Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Truth About Polycarbonate

     I'm sure most of you have heard the word "Polycarbonate" before. Or, maybe you are more familiar with "Lexan". Lexan is Polycarbonate. Lexan is simply the brand, which is owned by Sabic. Sabic is the world's largest petrochemical manufacturer.

Quality Plastics is our "mother company". Long Ride Shields is one of several divisions of Quality Plastics. Quality Plastics have been in the plastics industry for over 30 years. We know plastic!

When a lot of us thinks of Polycarbonate, we think of bullet proof glass. Bullet proof glass is simply layers of Polycarbonate. There's a bit more to it than that, but not much. This stuff has saved many lives, including some of our boys overseas.  

There are a couple different materials that are used in the motorcycle industry for making windshields. Most OEM standard shields are made from Polycarbonate because it is a strong, durable material.

Polycarbonate by itself is a pretty soft and easily scratched material. It would actually be a pretty terrible choice for a windshield on any vehicle. Once it receives its hard coating, it becomes a whole new animal. The coating adds strength, abrasion resistance and UV protection to the material. Without it, you lose all these attributes.

To show what I mean, take a look at a 5-10 year old cars' headlights. Are they yellow? Cloudy? The headlight covers are made from polycarbonate and they do have a hard coating on them. The problem isn't the coating, it's the polycarbonate itself. Over time, the front of any car gets almost sandblasted from road debris. This happens quicker if the owner does a lot of highway driving. The "sandblasting" slowly erodes the protective coating on the headlight. Once it's gone, the polycarbonate is susceptible to abrasion and especially UV radiation. This is what causes it to turn yellow. There are techniques out there to polish the headlight covers, but this is only a very temporary solution. Without the hard coating, it may be polished, but there is no protection. It will cloud up and turn yellow again very quickly.

Here is what it looked like new.

And here it is now that it has lost its coating.

As you can see, without the coating, polycarbonate is susceptible to deterioration. But, coated it is certainly the best material you can use for your windshield. Even highway speeds, with dirt and debris hitting it over time, it will last several years easy maintaining its clear optix and scratch resistance. Any shield over time will degrade no matter what they are made from. Polycarbonate is just about the strongest  you can get and practically unbreakable. 

Polycarbonate would bend before it ever breaks. I've heard some stories in my time with motorcycles and accidents. Had a guy get hit by a turkey. Had a Polycarbonate shield on his bike. The shield bent all the way back, but never broke. I had another customer get into an accident and explained how he watched his bike flip over, landing on the shield and continue flipping. Did not break the shield. It was damaged, but not broken. 

Here is an example of how it bends and doesn't break. Our "mother company", Quality Plastics makes many other parts, including this one which we actually bend on a press brake. The tons of force on the material forces it to bend and maintain its shape. 

I know most of you out there may not get quite as excited as we do about plastic. But, we hope we have educated you a little bit and shown you a taste of our world. We live and breath plastics. It's who we are. 


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