Polycarbonate is a material known for its excellent impact resistance and durability. It is often used instead of glass in the making of greenhouses and skylights, but what gives it its strength? Here is an interesting insight into how polycarbonate is made.
What Is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is an amorphous kind of thermoplastic generally used to produce items that demand a high impact resistance and transparency. Examples include greenhouses (polycarbonate is an excellent replacement for glass and acrylic), skylights, and bulletproof windows.
In addition, polycarbonate is also used in the automotive and electronic industries and for manufacturing medical devices.
The material was invented by Dr Hermann Schnell in 1953 and was first introduced commercially by German company Bayern in 1958.
How Is Polycarbonate Produced?
Polycarbonate is essentially a copolymer composed of various monomers. Each of these monomers has different properties, including:
- UV resistance
- High resistance to abrasion
- Scratch resistance
- Resistance to heat and chemical action
- Glare reduction
Polycarbonate is produced through a method called polymerization of bisphenol A. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a liquid derived from chemical compounds benzene and phosgene. The resultant product is the polymer material known for its strength and versatility.
Over 5,000 Kt of Polycarbonate Are Produced Globally Every Year
Polycarbonate is such a commonly used material that it is produced in impressive quantities. According to a recent study, the quantity of polycarbonate produced globally exceeded 5,000 kilotons each year in the past five years. If this sounds impressive, know that the previsions expect an exponential increase.
In fact, the total production capacity is expected to exceed 3.15 million tons in China alone in the following years.
Currently, China and the United States of America are the main producers of polycarbonate globally, with South Korea, Germany, and Japan following closely.
Polycarbonate Is Available in a Number of Grades
Polycarbonate sheeting is perhaps the most popular polycarbonate grade. However, this material can be made in a wide range of grades, depending on the application. For instance, you can find polycarbonate films, flame retardant panels, reinforced and stress crack resistant sheets, and so on.
To manufacture the different grades, manufacturers melt polycarbonate pellets and mould them into the desired shape. Various processes involved include injection moulding, extrusion, vacuum forming, mould blowing, and structural foam moulding.
Fire Doesn’t Degrade Polycarbonate
An interesting characteristic about polycarbonate – and the one that allows manufacturers to produce different polycarbonate grades – is the fact that it doesn’t degrade at high temperatures.
Unlike most plastics, polycarbonate liquefies when it reaches the melting point of 155°C. Its amorphous composition allows the material to maintain its structure up to that point, and the material can be melted, moulded, cooled down, and then reheated over and over again.
By contrast, most other plastics can only be heated once during the moulding process and will degrade if reheated again. Thanks to this characteristic, polycarbonate is one of the most versatile and eco-friendly types of plastic you can find.