Do you need to cut a particular shape from an polycarbonate sheet? If so, it’s better to route polycarbonate rather than to saw it. Routing is the preferred method, especially when complex shapes and professional edge finishing are required. Routing using only standard DIY tools is a piece of cake with our 6 handy tips.
Requirements for Routing polycarbonate sheet:
Router with variable speed Router with 1 hardened steel (HSS) cutting edge - various diameters Support panel (wood) Supporting battens Safety glasses Glue clamps or vices
#1. Use polycarbonate sheet
In principle, it’s possible to Routing both twin-wall and solid polycarbonate sheets. However, we strongly recommend that you opt for solid polycarbonate sheet when routing. This is because the manufacturing process of twin-wall causes more internal stresses, making it more prone to breakages. Solid polycarbonate glass is much easier to machine and should always be the preferred choice for routing.
#2. Choose the right tool for routing PMMA
Professional plastic sheet converters have machines with a large bed to support the sheet material properly. In these CNC (Computer Numerical Control) devices, the polycarbonate sheet is clamped in a Routing machine and processed with a computer-controlled, multi-axis milling cutter. But it’s easy to rout polycarbonate sheet using regular DIY tools, such as a wood milling machine or router.
The critical thing to remember is to make sure that your milling machine has a sharp blade and that it doesn’t get clogged up with chips. If your milling machine has a vacuum connection, we recommend using it. When you start milling, you create a lot of chips. That’s why it is also a wise precaution to wear safety glasses while milling.
#3. Adjust the cutter diameter to the thickness of the solid polycarbonate sheets
Use cutters with a cutting edge made of carbide (HSS) and choose the correct diameter cutter. How do you know which diameter cutter to use? Consult our handy guide below.
Acrylic sheet Cutter diameter
2 – 5 mm 4 mm
6 – 10 mm 6 mm
10 mm and over 8 mm – 10 mm
Tip: use a higher speed for smaller diameter cutters than for thicker blades. Find the right speed by first routing pieces of scrap material.
#4. Support the polycarbonate sheet and the cutter during routing.
Both the panel and the cutter must be well supported during .
To prevent polycarbonate sheet from vibrating during , place the polycarbonate sheet on a solid surface. For this, use a wooden board in which the cutter can run. The top of the sheet also needs to be well supported. Make sure that the polycarbonate sheet is pressed firmly against the solid surface. Do this with the help of battens and screw clamps or vices that support the panel along the routing line. If you prefer to make straight routing lines, run the cutter along a straight bar.
#5. Mill your solid polycarbonate sheet in several stages
Depending on the sheet thickness, it may be necessary to route your polycarbonate sheet in several stages. This does not apply to thin sheets with a thickness of 5 millimeters or less. You can usually mill these polycarbonate sheets in one pass. Make sure that you mill these thinner sheets against the direction of rotation of the cutter. This gives you a cleaner milled edge than with down milling.
Mill thicker sheets in several stages. Sheets up to 10 mm thick must be milled in two passes. Larger thicknesses take four steps. Even if you think that the sheet could be milled in three passes, our advice is to mill in four stages. At the fourth pass, run your mill slightly slower and use a lower throughput speed; this creates the most pleasing edge finish.
#6. Polish the milled edges of your polycarbonate sheet
For an even more beautiful and smoother edge finish, you can opt to polish the milled edges of your solid polycarbonate sheet. Read how to do this in our blog Polishing polycarbonate.
What can you create when you mill polycarbonate?
Once you start routing, you can make any shapes you want from a sheet of solid. Polycarbonate is usually milled to create circles, diagonal cuts, house numbers and other shapes. Frequently seen examples are the routing letters used for advertising and solid signage.
Questions about routing polycarbonate?
Do you have any questions about routing polycarbonate or are you not sure about which materials you need? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch; we’re happy to help.