See-through polycarbonates respond to new generation machinery safety needs

Advances in engineering plastics are delivering new machinery and structural safeguarding benefits with light and extraordinarily strong see-through materials such as Wearguard polycarbonates which can be used in place of metals for outstanding protection against hazards.

These transparent and tough materials – which simultaneously facilitate high visibility of processes at the same time as providing protection against hazards – are well suited to industrial machinery retrofits, updates and new technology installations as employers introduce advanced and often high-speed machinery to gain the benefits of digital automation initiatives under Industry 4.0.

“As the pace of industrial change accelerates, employers have a commensurate obligation to update their risk management plans in accordance with recognised Safe Work codes and employer Duties of Care,” says engineering plastics industry authority Laurie Green.

These changing needs – and the see-through protective materials applicable to them – particularly apply to industries that may be employing new technology or introducing new workplace environments centring on high-speed production, distribution and maintenance. The environments against which employees must be protected include impact and injury hazard, moving parts and electrical, heat and chemical processes across a diversity of industries – ranging from mineral processing and bulk materials handling, through to metals fabrication, construction, architectural materials, manufacturing and food and beverage processing, packaging and distribution, says Mr Green, Managing Director of Cut To Size Plastics. Mr Green has more than 40 years’ experience in engineering safely and protective solutions throughout the Asia-Pacific, representing some of the world’s leading brands of engineering plastics.

One of the future-focussed materials from his company’s global ranges of engineering plastics is Wearguard polycarbonate, which is outstanding for its impact resistance (IZOD impact tested to 90 KGfcm/cm) and for its shock load resistance, which is many times that of acrylic clear sheet, for example.

These properties make it ideal for see-through safety and indoor and outdoor glazing and protective applications which until recent years required the use of metal or similar material, says Mr Green.

Wearguard is virtually unbreakable, even where exposed to robust interior industrial environments, or to exterior security or protective challenges where it may be required to resist rough weather and vandalism. Applications include:

• Viewing and protective panels and machine guards for safety in industry

• Cabin panels on heavy machinery and materials handling machinery, including forklift side screens

• Acoustic panels on expressways

• Anti-vandal glazing, security glazing, skylights, sign faces

• Shatterproof boat and marine environment windows

• Electrical guards and covers, meter covers, light covers, terminal blocks

• Sight glass tubes for observation of industrial and process liquid levels

Wearguard consistently displays high transparency – commensurate with thicknesses used – and also offers high heat resistance, with a melting point of 150 degrees Celsius. The material is not influenced by sudden changes in temperature and humidity, which makes it ideal for applications such as skylights, sign faces and institutional vandal-resistant glazing. It offers excellent dimensional stability and is readily machined by cutting, drilling or bending.

Cut To Size has expanded its capacity to custom-fabricate Wearguard safety and glazing products with its new Morbidelli Author M100F heavy duty CNC router and machining centre. The new high-speed, vibration-free Italian technology offers unmatched finishing quality and rapid production turnaround for the company’s Asia-Pacific markets, says Mr Green. It can cost-efficiently produce complex components and shapes required for expanding interior and exterior applications. The machinery’s rapid working cycle times and reduction of idle times also enhance Cut To Size’s ability to cost-effectively supply high precision components from its broader ranges of versatile engineering plastics, including Nylon, Acetal, Teflon, UHMWPE, HDPE, PVC and Polypropylene.