Using acrylic sheets are very simple if you know its properties and handle it well. The right tools should also be used to ensure acrylic’s beauty and quality is preserved well. In this article, we offer a few functional tips and tricks on how to work with acrylic to minimize mistakes in your next work and ensure the results are great.
What is Acrylic?
Acrylic is a clear plastic that can be made into a substitute of glass because of its resemblance to glass. It has countless advantages. Compared to glass, acrylic sheets are:
- Weighs lesser
- Stronger and more durable
- Resistant to impact and shatter
- Transparent and does not stain or yellow over time
- A better insulator
Acrylic sheets however have 2 common disadvantages compared to glass. Acrylic costs slightly more and it can melt and burn if exposed to direct fire because it is plastic. Acrylic does not transfer heat well; therefore special care has to be taken when working with it to avoid creating excessive heat which can lead to crazing of the acrylic sheets that may cause stress.
Cutting Acrylic Sheets
Different industries love to use acrylic as it is known for its durability. It is an ideal material to use for outdoor and indoor. To use it outdoor, it is important to choose the material coated with weather resistant. For placing things on top, acrylic is able to support 17 times of impact compared to glass. When acrylic broke, they will not shatter like glass. This can make sure the safety of the area you place the acrylic products.
Acrylic sheets come with a protective masking on both surfaces. The masking should be kept for as long as possible to protect the finish throughout the fabrication process.
There are a few ways to cut acrylic sheets. No matter which method you follow, it is extremely important to prevent your cutting tools from becoming a source of damaging heat. The most common method of cutting acrylic sheets would be by using a table saw. We suggest using the one which has a Carbide blade which has about 10 teeth per inch. A CNR router can also be used to cut acrylics, or even a water jet or CO2 laser. Know that different cutting methods will produce different edge finish for your acrylic sheets.
You should choose a saw blade that is specifically designed for cutting acrylic sheets. The blade’s teeth will be very fine, of similar height and evenly spaced with almost no set at all. Make sure you nicely feed the acrylic into the saw blade at a very steady rate because feeding it at too high of a speed or the other way around will cause the edge of the acrylic sheet to melt and it is not attractive at all.
Thin pieces of acrylic sheet can be scored like glass by using a metal scriber, an awl, a scribing knife or even a normal utility knife by snapping it apart. You have to remember this process does not work well if you want to do long cuts and it will also not necessarily leave a flat edge for capillary gluing.
Drilling Acrylic Sheets
Acrylic has the flexibility to mould into various shapes, and they can be fitted into everything from frames, bottles, curves, and other specific design when it’s heated. It was always the favourite selection for business and advertising purpose as they can be specified. Acrylic’s flexibility can vary substantially which suit the advertising purpose individually.
Acrylic sheets can be drilled without it shattering or cracking but there are 2 situations that you need to avoid at all costs: twisting the material and creating heat. Heat generated by a drill can cause the acrylic to melt or crack and this makes is very unattractive. The material can even fracture itself caused by any grabbing or twisting by the drill bit.
A regular twist drill can be modified to be used on acrylic sheets by using a bench grinder. We suggest using a specially ground and polished drill bit that is designed to be used with acrylic sheets. You can transform the drill bit by grinding small flats onto both cutting edges, so the bit cuts with a scraping action. If the drill is properly sharpened and operated at the right speed, the drilling process will create a nice long curly strand of acrylic.
Drill speed in a vital factor. The optimum speed for drill presses should be from 500 to 1000RPM. You should always begin and end drilling of holes at a slow-feed rate. If you are going to drill an entire series of holes, allow the bit to cool off from time to time to avoid the acrylic from heating up excessively.