How to Form a Polycarbonate Sheet

Polycarbonate is a type of thermoplastic used for items such as windshields, lenses and headlights.

It is a durable plastic that resists shattering, making it preferable to glass in many cases. You can purchase polycarbonate in sheets from plastic suppliers for use in household projects. For instance, you might want to use it in place of glass for fragile items in display cases or shelving. It is also possible to change the shape of these sheets. With a few basic tools, you can form polycarbonate into customized shapes to suit your needs.

Set the temperature on your plastic strip heater to between 340 and 365 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature allows the plastic to become pliable without warping.

Remove the sheet's masking from the bend spot. Polycarbonate comes with a thin film attached to both sides to keep it from scratching. You may want to remove all of it before forming. At the very least, you will need to remove the film from the area you are bending.

Lay the plastic on the strip heater. Make sure that only the area you want to bend is aligned on the heating element. You may want to mark the desired bend spot on the edge of your polycarbonate sheet before placing it on the strip heater.

Wait for the polycarbonate to soften. The sheet will first sag in the heated area, causing the ends of the sheet to curl slightly. Once it is heated completely, the ends relax and you can begin forming it.

Form the polycarbonate into the desired bend. Move quickly after removing the sheet from the heating source, because polycarbonate hardens quickly.

Hold the bend in place. After just a few minutes, the polycarbonate retains the new shape on its own.

Things You Will Need

  • Strip heater with temperature gauge
  • 1/8-inch thick polycarbonate sheet
  • Router (optional)

Tip

  • This technique works for 1/8-inch gauge polycarbonate or thinner. If your sheets are thicker, use a router to create a groove along the bend point before heating. This process makes the plastic thinner at the bend point. Thicker gauge tends to form gas bubbles during the heating process, marring the sheet's appearance.

About the Author

Heather Mckinney has been writing for over 23 years. She has a published piece in the University Archives detailing the history of an independently owned student newspaper. Mckinney holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from University of Texas at San Antonio.