Hopefully, you had a chance to read our Brief History of Acrylic and how this revolutionary substance helped transform everything from the heroic Allied warplanes of World War II to today’s most exemplary fiber optics and aquarium showcases. How those attributes of strength, flexibility, and heat resistance in a non-breakable yet lightweight material transform into the products used in youroperation? That’s what we’ll cover here…
In case you didn’t see it, we discussed how Acrylic’s versatility over the years has been flexible enough for spinning into a textile resembling wool or cashmere and sturdy enough as Plexiglass sheeting to endure gunfire and extreme duress. Somewhere in between is where we’ll likely find the right combination of thickness, texture, and even color to create the application you have in mind for acrylic sheet.
The beautiful thing about continuously manufactured, or extruded, acrylic sheetis that thicknesses and stress tolerances are easily controlled and manipulated in the extrusion process. Guidelines in place have been designated so that each sheet is thermoformed to exact specifications, taking different factors into consideration. Designs requiring more visual acuity have high optical characteristics to consider; others must have the tight thickness tolerance required to provide end users with a reliable weather-resistance warranty.
The sheet specs in a four metric ton aquarium designed to hold 468,000 gallons of water? Those acrylic sheets are more likely cell cast than extruded, or at least should be. That way they’ll maintain a higher level of mechanical strength. The cell cast method mixes the liquid acrylic ingredients and “molds” or presses them, creating a homogenous material with equal properties in all directions. Extruded acrylic“pushes” the acrylic mass through a form – something like a printing press – before the material is totally hardened.
While cell cast sheets are going to stop hockey pucks at the ice arena, the extrusion process allows lighter sheets to bend and shape easier…it’s a more pliable substance. It’s also a big advantage when heating, bending, or vacuum forming. Extrusion is generally less expensive than cast acrylic, especially in larger dimensions. It’s also easier to flame polish and give that glass-like edge.
You’ll find cell cast acrylic in the aeronautics industry, skylights, and furniture, as well as hockey rinks and aquariums. Because acrylic can be cut to virtually any dimension, cell cast acrylic also makes outstanding picture frames, store displays, and engraved fabricated plaques and awards. Extrusion applications also include displays, as well as camper tops, spas, glazing, and signage with cut letters.
Tensile strength varies in acrylic, of course, as it does with any material. Acrylic sheets have proven to be sturdy, highly impact resistant, and able to handle stresses of weather, UV rays, human handling, and any assortment of other outside effects that would break a lesser substance.
Sheets are cut to tolerance levels…in other words, the amount of precision required for a certain project. Standard tolerance means sheets are generally cut to within 1/16”. Where the application calls for an oversized tolerance, that specification might go up to ½ an inch – giving end users a bit more leeway in some circumstances where tightness is less of a concern. With so many applications for acrylic, both have their up sides.
Various forms of transparency also become a factor in acrylic. Clear, Translucent, Fluorescent, Mirrored, Opaque…acrylic components can be manipulated to capture a number of textural acuities for visual effect. And did you know that clear acrylic is actually clearer than glass and won’t yellow under sun or normal UV exposure? Remarkably, it’s only half the weight of glass, too. Adding color? It can also be included in the process to maximize the finished effect, a significant boost for everything from branding to aesthetic appeal and product enhancement.
Don’t let it overwhelm you. We’ve taken all these factors into consideration for years to create industry best brochure holders, business card holders, literature displays, chart holders, menu displays, table tents, donation boxes, name plate holders, and so much more. And should you have questions about thickness, color, texture, or subjects like tensile strength, be sure to ask the acrylic experts here.
We’ll have more to relay about the actual acrylic bending process coming soon, so be sure to stay tuned!