbonates used in food packaging that are BPA free that are commonly used in.

What are the Disadvantages of Polycarbonate?

Although Polycarbonate is known for its high impact resistance, it is has low scratch resistance. Surfaces will therefore, typically, be coated with a scratch-resistant layer for protection.

For more information contact us!

Have a fun day,
Lorna