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Acrylic - Details and Uses

Written by The Plastic People
17/05/2018 21:58:34



Here at The Plastic People, we like to champion DIYers and DIY home improvement projects. Our focus is on helping customers achieve cheap and easy DIY projects that will stand the test of time - and that's where acrylic plastic comes in. 

Acrylic - also known by the trade names Perspex, Plexiglas, and PMMA - is our most popular plastic material. It is a cost-effective and easy to work with material, available in a range of colours, or as clear-as-glass, as well as several finishes and thicknesses. 

Primarily, acrylic acts the perfect replacement to glass in a range of home improvements, due to its affordabiltiy and characteristics. In this blog, we are going to discuss the benefits of acyrlic plastic, as well as provide you with some of suggestions of how to use this material in your home. If you're looking to learn more about acrylic (and save a quick buck in future renovation projects) then this is the blog for you! 
 

The Benefits of Acrylic
 

  • Strength: Acrylic is ten times stronger than glass. This added durability means that the plastic performs better than glass in a wide range of scenarios, such as indoor and outdoor glazing, and as a mirror. Acrylic is weather proof, unaffected by sun or salt spray.
 
  • Lightweight: Even though it is more durable than glass, acrylic is half the weight, making it an incredibly easy material to work with. It is also lighter than the other most popular clear plastic, polycarbonate. Keep in mind that is polycarbonate is 250 times stronger than glass, though, so it's best to consider which plastic is best for your project. 
 
  • Shatterproof: Acrylic is unlikely to break. If it does it will not shatter into tiny shards like glass – it shatters into a few larger sized and dull pieces. This means it is easier to clear up and dispose of - and it is safer to have around children. 
 
  • Clearness: Now, acrylic would not be a good glass replacement if you could not see through it. Nevertheless, acrylic is actually clearer than glass! Acrylic plastic lets around 92% of visible light through, while glass has a transmission rate of around 90%. This means acrylic is actually a better choice for glazing and windows! 


Different Types of Acrylic 

Acrylic is available in clear as well as a wide variety of tints and colours. It can also be mirrored or opaque. There are two main types of acrylic: extruded and cast. Cast acrylic is the harder of the two, offering the benefit of being harder to scratch.This is due to the way it is manufactured.

Acrylic also comes in different grades to suit different manufacturing processes. These grades offer varying levels of heat resistance, light transmissions, impact strength, flow rates and release capabilities. If your business is in need of acrylic for a manufacturing or engineering project, talk to our team to find out which is best for you. 

Acrylic can also be coated to supplement characteristics such as scratch resistance, anti-fogging, glare reduction and solar reflectivity. Common brands of high-grade acrylic include Polycast, Lucite, Plexiglass and Perspex. For a great selection of brands to suit all projects and budgets, check out our acrylic range by clicking here.


Working with Acrylic 

Acrylic can be cut, drilled, machined, softened, and bent to make any shape. And, being half the weight of glass, handling acrylic is easy. At The Plastic People, we can cut/form acrylic to size or shape you desire, but if you want to work with acrylic yourself, here are the key aspects of working with acrylic: 

  • Working temperatures for acrylic: Acrylic sheets can be used in a range of temperatures - from -30ºF (-24ºC) to +200ºF (93ºC). Though it is recommended that temperatures not exceed 160ºF (71ºC) for continuous service, or 190ºF (88ºC) for short intermittent use. If you are cutting acrylic sheets over 6mm thick, or drilling acrylic sheets over 4mm thick, use water as a coolant.

 

  • How to cut acrylic sheets: Cutting Perspex or acrylic can be done at home using tools you already have, such as a knife, table saw, hand saw, or power saw. Your choice of tool should depend on the type of acrylic sheet you are cutting, its thickness, and your desired shape. Not all tools can be used in all cases. We can cut and shape acrylic for you. But if you want to work with acrylic yourself, look at our detailed guide on how to cut acrylic to learn more.

 

  • How to drill acrylic sheet: For best results, use a drill specifically designed for acrylics and plastics. Although you can get a good result with care, proper technique, and a correctly ground drill bit on an ordinary hand drill. Carbide tipped circular saw blades and router bits that are designed for acrylics are best. Acrylic sheets are relatively soft, and so it is important that your drill has an edge that cuts with a scraping action. 

 

  • How to finish off acrylic sheet edges: If you want to smooth and square off acrylic sheet edges for a better finish, or to prepare them ready to join to another acrylic sheet, you will need to scrape first and then file. Scrape along the cut edge with a clean, hard, sharp, square edge tool (clean back of a knife blade). Next, file the scraped edges with a 300mm clean, smooth cut file working in one direction only. It is important to file on an angle and keep the teeth flat on the acrylic surface (to stop any unwanted grooves cutting into your acrylic).  If you are filing a small piece of acrylic, it might be easier to clamp your file and rub your acrylic across it.

 

  • How to polish acrylic sheets: Acrylic’s glass-like transparency can be polished to a high shine. And the job is a fairly easy one to do with a little know how. Choose to do this with either a sand-papering technique, or by using a paste suitable for acrylic. Click here to learn about cleaning acrylic. 

 

  • How to bend and form acrylic: When acrylic is soft, it can be formed to almost any shape. This shape will be retained if it is held until the acrylic is cool. Specialised heating and forming equipment is usually needed, but simple projects with straight line bends can be done using a strip heater. Lie the acrylic on the heater with the bend line above heating element. When the acrylic sags, bend it away from the heated side. For 4.5mm and thicker acrylic sheets, heat both sides of the acrylic. Please note acrylic must be heated in a ventilated space – never a kitchen oven. 


Cleaning Acrylic 

Acrylic should only ever be cleaned with a soft cloth, mild soap or detergent, and lukewarm water. Never use a scourer, chemical cleaners or solvents like acetone or benzene as they will damage acrylic. If your acrylic gets greasy or in contact with oil or tar, use hexane or kerosene to remove it. Acrylic can be kept looking like new since accidental scratches can be buffed out. Click here to check out our guide to removing scratches from acrylic. 
 
Uses of Acrylic 

Acrylic sheets are used in many different ways as a replacement for glass. For example, places you might see acrylic are in stores, shopping centres, aquariums, boat windows and point of sale displays. Acrylic is also used in homes – here are some of the most popular uses:

 
  • Coloured Splashbacks: Updating your kitchen or bathroom and adding a splash of colour is easy with acrylic. Perspex splashbacks are the easy, grout-free alternative to tiling - this is also a cheaper solution! We cut splashbacks to the correct size and shape for your wall so all you have to do is glue it in place. Click here to find out more about hygenic acrylic splashbacks. 
 

 

  • To replace glass: Acrylic sheets are worthy alternatives to glass on bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors, due to them being more durable in their designs. Broken glass is being replaced with acrylic becoming the popular choice because it is so much stronger and less likely to break than glass whilst looking just like it. Click here to check out our Secondary Glazing panels. 
 

 

  • Picture frames are being created using acrylic sheets, with the material lighter as well as more durable than frames designed with glass. You can securely seal any artwork of picture between two sheets of clear acrylic, click here to find out more. 
 

 

  • Wall shelves.  Customers are choosing a material that is more cost-effective, easier to install and able to stand the test of time much better than glass and plywood alike.

 


How to join acrylic sheets

Acrylic sheets can be joined together at home in two ways. Before you begin make sure your acrylic sheets have clean, smooth, flat surfaces where they are to join.

Capillary Cementing: This method bonds two pieces of acrylic that fit perfectly together in 48 hours. If your acrylic pieces do not fit perfectly together, use the Viscous Cementing method below. Clamp your pieces of acrylic in place so their joint is horizontal and apply cement along it with a needle nozzle applicator. The horizontal position is important to stop adhesive running out. For L shapes, apply the cement along the length of the joint from the inside. Allow 24 hours for bond strength to develop.

Viscous Cementing: This method bonds parts that don’t fit properly together as well as joints that are hard to reach. Apply the cement like glue to one edge of acrylic then gently press this to the other piece of acrylic, holding the pieces together for about a minute. To allow the bond to develop leave for 24-hours in a clamp.
 

Further Help

Our friendly customer service team are happy to help with questions and advice.  If you have any further questions about acrylic or require help with a project do let them know. They can be emailed at service@theplasticpeople.co.uk. 

You can also reach out to us on social media. We are @barkstonplastic on Twitter and Instagram, and our Facebook can be reached by clicking here. 

 
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