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Cutting polycarbonate with a panel saw

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?, Jul 30, 2020.

  1. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    Well, our shop has been getting by for a long time with the luxury of having our materials cut by Grimco. Recently, however, our local branch merged with a not so local branch and they, for whatever reason, decided not to relocate their ten-foot shear to the new location. Long story short, we can no longer get aluminum ripped, nor can we get polycarbonate cut to size.

    This is all fine and dandy, for the most part, as we just purchased a very lightly used 8" Milwaukee panel saw for a really great price ($650 for any who might be curious). I've cut ACM and .080" aluminum with it with no problems with a 60 tooth carbide non-ferrous metal cutting blade.

    Now I would like to possibly cut polycarbonate with the panel saw if this is doable. I've seen 8" polycarbonate cutting blades. Would one of these blades allow me to cut polycarbonate with a panel saw? What else might I want to know about cutting polycarbonate? I know I trimmed a piece with a jigsaw one time and it was a pain in the a$$ because the plastic has this tendency to sort of melt and fuse itself back together. I ultimately ended up having to cut through it a second time just to separate the two pieces.

    Any input would be awesome. I guess since there seems to be a polycarbonate shortage as of lately, I won't be cutting any too soon, so I've got a little time to research. If anyone has a particular blade that they like to use for polycarbonate on their panel saw (if that's a thing) I'd love to hear it.
  2. The Yanki & The Brit

    The Yanki & The Brit The Yanki & The Brit Signs and Radio Show

    Sep 3, 2014
    If your taking polycarbs like Lexan, I cut it with a hand held circular saw with a carbide tipped blade that I cut everything else with. Acrylic I have trouble with, because it melts back together, but Lexan.... Very little trouble cutting it. Slow and easy...
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Yeah, what he said. I think you have the two substrates confused. We cut quite a bit of it on our panel, circular and jig saws. Routers work well, too.
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  4. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    I think you fellas are right. It was an old panel and I assumed it was poly, but it must have been acrylic. Melted like crazy.

    Do you have a particular kind of blade that you use on the panel saw? I mean, would I need the special polycarbonate blade or would I possibly be just fine with my 22 or 60 tooth carbide blades?
  5. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Have 7 saws here and all have a different tooth count. All of them cut fine. Vary from 7.25' up to 12". Our band saw cuts it and so does the scroll saw and the jigsaws. It's the acrylic you need to be careful about.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

    Dec 9, 2015
    buffalo ny
    I use an 80 tooth blade with triple chip on my table saw. Poly, Lexan, does like to chatter. No problem with melting with Plexi, acrylic. But since I got a plunge cut circular saw from Makita with 48 tooth carbide blade it works so much nicer. Has a adjustable speed and use it for acrylic, lexan and ACM with the same blade.
    Put a piece of wood behind where you are cutting and that will help chatter.
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  7. pjfmeister

    pjfmeister Member

    Dec 10, 2006
    Freud 8" x 64T Plastic Blade (LU94M008) available in 8" - 14"
    on Amazon .... works great on our panel saw and no melting and good clean edges. Just don't push it to fast as you can burn up the blade
    • Agree Agree x 2
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    • Pure Genius! Pure Genius! x 1
  8. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    Thank you, sir.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    One of the things we learned when running poly carbonate on our table saw long ago was to set the blade height much higher(deeper) that you need. In other words, extend the blade far past the substrate. This seemed to give us a smoother cut faster. Might not work for everyone, but with our setup it made all the difference. Good luck!
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  10. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

    Nov 11, 2008
    We have a saw blade in our table saw for plastics, it works well with polycarbonate. The blade looks almost identical to our non ferrous metal Blade, so if you have one of those try it first.
    • Like Like x 1


    Jul 12, 2019
    Panama city, Panama
    You have to check the speed of the machine and the tpi of the blade
    • Like Like x 1
  12. spectrum maine

    spectrum maine Member

    Nov 1, 2012
    biddeford, maine

    if it is an 8" it is a safety speed cut panel saw. go on their website, they have specific blades for plastic. we also clamp a piece of wood to stop plastic from chattering. i have ripped a 20 foot piece in half no problem with mine
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    Yeah, I thought the same thing. They have a similar design and tooth count so I will absolutely try the non-ferrous metal blade on some scraps first before investing in another blade.
  14. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    Do you have any issues cutting long panels as far as keeping the panel from teetering up and down as you try to push it through the saw or do you use two people to feed it? We have eight foot extensions on ours but nothing beyond that, so I was considering buying some adjustable roller stands or something to help keep longer panels stable.
  15. Jester

    Jester Slow is Fast

    Dec 2, 2019
    You need to make larger chips when cutting plastic to avoid melting caused by rubbing (friction). So travel speed is important. Too slow and you get a small chip size, which is almost like rubbing and tends to melt the plastic. That's probably what happened with your jig saw and acrylic - the teeth on the jig saw blade were likely too small. Of course, going too fast (for the blade) will tend to chip the edges.

    Regarding the blades for wood, metal, and plastic, they may look superficially similar but have different rake (or "hook") angles on the teeth. While they will all work, you will get better cuts when using a blade designed for the material you are cutting.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. Z SIGNS

    Z SIGNS Very Active Member

    Feb 14, 2009
    Trenton NJ
    sandwich the sheet between 2 piece of plywood
  17. chinaski

    chinaski Member

    Dec 16, 2015
    This checks out. Right amount of teeth for your saw diameter, slight negative rake, modified triple chip grind. Play with blade RPM, cutting speed and cutting depth until you've got it locked in.

    Keep in mind, not all blades are the same, even if specs are same/similar. If it doesn't work out, try another brand.
  18. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

    Oct 21, 2016
    Frisco, TX
    Just about anything will cut poly fine. Sometimes I use a wood blade to chop up old signs or drop pieces and it cuts just fine.
  19. netsol

    netsol Very Active Member

    Apr 26, 2016
    englishtown, nj
    normally i can find roller conveyors on craigslist (they can be pricey!)
    very handy thing to have in the shop
  20. TomClarke

    TomClarke New Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Lakeland, Ga
    Use a plywood blade that is put on the saw backwards.