Drilling Polycarbonate: The Ultimate Guide

Drilling polycarbonate is an important fabrication process – you can drill holes for fasteners, ventilation, decorations, etc.

But you know what?

You must choose proper tools and accessories, which can drill polycarbonate without burns, rough surface or finish.

And in today’s guide, I am going to walk you through all the vital processes in drilling polycarbonate.

Let’s dive right in.

 

What is Drilling Polycarbonate?

First things first!

Before we even talk of drilling polycarbonate, it would be ideal to understand what a polycarbonate entails.

Well, in simple words, a polycarbonate refers to a relatively transparent thermoplastic which dimensionally stable.

Solid polycarbonate sheet

Solid polycarbonate sheet

This material has a structure which allows for exceptional impact resistance.

Incidentally, this arises from the fact that it is manufactured by an extrusion process making it exceptionally strong and virtually unbreakable.

The essence, in this case, is to know that polycarbonate possesses some of the outstanding properties you can ever find in any ordinary material.

Some of these properties include exceptional thermal resistance, glass-like transparency as well as apt electrical properties among others.

On the other hand, drilling refers to a cutting process which involves the use of a drill bit to cut a circular cross-section or a hole in solid materials.

Drilling polycarbonate

Drilling polycarbonate sheet

Well, now from these two statements, we can easily understand what drilling polycarbonate primarily entails.

In other words, drilling polycarbonate is a process of cutting thermoplastic materials to create a hole or circular cross-section using a drill bit.

The use of a drill bit, which is a multi-point tool allows you to press it against the work-piece since it rotates at different revolutions per minute.

Drill bits

Drill bits

This process is quite useful as it is seemingly the ideal way of creating holes in polycarbonate for a number of applications.

As you’ll find out later on in this guide, the applications of drilling polycarbonate are reasonably many hence making it an ideal process.

Even so, let’s find out in the next section some of the reasons why you would ideally engage in this particular process.

Why Drill Polycarbonate?

As I have mentioned before, the use of polycarbonate nowadays is entirely prevalent.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to know that several processes have to take place on such material to make it useful.

If you are a newbie, you’d probably ask yourself the essence of fabricating polycarbonate material.

The truth nonetheless is that there are several reasons why you would possibly need to drill this particular material.

And in this section, therefore, I want to highlight a few reasons to enable you to have an idea of why you’d need to drill one.

Some of these reasons include the following;

a) To enhance attachment on the surface

What happens is that an ordinary polycarbonate sheet often comes in different shapes as well as sizes.

And since the uses of this sheet are seemingly varying, in some applications, you can use it wholly without cutting it in pieces.

So in such cases, you’ll need to drill it as a way of creating holes which you’ll then use to attach it on a particular surface.

Safety face shield

Safety face shield

More often, the drills enable you to screw in the nuts and bolts which play a significant role in attaching this material of the surface.

The drilling process in this instances is therefore aimed at ensuring that the polycarbonate becomes easily attached on a surface.

In a nutshell, when you want to fix this material on a surface without cutting it in smaller pieces, drilling becomes necessary.

And that’s thus one of the key reasons why you would ideally need to drill a polycarbonate material.

b) To conveniently create holes for screws

Since polycarbonate is generally a hard-surfaced material, you have to know that creating holes on it can be so challenging.

Secured with screws

Secured with screws

You require the utmost skills and techniques to ensure that you drill suitable holes that befit the screws.

Additionally, you also need to know that you can easily damage the surface if you’re trying to use other means to create the holes.

So what you need to do is making sure that you use the drilling process to ensure that you skillfully create the holes.

Of course, some people would argue that you can use other techniques to create holes in this material.

The truth, however, is that the best way possible to create holes for screws on polycarbonate is through drilling.

And while at it, you also need to realize that drilling suitable or fitting holes on this surface also require skills and relevant tools.

c) To reduce the overall cost

It is quite evident that the use of polycarbonate material is somehow expensive depending on the specific application.

And when you’re operating on a tight budget, you’ll always device all means possible to ensure that you work within it.

Drilling a polycarbonate material is one of the best ways of reducing the overall operational costs when dealing with this material.

Polycarbonate ballistic face shield secured with screw

Polycarbonate ballistic face shield secured with screw

Many times, you’ll notice that the main reason for drilling this material is to allow for its easy installment on other surfaces.

Well, as you could be aware of, you can use several methods to fix a polycarbonate on a particular surface.

However, such techniques can end up to be costly owing to the fact that they might require quite intensive processes.

But using the drilling method, you’re certain of spending fairly low cost since you do not require a lot of procedures, tools, and materials.

So what I’m trying to state here is that drilling polycarbonate gives you a cost-effective option which allows you to save a considerable amount eventually.

d) To guarantee and enhance safety

This is yet another fundamental reason why you necessarily need to drill polycarbonate material.

Safety is an imperative aspect in any process for that matter.

And given that the applications of this material are wide-ranging, there is a need for ensuring that safety is guaranteed.

Of course, other techniques for attaching this material also warrant safety given that such procedures look into it.

That notwithstanding, drilling polycarbonate also guarantees safety during and even after completing the process.

Of course, several aspects are involved to ensure that the installation using the screws surety safety to the end users.

The procedures and all other elements involved in drilling polycarbonate help in making sure that as an end user you’re also safe.

So these are some of the primary reasons why you ideally need to drill polycarbonate sheet.

Of course, other vital reasons are also there which might lead you to resort to this process.

The bottom line nonetheless is that you need to understand that drilling polycarbonate is a highly regarded technique.

Well, drilling polycarbonate is arguably one of the best processes for working with this material.

Many factors influence the drilling process, and one of them is the technique of carrying it out.

Even so, you need to know that the drilling technique for polycarbonate material tends to vary depending on numerous elements.

For now, though, let’s first look at the necessary procedure for drilling polycarbonate material in the next section.

Step by step Process of Drilling Polycarbonate

When drilling polycarbonate, you ought to know that there are specific procedures that you need to follow.

What it means is that you cannot come just from anywhere and start drilling this material without any proper plan.

In this section, I want to take you through some of the fundamental steps that shall guide you when drilling polycarbonate.

The importance of this is that it makes it possible for you to carry out this process even on a DIY process without any significant challenges.

And by the way, drilling polycarbonate is apparently a procedure that you can do yourself without any meaningful assistance.

But if need be, you can as well seek assistance, especially for industrial applications.

Nevertheless, let’s look at some of the procedures to follow when drilling this particular surface material;

1) Evaluate the polycarbonate material

Unquestionably, the first thing which you need to do is making sure that you appraise the material that you have at hand.

I mean, evaluating this material revolves a number of elements some of which require specific deliberation.

Evaluating this material merely means checking its feasibility in regards to the particular application you intend to use it in.

Polycarbonate material

Polycarbonate material

This appraisal is important because it gives you head start and an idea of what to expect before, during and after the process.

Furthermore, from the assessment, you’ll be able to know the particular tools and equipment that you’ll require for the procedure.

2) Determine the ideal technique for drilling polycarbonate

Once you’ve assessed the nature of polycarbonate material, the next thing you need to do is figuring out the suitable method for the process.

You see, drilling polycarbonate requires skill, and this skill also needs you to know the best technique to execute.

The truth, however, is that the technique you use is dependent on various factors including the size of the hole to drill.

Moreover, the technique also varies from one tool or machine to the other.

So in other words, you need to deliberate thoroughly regarding the best technique to enable you to attain the best results.

Remember that the method you use to drill a polycarbonate significantly matters to whether or not it’ll be effective.

And once you determine the suitable technique, you have to use the right tools, which leads us to the next step.

3) Assemble all the tools and equipment for the procedure

The next thing to do is assembling all the tools as well as the equipment that you’ll require to use in carrying out the procedure.

This is also a crucial element which you must take a keen interest on.

The reason is that it determines the convenience and effectiveness of the operation in entirety.

Therefore, you must ensure that you have all of them with you before beginning the process.

The tools may vary of course depending on the type of holes you want to drill and possibly also on technique to execute.

Drilling bits for plastics

Drill bits for plastics

Some of the tools and equipment you need include drilling machine, drill bit, tape measure and pencil among others.

The most important thing nonetheless is ensuring that you have the right tools for the task.

Otherwise, you’ll end up frustrated with the ineffectiveness as you carry out the process.

4) Start the process by drilling on smaller pieces before attempting on a large surface

Now that you have everything in place, it’s now time to start the actual drilling.

But at this point, you must understand that you’re drilling a relatively large surfaced polycarbonate material.

Therefore, you’re bound to make a mistake, which apparently can be irreversible.

So the best step to take smaller pieces first and attempt drilling the holes on them before trying on the larger one.

The essence here is to merely get an idea of what the hole would look like and whether or not it meets your expectations.

If not, you can adjust the various settings accordingly to ensure that all aspects fit the required expectations.

And once you are convinced that the “samples” are okay, then you can go ahead and start the actual drilling polycarbonate process.

5) Place the material on the surface and clamp both sheets

Now that you’re satisfied with the trial samples on the smaller pieces, you can go ahead and fix the main material.

This, however, depends on the size of the polycarbonate material that you’re using.

In most cases, for larger material, you’ll need to clamp both of its sides on a flat surface.

Clamping helps in making the material reasonably stable so that it doesn’t shake when you’re drilling it.

Remember some drills are powerful and the surfaces of this material are also strong.

So the intensity can interfere with the drilling process and possibly damage the holes.

Therefore, you need to reinforce the material by clamping and fastening the clamps tightly to enable it to stay in position when drilling it.

This is also ideal for your safety because failure to clamp the material can lead to sliding of the drill which eventually can hurt you.

6) Plug in your drill into a power source

Apparently, the only way of drilling polycarbonate is by using a drilling machine.

The only difference is that we have different drilling devices in the market designed in various ways.

One of the elements that you have to look into however is the mode of the power of the drilling instrument.

Some use direct electrical power, which means that you’ll always have to connect it on the power plugs whenever you’re drilling.

Drilling machine

Polycarbonate drilling machine – Photo courtesy: CPR Safelnd

On the other hand, some come with a secondary battery.

With such, you’ll only need to recharge them appropriately to, and you can use them even for drilling polycarbonate outdoors.

So in this step, you need to plug in your drill to the power source depending on the one that it uses.

This incidentally is only a way of setting it up ready to start the actual drilling polycarbonate process.

7) Start the drilling process gradually into the polycarbonate sheet

Once the drill is on, begin to drill the polycarbonate sheet.

At this point, you ought to have marked all the spots where you need to drill.

So that it becomes easy for you to know the precise point to drill hence preventing instances of damaging the material.

While at it, you also need to ensure that you undertake the drilling process gradually.

You see, this material is hardy.

And when you attempt to drill it forcefully, then chances are high you’ll either damage the machine or the surface itself.

Therefore, you need to undertake the process gradually, by ensuring that you drill it slowly until you create the appropriate hole.

8) Maintain the drilling’s pace consistency

This is relatively in line with the gradual drilling of the material.

What it means nonetheless is that you have to make sure that you don’t change the speeds of the drilling machine once you’ve started drilling.

In most occasions, you’ll find that different types of drilling machines have adjustable drilling speeds.

So in some instances, you’d probably think of adjusting the speed accordingly when creating the hole on this material.

But it is, however, advisable always to maintain the drilling speed once you have started to drill this material.

The essence, in this case, is to enable you to attain uniformity as well as an excellent surface of the holes you’re drilling.

9) Assess the quality of the hole

I know you wouldn’t like to hear this, but here we go;

Unfortunately, once you create the hole on a polycarbonate machine, there’s little you can do to restore or revamp it.

And that’s why I’m ideally championing for maintaining drilling consistency and ensuring that you’re drilling it gradually.

Holes on polycarbonate sheet

Holes on polycarbonate sheet

You see, you might not know, but the truth is that the quality of these holes that you create comes to matter during the installation process.

Therefore, it is imperative to take note of the fact that you have to evaluate the quality of the hole once you have drilled the polycarbonate.

Even so, you can do little to improve on the quality once you’re done, it is also necessary to look into it and figure it out if it’s ideal.

This, of course, gives you an idea of what to do in the next step especially should you find out that the hole isn’t as you expected.

10) Clear the working space

Once you finish the drilling polycarbonate process, the next thing to do is clear the working area.

Of course with drilling, you expect quite a lot of dust emanating from the entire process.

So, you have to ensure that you clean up all the area and leave it tidy.

While at it, you also have to arrange all the tools and equipment in your toolbox and store them appropriately.

Remember you’ll also want to use the same next time you have such a similar project.

Well, these are significant steps to follow when drilling polycarbonate.

As you can see, it is quite a process, but the truth is that it’s very simple.

And what’s more is that this is something that you can do on your own without seeking services of an expert.

The most vital point to take home is understanding the process and having all the necessary tools and equipment for the task.

By the way, in line with the procedures, the other fundamental element to take note of is safety.

You have to stay safe always when drilling polycarbonate.

Remember you’re using a drilling device, which can be harmful in handled carelessly.

So be careful and know the basics of using this machine.

Also, the drilling process releases some fumes which perhaps may not be ideal for your health should you inhale.

And again, the chips might also get into your eyes and hurt you especially when the drilling speed is comparatively high.

So in a nutshell, you need always to wear protective gears whenever you’re undertaking a drilling polycarbonate process.

Stay safe always because you never know, the process could cause some serious injuries that may even cause some sort of disability.

Otherwise, the process is straightforward and easy to execute once you follow all these steps.

In the next section, I want us to look at some of the vital factors to consider whenever you’re drilling polycarbonate.

Key Considerations in Drilling Polycarbonate Material

Before you even think of how to start drilling polycarbonate, you have to ensure that you know a number of elements surrounding it.

You see, drilling this material needs diligence in as much as the procedure is seemingly straightforward.

There’s need of knowing the basics as well as understanding the nitty-gritty that you got to do in pursuing this course.

Well, in this section, my interest is to inform you about several aspects to drilling polycarbonate that you ought to have in mind.

The significance of this is that it will open your mind and probably look at the process from a different perspective.

Nonetheless, you’ll also be able to know the dos, and the don’ts whenever you’re drilling this particular material.

So without taking much of your time, let’s jump directly and find out more regarding the same;

· Drilling speed

Apparently, drilling speed refers to the rate at which the external periphery of the device moves about work you’re drilling.

Perhaps, you can as well put it as the velocity of the drilling machine in relation to the task you’re undertaking.

Drilling speed

Drilling speeds

The common unit for measuring this particular velocity is surface per minute, often abbreviated as sfm.

In the previous section, I did mention about the essence and effect of drilling speed when creating holes on a polycarbonate material.

In other words, drilling speed is quite a vital element which makes it possible for you to determine the pace and quality of creating the hole.

Therefore, whenever you’re drilling polycarbonate, you always have to bear this in mind.

Many at times, you can adjust the drilling speed of the tool depending on various factors.

But it is always recommendable to maintain a consistent speed, especially when drilling polycarbonate.

Remarkably slower speeds damage the material in one way or the other.

Similarly, extremely faster speeds may also destroy the material as well as the tool itself.

So you have to create a balance and figure out the ideal drilling speed for drilling polycarbonate.

· Drill bit

This is also another fundamental element that you must consider whenever you’re thinking of drilling polycarbonate.

Drill bit primarily refers to a cutting tool that you use to remove material in creating holes.

Most of the drill bits available are almost always of circular cross-section given that most of the holes they create tend to be somewhat circular.

Drill bit for plastics

Drill bit for plastics

You also need to understand that this tool comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Therefore, you can use it to make various types of holes not only in polycarbonate but also in other materials.

So this tool is an essential factor in drilling polycarbonate because it is what ultimately determines all the aspects of the hole.

What happens is that you attach it on the drilling machine which in turn powers it to cut through the workpiece.

And the fact that they are numerous in the market you have to ensure that you choose the most appropriate one for your workpiece.

At the end of the day, it is what determines the size, shape, and quality of the hole you’re drilling.

· The thickness of the polycarbonate material

Well, you might not realize, but the truth is that the thickness of the polycarbonate material is quite fundamental in the drilling process.

You see, these material come in different levels of thickness.

And obviously, while drilling the hole, you have to make it from one end to the other of the surface.

Polycarbonate sheet thickness

Polycarbonate sheet thickness

So the thickness may give you an easy or hard time depending on the technique you’re using as well as the type of drill bit.

Thickness also determines the size or slightly length of the polycarbonate that you’re using.

And for that matter, you’ll be able to select the most appropriate drill bit should you decide to shop for one.

What’s more is that the thickness of this material also plays a fundamental role in determining the quality of the hole you’re creating.

· Size of the hole to the drill

It is quite obvious that the size of the hole will be equal to the size of the drill bit.

Even so, you need to understand that the drill bit only does the drilling bit, but it’s the drilling machine that powers it to cut through.

Holes on polycarbonate sheet

Holes on polycarbonate sheet

What it means here is that in some instances, some types of drills may fail to create the particular size of holes on this material.

So it becomes appropriate to ensure that you look into the precise instrument keenly before choosing on one.

What happens is that the size of the hole matters regarding the machine because smaller machines can only create smaller holes.

And in many events, when you try to create larger holes using smaller drilling machines, you tend to destroy the quality of the hole.

So, in a nutshell, you have to figure out the ideal size of the hole you’d wish to create to enable you to choose the appropriate drilling machine.

· Type of drilling machine

When we talk about the type of drilling device, we simply mean the brand and quality of the same.

Like I said earlier, the market currently consists of several brands from a wide range of manufacturers trying to make sales.

Drilling machine

Drilling machine

So every manufacturer will pitch their product and entice you on how you should ideally choose it.

The truth nevertheless is that there is something imperative behind the physical appearance of the machine.

You see, when selecting this instrument, it is important to ensure that you look into several properties and specifications that it possess.

Mostly, some of the elements you’d consider include usability, size, design, ability to handle different bits and power consumption among others.

So that by the time you’re buying one, you’ll be certain that indeed you have the right gadget for your task.

The brand really matters when buying this machine, and of course, I’ll suggest to you a better manufacturer later on in this guide.

Certainly, it can only be fair if I give you all these details and also recommend to you an appropriate brand for that matter.

For now, though, let’s carry on and still have a look at some of the other key considerations of drilling polycarbonate.

· Type of drill bit

Well, like I did state earlier on, the drill bit is an essential component when it comes to drilling polycarbonate.

What happens is that you have to consider several factors surrounding this particular tool when engaging in this process.

When we talk of the type of drill bit, we ideally imply a number of elements including the material, construction, size, and design among others.

For that matter, you’ll notice that these tools are made from different types of material such as steel, titanium, and carbide.

So you have to ensure that you choose the most suitable drill bit that guarantees efficiency.

In most instances, it’s normally steel drill bits when it comes to polycarbonate.

The construction and design are also fundamental aspects surrounding this tool.

Of course, they come in different designs such as round shank, hex shank, and SDS shank.

Drill bit design

Drill bit design

All these give you an opportunity to choose the most befitting option that is suitable for the particular application.

Also, remember that the drill bits come with other accessories, which is fundamental in enhancing the efficiency of the cutting process.

But the most significant aspect of selecting drill bit is ensuring it’s compatible with both polycarbonate material you’re drilling and the drill as well.

· Safety

This is quite broad because you realize that it revolves quite a number of aspects which you ought to put in place.

First, when drilling polycarbonate, you need to follow the instructions of the manufacturer as a guide.

Industrial safety gear

Industrial safety gear – Photo courtesy: Green Leaf Limited

It is vital since it also allows you to have an idea of how to maintain the tool and its components.

In fact, you’ll only need to read the manufacturer’s manual to understand what it requires.

Secondly, you have to wear all the necessary protective gears when engaging in this activity.

The significance of this is that it protects you from the unnecessary injuries that might arise in the course of cutting.

Nonetheless, safety also revolves around the third parties within the surrounding, especially kids.

You have to make sure that you store the drill and other accessories such as drill bit in places where children cannot reach.

Indeed, after finishing the task, it is vital to just detach some components from the drill before storing.

It enhances safety and also improves the condition of the tools.

So as you can see, undertaking a drilling polycarbonate action requires you to look into quite a number of elements.

It is always important because these are some of the things that enable you to attain the best results when drilling this material.

All these key considerations enhance even the effectiveness of the process, which of course play a great role in determining the results.

Therefore, next time you think of drilling polycarbonate, always keep in mind all these and many more vital factors.

Applications of Drilling Polycarbonate

Now, what you have to know is that different people drill polycarbonate for different reasons.

In other words, the applications of drilling polycarbonate are somehow numerous in various industries.

And the fact that polycarbonate is nowadays preferable material, it becomes apparent to know that drilling is used in many applications.

So in this section, I want us to look at some of the common applications of drilling polycarbonate in various industries.

1. Automotive industry

Drilling polycarbonate is mostly used in the automotive industry.

You see, manufacturers of various vehicles use polycarbonate material in different parts of the automobiles.

So fixing or installing of this material on some surfaces of the vehicles require drilling as a better way to attach them.

Car headlights

Car headlights

In such instances, drilling has to be done on the polycarbonate appropriately before it is fixed.

So you’ll realize that many automotive manufacturers use this process as a way of fixing the polycarbonate on the vehicles.

2. Construction industry

It is also another sector where drilling polycarbonate is seemingly common.

In fact, many people who drill this particular material tend to use it more on construction as it uses quite a lot of it.

Polycarbonate windows

Polycarbonate windows

For example, many roofing processes nowadays incorporate the use of polycarbonate material.

And attaching it perhaps require you to drill it first so that you may find the ideal way of installing it using the screws.

Also, other parts of the construction such as the interior design of different rooms require drilling of polycarbonate.

3. Pool enclosures

Drilling polycarbonate is also common in construction and design of a wide range of pool enclosures.

Nowadays, many people find it ideal to use this material in their pools as enclosures because of the many advantages it has.

But now, installing it can at times be challenging especially if you don’t have the right tools and components.

And that’s why many people often choose to drill it when fixing it on their swimming pools.

4. Household appliance assembly

This is another sector where the application of drilling polycarbonate is also common.

Many different household items made of polycarbonate use this method as a way of assembling them to suit your needs.

Polycarbonate display

Polycarbonate display

You’ll find out that even the smallest polycarbonate household material in your house has incorporated drilling in one way or the other.

So it is fundamental to have it mind that in many instances, all such appliances use this method to attain the perfect and suitable design.

5. Display assembly

If you walk in various shopping outlets, you’ll notice quite a number of displays are constructed and designed using polycarbonate material.

But then, installing them becomes possible since they integrate the use of drilling to fix the different parts.

Polycarbonate signage

Polycarbonate signage

So most the designers of these displays often use drilling polycarbonate process to fix them accordingly.

Moreover, they have to screw them to prevent them from falling even when they hold heavy products.

And that’s the reason drilling of the same becomes ideal.

Conclusion

As you can see from this guide, drilling polycarbonate involves quite a lot of different elements.

Luckily, if you didn’t have an idea of what it involves, this guide has provided the opportunity to enable you to grasp the information.

The good thing is that you now understand what drilling polycarbonate entails, reasons for carrying it out, as well as the procedure for undertaking it.

Moreover, you can now tell the fundamental factors to consider in drilling polycarbonate as well as its common applications.

However, if you feel there is something you still need to know regarding drilling polycarbonate, do not hesitate to contact us.

We will surely offer support as fast as possible.

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