What is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate, also known by its trademarked names like Lexan, Makroclear, and others, is a type of thermoplastic. Due to its advantageous properties – polycarbonates are easily molded, worked, and/or thermoformed – it has a wide range of applications.

Polycarbonate was discovered in 1953, simultaneously in both the United States and Germany. In Pittsfield, MA, Daniel Fox accidentally discovered polycarbonate (PC) while working on a wire-coating material for his employer, General Electric. Fox left for home and came back the next day to a hard, transparent material that must have set overnight.

In Uerdingen, Germany, Bayer was looking to advance its technology. Fortunately, Hermann Schnell, a Bayer employee, discovered polycarbonate. Eventually, the discovery became the trademarked Makrolon polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate in Display Case Units?

A lot of our customers have used polycarbonate in their display units. We’ve designed and built machine guards, indoor and outdoor signs, face shields, skylights, and protective covers.

Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic polymer. Unlike most other thermoplastics, it can undergo big plastic deformations without breaking or cracking. Plexiglas, while similar in appearance, is brittle and would break under similar duress. It can’t be bent at room temperature.

Polycarbonate can manifest in a display case through thermoforming or secondary fabrication techniques like bending, drilling, or laser cutting. It can also be injection molded into ready articles, giving it a wide variety of use cases.

Polycarbonate is available in a number of colors, textures, and grades. Grade examples include: abrasion resistance, FDA compliant, glass-filled, UV resistant, bullet resistance, and flame inhibiting. We’ve seen it used in areas where there is a high potential for glass breakage. Polycarbonate is too flexible and awesome to break under normal conditions!

Often used in eyewear lenses and exterior automotive components, polycarbonate is highly transparent to visible light. It can transmit light more effectively than many types of glass.

Not sure which material you should use in your next display case project?

No worries – we work with a number of materials and are happy to help you think through your options.