Acrylic, also known as Plexiglass, is a versatile plastic material with a variety of purposes and benefits, available in a spectrum of colors and opacities. Acrylic plastic was first produced in 1928 and brought to the market by Rohm and Hass Company around 1933. It was initially used during World War ll for products such as airplane windows, canopies, and turrets.
Today, acrylic is most commonly sold in sheets of various thicknesses but can also be found in forms such as rods or tubes, and styles such as frosted, mirrored, or non-glare. Not only is acrylic available in many shapes and sizes, they can also be molded and colored to fit specific applications. No matter what option best suits your needs, acrylic will provide a cost-effective, durable material for your project.
Since acrylic combines a wide variety of options with a copious amount of benefits, they can be fashioned into a diverse range of useful products. This includes aquariums, retail displays, window panes, and even bulletproof glass! Acrylic is almost certainly bound to be an exemplary choice no matter what purpose it is used for.
The Physical Properties of Acrylic and Plexiglass Sheets
Acrylic plastic is a transparent thermoplastic homopolymer that is often colloquially referred to as plexiglass. This plastic has unique properties that make it ideal for a variety of purposes, ranging from basic household items to fiber optic cables that power the world. These properties have allowed acrylic to enjoy immense popularity in manufacturing as well as DIY projects:
- High impact resistance
- High optical clarity
- Innate weatherability and UV resistance
- Excellent dimensional stability
- Excellent chemical resistance
Out of all these properties, the most commonly cited advantage of acrylic is its durability. Despite its lower price point, it is 10 times more impact resistant than glass. In the unlikely event that acrylic plastic does break, it will fracture into dull-edged pieces instead of sharp, dangerous shards. These properties contribute to acrylic’s popularity as windows for commercial buildings.
What is Acrylic Used For?
Whether you’re looking for strength, longevity, or clarity, acrylic plastic offers several advantages over other materials and is extremely versatile—meaning it can be used in a variety of different applications. Here are a few examples:
- Skylights and commercial windows
- Retail signage and displays
- Aquariums and terrariums
- Protective barriers for manufacturing
- Bullet resistant glass
If you are looking for a transparent plastic that is easily moldable and has high impact resistance, it may be acrylic plastic that you ultimately need to finish your project.
Frequently Asked Questions for Acrylic Sheets
What is an acrylic sheet?
Acrylic sheets are thermoplastics, often purchased in sheets as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. Acrylic is known by many names, with generic names including acrylic, acrylic glass, and plexiglass. Brand names include Plexiglas, Evonik Cryo Acrylite, Lucite, Plaskolite, Optix, Perspex, and more.
Where does the thickness of acrylic come in?
The thickness of an acrylic sheet will positively influence factors like impact resistance. For cast acrylic sheets, there's a wide variety of thicknesses ranging from .06 inches to 4 inches thick. Specifically, these thicknesses are .06", 1⁄8", 3⁄16",1⁄4", 3⁄8", 1⁄4", 1⁄2", 1", 1.25", 1.5", 2", 2.5", 3", and 4".
How much is a sheet of acrylic?
Pricing is dependent on the size, thickness, and quantity of acrylic purchased. As a result, it is difficult to be precise without asking for a quote directly. For an estimate, view our extruded acrylic sheet and cast acrylic sheet product pages.
Is there a difference between acrylic and plexiglass?
Plexiglass is a colloquial way to refer to clear acrylic sheets---making acrylic and plexiglass the same product. The origin of the term "plexiglass" comes from a brand of clear cast acrylic sheets called "Plexiglas," but today plexiglass and acrylic are often used interchangeably.
How to Cut Acrylic Sheets with Basic Tools
While Acme Plastics offers more advanced methods for cutting and machining acrylic, the process is simple to accomplish at home with basic tools. While basic tools are not the optimal way to cut acrylic both a scoring knife and a Dremel are popular ways to cut acrylic. If an optimal cut is needed, then it's best to have plastic cut by an expert with specialty tools.
How to Cut Acrylic with a Knife
A scoring knife is an easy and accessible way to cut thin sheets of acrylic in a clean, straight line. Simply do the following:
- Use a marker or ruler to indicate the area to cut
- Use your scoring knife to create a shallow cut in the area
- Place the sheet over a table or other edge, with the cut side facing upwards
- Use a quick and steady motion to bend the sheet over the edge, resulting in a straight clean edge
How to Cut Acrylic with a Dremel
A Dremel is one way to cut sheets of acrylic into complex shapes. After taking all necessary safety precautions, consider using the following steps:
- Use a marker to indicate the area that will be cut off
- Clamp the acrylic down-this will ensure a clean cut while preventing injury
- Equip your Dremel with a 561 set at speed six or eight
- Slowly make the cut, using water to ensure the bit does not overheat and warp the acrylic
- Consider sanding the edge of the acrylic sheet to remove any saw marks
While it is possible to cut acrylic plastics yourself, consider enlisting the help of experts to ensure the cutting process is done correctly the first time. Having your acrylic sheets machined by a professional will ensure a clean cut, the proper finish, and most importantly, your overall safety.
Additional Acrylic Plastic and Plexiglass Resources
- Advantages of Acrylic
- What is Acrylic Plastic and What is it Used For?
- Acrylic vs. Polycarbonate
- Cast vs. Extruded Acrylic
- List of Cast Acrylic Colors
- What is PMMA?
- Improving Manufacturing with Plexiglass