Polycarbonate sheets, while extremely flexible and resistant to blunt force, are relatively simple to cut to size. Compared to other skylight materials such as glass or acrylic sheets which require professionals and special tools to cut; with the right tools and knowledge, how to cut polycarbonate sheets can be an easy do-it-yourself project.
Preparations prior to cutting polycarbonate sheets:
As usual, safety first before learning how to cut polycarbonate sheets. It is always advisable to wear protective equipment such as protective eyewear, masks, and gloves. When it comes to installing and servicing panels, always use appropriate scaffolding and proper placement to ensure even weight distribution to avoid damage. Measure carefully. Make sure to measure every related dimension of the covered area, this includes width, length, height, slope and room for thermal expansion and contraction.
On corrugated sheets, remove any protective packaging prior to cutting; on solid sheets however, any cutting will have to be done with the protective film on to prevent any damages to the polycarbonate sheet surface, which is prone to scratches.
Tools best for different scenarios
- Cutting single pieces – Handheld utility or box knives.
- Trimming – Utility knives or metal shears works best.
- Straight long cuts – Bench and Table Circular saws.
- On-Site Straight cuts – Portable circular saws.
- Cutting small stacks of 5 to 10 pieces of limited length – Jigsaw or Portable circular saws.
Basic guidelines for cutting
- Polycarbonate sheets should always be laid flat on a clean surface and pressed down firmly when cutting.
- Circular saw cutting – Choose saws with fine blades designed to cut plastic. Speed should be within the range between 1800~2400rpm. Rule of thumb, spin fast, feed slow.
- Low to moderate feed rate should be used when the sheets approach the blade, or vice versa. A feed rate that is too high can cause gumming, splitting or breaking of the sheet edges.
- VULCAN polycarbonate panels should be placed on a firm flat base and clamped into position during sawing.
- Polycarbonate tend to gum in high heat, and blades tend to heat up significantly after continuous cutting. Make sure to stop when any gumming happens.
- Rough edges can be smoothed out using fine grit sandpaper.
- Avoid intersecting cuts. Drill a hole at intersection point, then cut the panel up to the hole.
- If the cut sheet vibrates during sawing, cardboard sheet padding may be placed beneath it to absorb the vibrations.
Melting or Gummed Edges:
- Use low to moderate feed rate when the sheets approach the blade
- Increase blade tooth size
- Reduce saw speed
- Increase feed rate
- Use air to cool blade
- Use blade lubricant compatible with VULCAN Polycarbonate Panels
- Inspect blade for sharpness
- Check blade-fence alignment
- Reduce number of sheets in stack
- Decrease blade tooth size
- Increase saw size
- Provide better clamping and/or support for sheet stack
- Reduce feed rate
- Check blade and arbor for wobble
- Inspect blade for sharpness