Polycarbonate cutting tips

Just doing some homework and looking into getting one of these machines… I make fishing lures for a living. I need to cut some small polycarbonate cranking lips. Say max is 1 inch x 1.75 inch max and in varying sizes. Most thicknesses will be 1/8th inch but will do some in 1/16th… Plan is to get a big sheet of polycarbonate plant it to the table and cut out as many small lips as I can get from the polycarbonate sheet without waste… How easy would this be to set up in easel. I’m attaching the similar shapes that i will need. I think the best setup would be to pick one of those sizes on easel then flip the next one opposite next to it and on down the line to minimize polycarbonate waste. I’ve never done any programming in my life but I know my way around a computer for everyday use… Tips? tricks? bits? speed? passes? or anything that will be of help. etc


For something like this you might want to look into a laser cutter, you would have less waste with the kerf of the laser vs an endmill. Your set up would be much easier on a laser as well, no lifting or side forces on the parts. Cutting large sheets of thin plastic on a mill can be tricky since you need very good hold down.

If you wanted to mill it I would suggest a vacuum table or double sided tape and a downcut endmill.

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You can save material by packing like parts.

You could also buy a 3D printer and print with Polycarbonate filament.

good feedback… so you really think I’d be better off with a lazer vs the x carve?? is there a economical lazer cutter?? I wouldnt have a problem with using smaller sheets of polycarbonate?

LarryM that is exactly what i meant on placing them one up and one down… Was hoping to get them closer together than your picture illustrates?

Thank you guys for the feedback…

Yes, that picture was just to illustrate the point.

Larry do you have any info on cutting polycarbonate with the x carve for what I need it to do?

No. It can be done. It’s a bit tricky, but once you dial in the settings (usually requires experimentation) it should work.

Inter part waste material from worst to best would be X-carve, laser, 3d print.

Can an Xcarve do this? Sure.
Is it the best tool for the job? No.

Points made by @Winters636 are valid.

How much do you have to spend on such a tool?
Might be cheaper to outsource.

Laser cutters are really, really good for cutting acrylic, polycarbonate not so much. The polycarbonate doesn’t cut well, and produces toxic fumes.

I have both and x-crave and a CO2 laser, and hands down woyld use the laser to cut acrylic for this, but when i cut polycarbonate I use the X-carve.


For your application is polycarbonate a requirement or can acrylic be used instead?

Wow. Interesting… thank you for your feedback.

Well. To be honest I am not sure. If acrylic is stronger than polycarbonate I would say yes. Anglers have broken my polycarbonate Bill’s by hitting rocks and docks so strength would be my question. I’d have to research that. But I know poly is used by most guys using it for what I am using I for. So has to be a good reason for that.

That’s what I am doing now. But my outsource guy wont do custom shapes. Hence the reason I am here. I honestly dont know what machine he uses to cut my bills… I’ve never askeBill’s. My reasoning for looking into x carve is to do custom shapes and to make sure my supply doesnt run out (guy may retire. Go out of business etc and to cut costs. Just trying to be proactive as I have had several vendors go out of business for a variety of reasons.

I really need to learn how to quote too lol. Thank you guys for the help. If anyone else has experience with cutting polycarbonate with ex carve I’d love to hear your feedback.

Also there was talk about waste. How much waste are we speaking of? I can handle some wastes just thinking it might be negligible?

Polycarbonate is much tougher, particularly with impacts. It is harder to polish, easier to scratch. It is more prone to damage from chemicals.

Except for some ultralight types, airplane windows are almost universally acrylic, primarily because it can be polished so that it is very clear and it is light and strong enough. Some large turbine aircraft have glass windshields for optical clarity, laminated with polycarbonate for toughness (this is how bulletproof glass is made).

Acrylic is much easier (cheaper) to work with, although I’ve not had any trouble cutting .110" poly on my x-carve for aircraft sunvisors. They were used to replace acrylic visors that had a tendency to crack when handled roughly.

with either plastic, high speeds and shallow cuts are the answer, but they cut fine.

I have done some etching in polycarbonate and can tell you it has a tendency to heat up and stick to everything. It sticks to the bit and starts rubbing on the work piece. It sticks to the it’s self and leaves all of these little globs of plastic goo along the etch, which are very hard and time consuming to clean up. I even found a big glob built up inside my table saw when I removed the zero clearance insert plate. And I didn’t even cut that much.

I have not done any profile cutting like you are talking about, I have just made some edge light signs, but from what I have experienced so far tells me that acrylic doesn’t melt like the poly does and I would worry that you will spend a lot of time stopping and cleaning plastic goop off of your bits. Someone with more experience may chime in and tell me I need to use different bits and speed up or slow down my feed rates/spindle etc. but I have sworn off of using poly for my signs.

thank you Lance for your feedback… the bills I am having made now I can scratch off any excess “burrs” with my nail pretty easily… I’m not sure how my current guy cuts the polycarbonate… For what I am using it for I’m kinda stuck with using it because of it’s strength over acrylic.

Polycarbonate burns with a laser. It will not cut cleanly like acrylic does. The big fiber lasers can cut it.
I’d use a single flute endmill designed for plastic. Use fast (feed) and shallow passes.

Interesting that several folk have mentioned how easy it is to laser cut acrylic. My 4 watt diode at full power, does little more than leave a line on the top and bottom surfaces. Slow speeds and 10 or more passes does virtually nothing.
Ive changed lenses, adjusted focus above/below and middle, defocussed all to no avail. Acrylic is ⅛”…

I should have been more specific. My laser cutter at home is one of the cheap, ubiquitous Chinese “K40” clones. It has a CO2 tube with a claimed power of 40 watts, although I think that’s probably optimistic. It easily and cleanly cuts .125" acrylic at 15mm/sec with the power at about 60%.

The wavelength of the CO2 laser is about 1060 nm (off the top of my head–I could be wrong) and my understanding is that the acrylic is mostly opaque to that wavelength which is why it cuts so well.

I also use an ultraviolet (ArFl) laser at work which cuts acrylic very cleanly at 193nm (far ultraviolet).

I wouldn’t expect a 4 watt blue diode to do much to clear acrylic, although it should be good for etching paper, wood, and slate.