Materials Scoping Trip #2: Canal Plastics Center

One of the most important materials for the Supertable is the table surface itself. It needs to be lightweight enough that 1 or 2 people can fold/unfold the surface and lift it into place when deploying the Mobile Activation Station. However, since it’s a table, the material needs to be stiff enough that you can put things onto it, work on it, even lean on it, and it won’t collapse. The perfect material for the job (we think) is polycarbonate multiwall – the paneling that is most often used in greenhouses and glazing systems.  Since polycarbonate multiwall is specifically designed to be lightweight and structural, it should work well if we can find the right thickness.  Also, though polycarbonate multiwall is currently the most significant chunk of spending planned for the Supertable prototype, it’s more affordable than some other light and strong materials out there, like aluminum.

I took a trip to Chinatown today to see if I could get my hands on a sample of polycarbonate triplewall at a 16mm or 25mm thickness.  I’ve seen and held the thinner twinwall products, but wanted to see how much stronger (and heavier) the triplewall is.  I had a hard time finding a local source for polycarbonate multiwall online, but contacted the Canal Plastics Center (345 Canal St) and learned that they had some triplewall currently in stock:

polycarbonate triplewall

polycarbonate triplewall @ Canal Plastics Center

polycarbonate triplewall

polycarbonate triplewall @ Canal Plastics Center

polycarbonate triplewall

polycarbonate triplewall @ Canal Plastics Center

Sadly, there was a pile of heavy-looking stuff on top of these sheets of triplewall, and the salesperson would not agree to dislodge them so that I could pick one up to feel its weight and strength.  Just from what I could see/feel though, these sheets seemed to be exactly the right balance of lightness and strength. These sheets are 4′ x 8′, about $220 each, and can be cut down for $2 per cut. Apparently they don’t always have these in stock, but they can order them for you with a 1-2 day turnaround.

I also found a pretty strong twinwall sheet, but I think it’s still too floppy to use as any kind of table surface (unless it’s significantly smaller, or doubled up):

polycarbonate twinwall

polycarbonate twinwall @ Canal Plastics Center


polycarbonate twinwall

polycarbonate twinwall @ Canal Plastics Center

Canal Plastics has lots of other cool materials, including a seriously impressive plexi collection with every color, texture, shape and thickness you could ever want. Looking around this store rekindled my sadness from no longer having access to a lasercutter…

Some highlights:

acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center

acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center


acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center

acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center


acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center

acrylic rod @ Canal Plastics Center


acrylic balls @ Canal Plastics Center

acrylic balls @ Canal Plastics Center

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