Uses of Lexan

My team (5811) has a sponsorer who is a plastics manufacturer; they allow us to have any scrap material we want so we have a stock pile of lexan in our shop. Last season we used it as guide pannels for our intake and decoration. I was wondering if lexan (or other plastics) can be used for more stuctural components in robot build

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Lexan or polycarbonate is great stuff.

Check out release videos from past years. I remember Team 16 using polycarbonate in their arm in 2014.

Hard to see, but at 12 seconds one can see their arm is clear.

A number of teams made their arms out of polycarbonate in 2016.
We made our arm supports out of 1/4" polycarbonate.
Its not as stiff as aluminum, but it’s tough and bounces back.


We use Lexan for a lot of different parts on our bots. Good stuff. For structural components you need to ensure that they are thick enough or rigid enough for the application, which can add weight.

I would recommend looking at and contacting someone from 1714:

They do not have a 2016 picture on Blue alliance, but there are pictures from several other years. They often build a “clear” robot.

FRC 703 also used to build a lot of chassis components out of Polycarbonate.

Lexan or polycarbonate is a wonderful material, and with proper techniques can be an incredibly useful material.

Many teams use the very thins stuff (under 1/16th and sometimes as thin as 0.020") for body panels with graphics. Well applied and designed body panels can make a robot get a new personality and have a much higher appearance of quality. when applied with Velcro, the panels offer easy access for pit crew, but a reasonable deterrent for other robots poking into your bot, or it getting hung up on field elements. The thinner you go, often the less robust.

Other good plastic parts are skids and sliders often made of UHMW or HDPE plastics. These can be good skids and guide for elements that strike field elements.

The short version is yes. As IKE said, people from 1714 would be great to contact for more info (my HS team, haven’t been in touch with them in awhile, hope y’all are doing great stuff, etc)

The key things to remember are that lexan is strong, but not particularly rigid. As a very rough approximation, to get a piece roughly as strong as an aluminum piece, you’ll want to double the thickness (so a 1/4" lexan plate is roughly as strong and vaguely as rigid as a 1/8" aluminum plate). So for more structural pieces on a robot you’ll end up using more 1/4" or even 3/8" lexan plate. Things like 1/8" lexan are great for lining surfaces supported by other materials (i.e. to form a flat area between two aluminum tubes, etc). 1/8" lexan can also be used for gussets but they do tend to be a bit weaker, so 1/4" or 3/16" lexan gussets are a safer bet.

The best use for structural lexan is in over-the-bumper manipulator components that deal with impacts from other robots. Things such as intakes, defense manipulators from this year, etc. The elastic deformability of lexan helps absorb the energy from impacts and prevents permanent bending in a mechanism that would otherwise bend if made from thin wall aluminum. Lots of teams used lexan in 2014 ball intakes extensively.

Our team built a lexan bender (toaster wire, plywood, wiring and hinges) and were able to make a lot with it. Our intake’s guides were bent lexan, our upper electronics board was held up by bent lexan and our bridge that held our camera and shooter sensors was made of bent lexan. Good stuff! If you want to prototype you can use cardboard…

We used lexan for the claw of our catapult this year as well as for the guides to slide the portcullis up.

Lexan is great. We used it structurally on our intake arm, and later on we used Lexan disks over sprockets to prevent the robot treads from derailing.

Lexan has many uses, we used it this year for our electronics boards, the fact that it’s clear really helped when having to see inside the robot. We also used it as our sponsor board, easy removal when attached with velcro. Really anything that you want a large surface area but don’t mind a little bit of flexibility, lexan will work for, and the transparency is a nice bonus.

Polycarbonate is a fantastic material! I like to use it for some gussets, also it can be used a bunch in prototyping. Like other people have said its good for intakes as well. In my experience it’s been better to use in prototyping because it’s much faster and easier to form and build with then sheet metal.

We actually used Lexan to rebuild our shooter deck for worlds this year, it was originally made of 1/8 inch aluminum, then to save weight and make it stronger(more resilient to impact) we made it of Lexan that was CNC milled exactly the same as the Aluminium, worked really well

Lucky you! Lexan is wonderful stuff. Strong relative to its mass. Our team has found it very useful for protecting electronics. I’m sure your team will discover all sorts of ways to put it to good use.

Yes as others have mentioned, Lexan is good, strong stuff.
All kinds of uses, the thickness depends on your use for it.

The thicker stuff (.375") can be drilled and tapped at the face or edges to take a 10-32 screw (as an example) to fasten to.

.25" can be drilled and tapped on the face.

The 1/16" is great for guards and graphics, we use Velcro for stuff like that so we can take it off when working on the robot.

Obligatory reminder to make sure you’re using polycarbonate/Lexan/Makrolon and not acrylic/Plexiglas/Lucite. Polycarbonate is probably the second most useful robot building material after aluminum. I consider it to be more versatile because it’s easier to machine on the fly (less setup required). There are hundreds of uses for it even if your main robot frame is aluminum.

1257 uses a lot of Lexan/polycarbonate. In addition to some of the uses others have mentioned, our primary construction method for the past two years has been aluminum tubing with 1/4" polycarbonate gussets.

Team 701 generally use lexan for prototyping. We also use it for covers for pieces that do not need to be exposed like the top of our shooter where the gears are.

To add to Spencer’s comment: The unit is portable (just a few lbs in weight without the battery) and is powered with one of our old 12 volt batteries. We take it to competitions and have assisted other teams needing a straight bend in their lexan. Simple and practical:)

Do you happen to have a picture of it or a diagram of it? Your bender sounds like a great addition to any team!

We used lexan a lot this year due to a lexan sponsor. A lot of our robot was clear including rails for the portcullis, actuators for the cheval, a belly pan for electronics, and the ball guidance system. I really like it as a material (it looks cool). For bending, we used a heat gun, which I don’t recommend, but it was the only way.

We had great success using 1/4" & 1/2" lexan for out catapult. Its very easy to work with which allowed us to build our catapult during one of our events with our pit bandsaw.