Acrylic vs Polycarbonate and why? - Router Forums
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 03:19 PM Thread Starter
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Default Acrylic vs Polycarbonate and why?

I'm considering making my first custom sub-base for my Bosch 1617. It's less about necessity than trying something new, so I'm quite flexible.

I've read this fine thread and half a dozen others, used google to search this site, and viewed a dozen youtube videos. Everything about making sub-bases seems quite clear except this...

Key question: Do you use acrylic or polycarbonate, and why?

Bonus question: How thick? 1/2", 3/8", 1/4", other?

What's not being asked here...
  • I'm aware that acrylic is also known as plexiglass, plexiglas, lucite, and many other trade names. I'm aware that polycarbonate is also known as lexan, makrolon, and others. I'm not particularly interested (yet) in debating the various brands... only understanding clear acrylic vs polycarbonate, and desirable thickness.
  • I'm aware that a router sub-base can also be made from MDF (or almost anything else), though in this case I'm particularly interested in it being clear and easy to see through.

-Ashley
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 03:35 PM
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One of my kids left a sheet of something in my shop. I’m not sure what it is but I made a table plate out of it. If you are making something like an offset base then just about any plastic sheet will be okay. A table plate might be more critical where sag is possible. I manage that possibility by not leaving it in the table when I’m not using it and having made it as small as I could. You don’t want it any thicker than it needs to be. Every 16th is a 16th less reach your bit will have but usually 5/16 to 3/8 is about right.

One consideration is that some plastics are prone to crack when you torque down flat head screws so you may want to counterbore holes and use pan heads screws instead.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 03:37 PM
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Cast Acrylic. Cheaper than lexan, and you can find it lots of places. If just making a sub base you don't have to be that thick. If you are making an offset base or something you might want closer to 3/8".

If drilling thin acrylic look up ways to drill it without cracking it, such as grinding back the corners where the edge of the drill bit meets the flute so it doesn't catch and crack it.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 04:13 PM
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Polycarbonate is stronger and more impact resistant. Acrylic is shinier and less expensive. Acrylic cracks easier and Polycarbonate is easier to scratch. Acrylic can be heated and bent to shapes while retaining its appearance, not so with Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate yellows over time, especially if in sunlight, but Acrylic remains clear.

There are obviously more pros/cons but this is the quick list I refer to when deciding which product to use.

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 04:36 PM
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I vote for polycarbonate... VOE...
keep in mind that acrylic is nick sensitive...

Acrylic plastic:

Less expensive than glass and polycarbonate
17x the impact resistance of glass
92% light transmittance in all thicknesses (better clarity than glass)
Insusceptible to yellowing or discoloration from the sun
Thermoplastic with a working temp of 180F continuous
Durable against scratches and dents
Sheets can be polished smooth
Easy to cut
Heat bent
Clean glue joints
Shiny surface
Large variety of colors available
Widths from 48” to 108”
Lengths from 72” to 192”
Recyclable


Polycarbonate:


250x the impact resistance of glass and 30x stronger than acrylic
Bullet resistant grades are available
88% light transmittance
Less rigid and available in a variety of flexible grades
Thermoplastic with a working temp of 240F continuous
Low level of flammability
Durable against chips and cracks
Highly resistant to acids and other chemicals such as gasoline
Sheets can be drilled without worry of cracking
Cold formed or bent without heating
Widthes from 38” to 75”
Lengths from 78” to 150”

Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheeting:
Pros:

Easier to machine than polycarbonate
Can be polished, both for scratches and clean edges
Better glue bonding
Shinier
Less expensive than polycarbonate by as much as 35%

Polycarbonate Sheeting:
Pros:

Greater strength than acrylic
More flexible than acrylic; can be shaped at room temperature
Can be exposed to high temperatures and is non-flammable
Highly resistant to chemicals
Can be drilled without cracking
Lighter in weight than comparable acrylic

Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheeting:
Cons:

More rigid
More likely to crack during drilling or upon impact
More likely to chip
Should not be exposed to open flames

Polycarbonate Sheeting:
Cons:

Scratches easily
Can be dented easily
More translucent than transparent as compared to acrylic


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If only new layers hadn't been added....

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Last edited by Semipro; 10-08-2019 at 11:05 AM. Reason: Repair
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 04:46 PM
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One factor to keep in mind is that polycarbonate ie a polymer of bis-phenol A (bPA), and the monomer leaches out when exposed to water. bPA acts as an estrogen mimic. Hence some care is needed during working, and the waste must be carefully disposed.
On the other hand there are very few side effects of using acrylic, a polymer of methyl methacrylate. It has been used in medical implants. It seems that there are few if any risks associated with the waste beyond that of any fine particulate.

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 06:24 PM
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Thanks for all that info Stick.


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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2019, 06:57 PM
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Quote:
Bonus question: How thick? 1/2", 3/8", 1/4", other?
all of the above...

This would have been the week that I'd have finished chewing thru the restraints...
If only new layers hadn't been added....

Stick....
Forget the primal scream, just ROAR!!!
"SNORK Mountain Congressional Library and Taxidermy”
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 09:25 AM
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I prefer to use Poly-carbonate because it's tougher than Acrylics and routs without all the fluffy static laden swarf like Acrylics do. The first shot is Poly-carbonate 5mm and the second 4m Acrylic and I've had no problems with either.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 10:11 AM
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@stick

add the chart to the addendum library????

& perhaps to a sticky in the forum since a form of this comes up regularly

smitty
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