Material Spotlight: Micarta CE

Posted: April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
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A plastic that really needs to be given more attention in the “DIY” community is Micarta CE, or its equivalents in the plastics industry. Micarta CE grade is the standard mechanical grade of a cotton-based industrial laminate. The plastic is essentially many layers of thin cotton soaked in plastic resin and then compressed under pressure. These plastics can take tremendous load, for example the ultimate compressive strength of CE grade industrial laminate is 37,000 PSI! It is also an excellent electrical insulator, handles temperatures up to 265 Fahrenheit, does not absorb water and is unaffected by all known oils, greases and synthetic fluids. Its only chemical weakness is to caustics.

All that talk about properties doesn’t connect the material with an application and we know you’re wondering – “what can we do with it?” You need to think mechanical, IE. load bearing, hard, and take impact. For example, we’ve sold it to customers who have sailboats and the mast sits in a sort of bearing (think a square, with a hole in the middle). The metal bearing may rust or be affected by chemicals but the CE grade laminate will not. For the same reasons in that the laminate will not rot or rust, we’ve had sailboat owners replace their hatches with Micarta CE. Amateur go-kart makers have used small pieces as brake pads and because of its strength and insulating properties it works well as a housing for electrical equipment. Spacers, bearing pads, housings, saw guides, all those types of applications are areas Micarta CE is often very suitable.

You do need to have some precautions in place when you work with the material. Ventilation is critical as is wearing a mast and eye protection. The dust generated is toxic and lubricating the cutting surface when doing any cutting or drilling is highly recommended. The material is very hard so diamond or carbide-tipped blades are recommended but not essential. Otherwise, the laminate actually machines quite well and is dimensionally stable. With the exception of dealing with the dust it’s similar to work with as wood, just stronger.

For more information on industrial laminates like Micarta CE, check out that section of our website here.

Phenolic

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